While many may share the view that the legal industry is old and traditional, laws and regulations are constantly evolving to adapt to new technologies and practices. Similarly, the changing economic climate challenges us to approach contractual relationships differently to better manage risk and streamline our ability to do business.

To help you stay ahead of the competition, here’s our shortlist of predictions, trends and changes you can expect to see play out in 2024.

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Business Disputes

Businesses will be expected to exhaust all available alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, including mediation and, if appropriate, neutral evaluation before they resort to litigation. For those that do end up in court, the silver lining is that the move to online court processes will continue to gain ground, helping streamline the litigation process.

We expect the trend of limiting the costs recoverable by the winning party will continue, building on the new Fixed Costs regime for claims up to £100,000 and through judicial control of costs budgeting in larger claims.

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Commercial Law

Despite reduced inflation, tricky trading conditions will continue. This means that good contract management will still be required to ensure risks are identified and managed – and to support strong commercial relationships.

Compliance will take centre stage for many businesses as more provisions from the Online Safety Act come into force, and the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill passes through Parliament. It goes without saying that each business must identify its legal obligations – as they change over time – and ensure that it meets those obligations. Failure to do so has a range of consequences, including in some cases breach of contract claims.

If your business is using auto-renewal provisions, 2024 will be the year to review that use. When it becomes law, the Digital Markets Competition and Consumers Bill is likely to restrict the use of auto-renewal provisions in consumer contracts and to require compliance with detailed requirements if they are to be enforceable. Meanwhile, B2B subscription customers are becoming savvier in relation to auto-renew clauses and may be less willing to sign up to ‘evergreen’ contracts (or to stay in those contracts).

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Commercial Property Law

2024 will continue to see office tenants analysing their real estate needs as the post pandemic hybrid working model seems to be here to stay. As well as tenants looking to reduce their rental liabilities, they will be thinking about how they can attract and retain staff with high quality, collaborative working space.

ESG aspirations continue to be high on the agendas of both landlords and tenants (and their investors, clients and employees). We can expect to continue to see the rise in green leases and investment by landlords in improving their office offering to comply with MEES regulations and tenant demands for high quality, sustainable flexible office space.

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Corporate Law

In the new year, we’re going to see more appetite for mergers and acquisitions (M&A), particularly management buy-out transactions (MBOs). Selling via an MBO allows your management team to take ownership of your business, often leading to better company performance, employee satisfaction and involvement. If you're in an ambitious management team, use the new year as an opportunity to evaluate if an MBO might be a route for you.

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