It goes without saying that 2020 was a year of change, both for people individually and for industries as a whole. The legal field has not been exempt from these changes, especially as the wheels of justice kept turning even during the pandemic.
Evolving technology, a year of virtual legal services and shifts in client demands have all played a part in the trends that are redefining legal practice and the industry as a whole.
In order to be effective, competitive and productive in the year ahead, here are some of the legal trends those in the industry need to watch in 2021:
Every year we see more and more technology filtered into industries and businesses; however, after the pandemic, the demand has increased. Not only will those in the legal field see advances in technology on the business side—AI to aid in research, AR and VR to convey points in the courtroom or train new lawyers—but we also will see an increase on the client side. After a year of Zoom meetings and virtual hearings, clients have grown accustomed to technology in the legal industry. According to data from Clio’s Legal Trends Report, 69 percent of clients prefer sharing documents electronically and 56 percent prefer video conferencing over phone calls. When it comes to technology, clients are now reliant on the ease and convenience and businesses are reliant on the effectiveness.
In many ways, a focus on client experience goes hand-in-hand with the growth of technology. There has been a rise in the use of technology like AI for intelligent chatbots that can schedule appointments, and firms are partnering with other pros like CPAs and accountants to ensure smoother solutions to client issues. Overall, we can expect to see more value for clients, more transparency with cost and alternative fee arrangements—all of which contribute to a pleasant client experience.
Between keeping up with emerging technology and focusing on delivering that client experience, the legal industry will have to embrace new talent and hiring strategies. The workforce structure in law firms is shifting for a few reasons. First, many firms are expanding who they hire to include non-lawyer executives to help foster innovation. Meanwhile, repetitive administrative tasks are left for new technology. In addition, with the rise of “gig work” in our economy, an increase in temporary, freelance and contact work will be prominent, allowing firms to quickly scale up or down.
In 2021 we will see an increase in micro-niches in the legal industry. Rather than offering everything to everyone, businesses will market themselves as go-to specialists for particular legal services. Law firms can capitalize on this trend by positioning themselves as experts in just a few specific areas.
Firms big and small, and the legal industry as a whole, must capitalize on these trends to sustain growth and adapt to modern desires. From advances in technology to changing client expectations, we will continue to see these trends shape the legal industry.