The Top LawFest 2024 Takeaways

Our New Zealand team is still buzzing from attending LawFest 2024. We're excited to share the insights and ideas discussed during the event with law firm professionals on how to navigate an ever-evolving legal landscape. Last year, conversations at LawFest centered around improving the client experience, the introduction of AI, and building a company culture united by differences. This year, our team concluded two major themes that were recurring through various talks and discussions that shed light on the pressing issues and opportunities facing law firms.

Theme 1: The rise of AI in legal practice

The first recurring topic throughout the event was the growing significance of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal industry. While AI adoption is still in its early stages, it’s swiftly becoming the new standard. Unlike previous years where discussions revolved around the hypothetical capabilities of AI, this year emphasized action. Speakers urged attendees to not just consider AI as a buzzword, but as a practical tool for enhancing legal practices. Something that Actionstep deems most important before bringing in AI is intuitive automation (IA). IA automates the connection between tasks and processes to make work more intuitive for the user. IA provides law firm professionals with the right steps and actions to take based on your firm’s ideal way of working and what you need to accomplish. Whereas AI can help you complete more content and knowledge-focused tasks.

Theme 2: The importance of embracing change

Another key theme was the necessity for change within the legal industry. Historically, the legal industry has been slow to adapt, but speakers stressed the importance of law firms embracing change for future success. This goes beyond adopting new technology and tools. One session highlighted the need for a curious mindset, encouraging lawyers to question existing processes and norms. Another session emphasized the role of leadership in driving change. But mentioned just as important was personal leadership, self-care, and empathy in fostering a culture of innovation within legal organizations.

More key insights from sessions

Several engaging talks provided valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the legal industry:

Designing tomorrow: The future of law in the age of AI

Cat Moon, Director of Innovation Design at Vanderbilt Law School, challenged the fear of AI replacing lawyers, instead, advocating for a collaborative approach where lawyers leverage AI to enhance their roles. Lawyers are good at a multitude of things; AI is good at a few specific things. If we think ahead to the future, intuitive technology and automation can help lawyers better advocate, advise, and accompany their clients through legal issues. However, this needs to be achieved with a human-centered design that combines empathy and curiosity.

With this approach, law firms can face challenges like the uncertainty of AI, poor access to legal services, lack of diversity, and poor mental health head on. The “threat” of being replaced by AI is an opportunity for the industry to be self-reflective and adopt changes for all the challenges they face.

Leading in the age of AI

Grant Herbert, Professional Services Leadership Mentor, started his session by defining three types of leadership: personal, professional, and people. Herbert emphasized the importance of personal leadership and self-care in driving organizational change. How well we perform is very much tied to how well you can look after yourself personally. We saw this as a reality for law firm professionals in both our Australian and United States Midsize Law Firm Priorities Reports. In Australia, 89% of legal staff experienced moderate to high levels of stress while in the US 79% of law firm professionals are experiencing stress. Amidst inevitable stress, it’s important to find ways to remember the importance of self-care and how it helps minimize the risk of burnout.

For managing other people within legal teams, there is a great importance of empathy and vulnerability in building strong relationships.

Fireside chat: Leading and adapting to change

Speakers Charles Spillane, CEO of Dentons Kensington Swan, and Cecilia Burgess, CEO of Cooney Lees Morgan, covered the key strategies for implementing change. Together they emphasized the need for strategic planning and winning hearts and minds when implementing change within law firms. Law firm leaders should understand the importance of personal engagement, versus leading with their title. Also considering lawyers may naturally be change adverse due to the system they were taught and familiar with, encouraging a curiosity mindset will help your law firm overcome resistance to change.

Legal innovation still has a long way to go

In this session, Titus Rahiri, CEO and Founder of KorumLegal discussed the challenges facing the legal industry, including outdated business models and conservative mindsets. Rahiri advocated for a strategic approach to innovation, emphasizing the importance of aligning legal strategy with corporate goals, and leveraging technology and data to drive value. The six levers mentioned for transforming legal teams and unlocking value include strategy, roles and responsibilities, legal services and tasks, people and talent, technology and data, processes and operations. On the flip side, to innovate, you need to have a legal operating model, understand your stock, processes, and systems, gather data and measure outcomes, tap into generative AI, and be agile, adaptive, resilient, and innovative.

LawFest2024 served as a great platform for thought-provoking discussions on the future of legal as we continue to plan for the year ahead. By embracing AI and IA, fostering a culture of change, and adopting new and innovative approaches to leadership and operating a business, legal professionals can easily navigate the challenges ahead and position themselves for success.

Find out how Actionstep can help position your law firm for success by booking a demo with a legal expert on our team.

Written by The Actionstep Team