The rapidly evolving technology, changes in work patterns, and the shift in client demands are re-defining legal practice and the industry as a whole. Providing value to clients, meeting their expectations, and staying ahead of the curve are some of the common challenges that require a paradigm shift in the way law firms approach service delivery. Now more than ever, legal practitioners must rethink their strategies to stay relevant and productive in a fast-paced environment. Here are some legal practice trends to watch throughout 2021 and beyond.
1. A Shift in Workforce Structure
The pandemic expedited rapid technological adoption, fueling new talent and hiring strategies within the legal landscape. Digital transformation is shaping the service industry, and leading law firms are catching up with the trend. For instance, back-office functions are changing as organizations shift their legacy systems to the cloud, while virtual assistants are taking over the day-to-day client-facing duties.
The rise of the gig economy also pushes law firms to hire contract employees and freelancers to supplement their existing workforce. And to ensure flexibility and better work-life balance for their employees, best-in-class organizations are now embracing flexible work schedules. This, in part, is being adopted into the recruitment models to capture the best talents from a distributed workforce.
To set themselves ahead of the competition and ensure optimal performance, some firms outsource their C-suite functions while others are hiring non-lawyer titles, especially to the executive positions, such as CMOs, CFOs, CEOs, etc.
2. A Keen Focus on Client Experience
The rise of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence is seeing rapid adoption of intelligent chatbots that connect clients to their respective lawyers and even schedule appointments. Digital collaboration tools are also finding access into the courtrooms, and law-firms must quickly adapt to re-define their competitive advantage. Industry-specific software such as Legal Process Management (LPM) is driving legal practices towards an enhanced client experience and improved efficiency.
To quickly catch up and leverage these technologies for the better, law firms are gearing up for value-based services where clients enjoy personalized services with transparent pricing models. This client-centric approach to service delivery allows law firms to embrace multidisciplinary collaboration. Here, lawyers partner with other professionals, e.g., CPAs and accountants, to ensure a seamless and comprehensive solution to clients’ problems.
3. Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives
2020 saw huge advocacy for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the various US communities and the workplace. Perhaps, the most significant happenings of 2020, apart from the COVID Pandemic, is the killing of George Floyd, which attracted months of nationwide protests. Several businesses took this event as a turning point and implemented their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
According to a 2020 Clutch Diversity and Inclusion survey, 65% of employees said they were satisfied with how their companies responded to the anti-racism protests. Most companies who took a public stand in the fight against racial injustice and other discrimination in society went ahead to launch impactful DEI programs in their organizations. Law firms weren’t left behind either, as key industry players emerged on top in the fight against workplace discrimination.
Moving forward, implementing DEI initiatives is a priority for most law firms that are looking to cement their reputation by ensuring a warm, supportive and caring work environment. These initiatives will also help in attracting and retaining top talent.
However, diversity without inclusion can be counterproductive. Instead of simply hiring or promoting more women or minorities into leadership positions, law firms should fully accommodate all employees and accept their contributions to the organization. Minorities and people with disabilities should also be given the platform to express their views and the opportunity to be heard so they can feel that their presence isn’t only noticed but also valued.
4. The Rise of Micro-Niches
Most law firms often market themselves as law experts, offering legal advice from civil to criminal cases. While this may seem appealing, it’s actually a traditional way of serving a more digital market. Here, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin and can be a turn-off for many clients who prefer legal advice or representation from a niche expert. This demand for specialized services fuels the rise of micro-niches where law firms set themselves apart by building their reputation around one specialized legal field.
Focusing on one particular practice appeals to many clients since it shows you understand their specific needs and are committed to helping them solve their problems. Employment lawyers, for instance, will target a segment of clients to which they can focus their services and set themselves as thought leaders in the niche.
From new hiring trends to the rise of specialized legal services, most of these developments result from rapid technological advancements, changing client expectations, and increased competition, among other market dynamics. Law firms, large and small, are now capitalizing on these trends to transform their business models and set their organizations for success.