2022 Outlook: 6 Legal Trends and Predictions to Have on Your Radar

Vivian Susko |

Which legal trends are impacting the industry in 2022?

In January, 2020, we made some bold predictions about what would lie ahead for legal operations in the new decade. Let’s dive back into some of our top forecasts, survey our new landscape, and see which legal trends are currently impacting the industry in 2022. Mitratech expert, Justin Silverman, weighs in on what you can expect to see on the horizon for legal ops. 

Which legal trends are impacting the industry in 2022? It’s up and up for data dependency

Brian McGovern, General Manager of Workflow Solutions at Mitratech, believed that data volume would grow “exponentially” in 2020 and beyond to help businesses and internal organizations make more informed, effective decisions. External sources like the 2019 HBR Law Department supported this forecast with their estimate, claiming that by 2021, 78% of law departments would be using analytical tools for ELM.  

How did these predictions hold up? Well, a 2022 Annual Survey from Lex Machina and LexisNexis finds that 68% of law firms now use legal analytics– not ‘exponential,’ but still a 7% increase over last year. What’s more, 98% of respondents who currently use legal analytics believe that they are valuable or somewhat valuable for their legal practices. 

The use of analytics is likely to accelerate over the next few years as more legal teams discover the numerous benefits offered by the right platforms, including: 

  • Mining your data for valuable insights
  • Reducing legal spend
  • Showing progress and effectiveness of team strategy
  • Recognizing trends and inefficiencies so you can make value-driving adjustments & so much more!

Add these legal predictions and stats to your radarAI and machine learning go beyond legal trends

And speaking of data-driven value; the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in legal operations has risen steadily over the past two years. Just as George Chiu, Director of ITG Law, Compliance, Business Ethics, and External Affairs at Prudential, predicted back in 2020: these technologies are becoming “fundamental for Legal Operations, just like Matter Management and e-Billing.”

In January 2022, Mitratech partnered with leading industry data analyst ALM to gather insights on the current and future state of legal operations, discovering trends like: 

  • Accelerated tech adoption in 58% of respondents 
  • Tech stack integration concerns among 12% of respondents
  • Predictions of AI growth in legal operations

According to the survey, respondents now anticipate the emergence of AI and machine learning technology that would not displace an attorney, but aid in rendering seamless service. Thus, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities are likely to begin making more appearances in the applications of today’s legal departments.

Justin Silverman, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Product at Mitratech, believes that these new capabilities will begin to impact efficiency and automation more significantly in 2022 and beyond. “In contrast to the past few years where these tools have been mostly about hype,” he explains, “this trend and the impact of these ML/AI capabilities will continue to expand in a meaningful way for legal departments.”

legal automation is a major industry trend in 2022 More automation = more cross-departmental collaboration

As legal teams face rising case loads, Justin Silverman also predicts that more organizations will turn to technology to automate processes currently run through email or manual means.

For example, standard NDA processes will be automated, contract drafts will be automatically created based on automated template processes, and common department questions will be answered through legal portals. We can also expect the process of sharing information with outside counsel and collecting data to be automated through workflow and collaboration tools, especially as legal system integrations continue to expand.

With more spend and contract management solutions now integrating with matter management,  legal teams are increasingly likely to leverage information and opportunities cross-departmentally. While 58% of ALM respondents expanded their tech stacks, for example, 40% reported using that technology to share or expand legal-vetted processes or procedures across other units.

Legal spend predictions for 2022Confidence in management of outside legal resources increases

Legal departments will increasingly pursue strategies to operationalize their management of outside counsel in 2022. According to a new report titled, The Legal Spend Landscape for 2022, legal spend priorities for the next year include controlling costs (60%) and better leveraging data to make decisions (55%). 

“As Legal ops leaders use rate and outcome data to measure law firm performance and the associated ROI on that investment, legal departments will use internal and external professionals to drive the law firm management and selection processes,” explains Justin Silverman. “Legal teams will also likely continue to expand the use of alternative legal providers and cost savings mechanisms to control outside counsel spend.” The result? Better visibility, efficiency, and control over legal spend data.

Equip your legal team with knowledge of the top industry trends and predictionsRemote work is here to stay, but so is the battle for talent

Almost a third (29%) of ALM’s respondents believe up to a quarter of their legal and support staff will continue to work remotely in 2022– and they’re not alone. Worldwide, Gartner predicts that 31% of all workers will be a mix of hybrid and fully remote by 2022.

Legal teams have worked quickly to implement the infrastructure needed to support distributed workers, but now there’s a new challenge afoot: surviving the great resignation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January alone

Legal teams looking to stay competitive and win the battle for talent will need to reimagine their legal tech stack as a tool for retention. When investing in new solutions, employee experience, productivity, and collaboration should be top of mind.

Which legal spends are still relevant? Legal spend and automation are rising in 2022Back on the bench and focused on consolidation

Most ALM respondents claimed that they anticipate a return to normal legal practices, with trials nearing pre-pandemic levels in 2022. Not to mention, respondents are awaiting a boom in medical-related COVID lawsuits. 

Driven by the concentration of big-ticket work forecasted for this group, we expect law firm consolidation throughout the year— for teams and tech stacks— to ramp up. 

66% of ALM respondents say they are very or moderately satisfied with the performance/ROI of their current legal tech investments, while only 12% agree that their legal technology stacks are “very integrated.”

With room for improvement, legal departments will likely focus on technology consolidation and integration when they revisit their tech stacks in 2022. 

“Many will prioritize initiatives to decrease the number of technology partners they work with, and seek out technologies that work more effectively together,” added Justin Silverman. “The user experience issues and vendor management processes to work with disconnected systems will drive legal ops leaders and their technology partners to consolidate in 2022.”