In this time of social distancing, virtual communication and working from home, it’s unsurprising that 77 percent of lawyers say they plan to incorporate more technology into their practices.
What is surprising: less than a quarter of them have a reliable way to measure the effectiveness of the tech tools they use.
This is so even though eight out of 10 believe their clients expect them to use technology to improve efficiency, and that if they don’t their practices will suffer.
Those are some of the findings from the 2020 Legal Operations Survey conducted by Bloomberg Law.
“As we continue to muddle through the current economic downturn, we’re expecting to see law firms more fully embracing modern technologies,” writes Bloomberg Law analyst Sara Lord, reporting on the survey. “If firms choose to increase their focus on innovation, the legal industry could even emerge from this crisis with a reputation of being entrepreneurial.”
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“The legal industry, known as being slow to embrace change, has been shifting its operations,” Lord writes. “Some shifts are entirely related to the Covid-19 pandemic, like the current work-from-home situation. But some were already in progress, like the integration of basic and long-overdue business practices, and are being accelerated by the pandemic’s impact on the workplace.”
Here are some highlights from the 2020 Legal Operations Survey:
- Law firms are more likely to embrace technology than other businesses. Seventy-seven percent of law firms say they’re prepared to step up their use of technology, compared to 66 percent of non-legal businesses.
- Flexible work options are here to stay. “If Covid-19 shutdowns continue into 2021 and beyond, the changes integrated by firms to support work-from-home arrangements are likely to become the new normal,” Lord writes. “As remote work becomes more accepted, individuals who require or desire more flexible work arrangements (including caregivers and disabled individuals) may have an easier time finding permanent employment.”
- Physical offices will be downsized. “Firms that successfully transition to remote work environments may embrace the financial benefits associated with downsizing their physical space. This is especially true in the short term, since expenses (including law firm bills) are under heightened scrutiny and firm revenues are expected to decline during the economic downturn. While large, established firms are unlikely to eliminate their physical space entirely, they still may opt for fewer assigned offices and more flexible working arrangements.”
- Firms are better at measuring legal operations than legal technology. Sixty-six percent of firms use metrics to measure legal operations, while only 23 percent do so for legal tech. “As firms continue to work through the current economic downturn, metrics will likely take on increased importance,” writes Lord. “Some firms may resort to monitoring employee activities with the help of remote surveillance software.”
- Lawyers will look outside the firm for tech solutions. “Over the past few years, law firms have been hiring business professionals to handle activities like legal operations, innovation, project management, and practice group management. Some of these professionals are in senior executive roles that historically have been reserved for lawyers. These business professionals tend to be more comfortable with data-driven analytics than lawyers are.”
- Clients want more tech. Eighty-two percent of firms say their clients expect them to increase their use of technology in order to be more efficient. Only four percent of firms disagreed, and 15 percent were neutral on the subject. “Corporate legal department respondents reinforced the importance of legal technology, with two-thirds stating that their organization is prepared to increase its own use of legal technologies and three-quarters stating that outside counsel is expected to increase its use of legal technology,” Lord reports.
What about your firm? What tech changes have you made in recent months? Will these changes be permanent?
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, a training and consulting company that helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.