What are the 2022 trends for legal practices and How should lawyers prepare?
Following the events of 2020 through 2021, law firms have had to adapt and rely on technology more than ever before to continue providing their services to their clients and meeting court deadlines. Therefore, lawyers have addressed the elephant in the room: modernizing their practice and adapting processes and tools.
Earlier, technology was seen as a nice to have but not a necessity. Some clients saw it as a potential competitive advantage, while others were oblivious to the matter. Now technology is actually expected in legal practices by most clients, sometimes unconsciously, simply because it has become a cross-industry market standard.
Corporations have begun to use digitalization as a criteria when selecting external legal services providers. The companies have stricter reporting guidelines and requirements, expect smooth and effective communication and to be kept up-to-date with the progress of their cases. They will also come to expect interfaces to easily communicate with their lawyers and share documents, confidentially and securely.
Communication and pricing is also expected to gain importance. Clients wish to be able to make appointments online and easily get updates from their lawyers. Similarly, transparent and clear prices are seen as critical to most clients when deciding to hire a law firm or a specific lawyer.
Finally, cyberattacks are increasing exponentially. Most reports indicate that companies are very vulnerable to cyberattacks. Lawyers, who have generally taken a passive stance towards cybersecurity, are therefore expected to ramp up and harden their security policies, software and hardware.
So what could lawyers do in 2022 to prepare? Here are some of our recommendations for 2022:
- Use secure cloud-based services to better protect their data. Most cloud service providers will have better security than the physical document servers kept in law firms. These cloud providers moreover have the capacity to manage backups, ensure continuation of activity, fire and water detectors and dedicated security teams to defend against hacks and restore service once the attack is over.
- Use client-centred technology. This means providing self-service options to the client through the law firm’s website in external relations.
- Use matter management to unify workflows, documents, deadlines, timesheeting, priorities, tasks, client databases, etc., across the law firm. This would allow your firm to collaborate easily, have an effective court companion, easily work from home or while travelling and avoid losing billable work.
- Meet the clients where they are. Consumers prefer to be able to interact remotely with their lawyer and will likely engage them remotely as well. This means making it easy for clients to access a description of your firm’s services, retain your services, order services, exchange messages and documents securely and make payments online. Be ready to offer your services online.
- Reduce spending on premises. The pandemic has revealed that remote working is effective and many lawyers actually felt more productive working remotely. Flexible solutions like practice management are significantly cheaper than office space and help the team to collaborate efficiently. This would also contribute to achieving remote service delivery to the client (see above). As a result, investments in digital capabilities are to be preferred over infrastructure where possible.
- Online timesheeting is also expected to increase to the detriment of excel sheets, which are cumbersome and provide no incentive to timesheet. User-friendly designs – with so-called “nudges” or incentives to adopt desired behaviors – can be used to promote better timesheeting practices and ensure that the law firm is not losing billable work to bad timesheeting habits.
In summary, the focus is to improve customer-centricity by providing better interfaces and services to the client, reducing real-estate costs, improving cybersecurity and attorney mobility and investing in digital capabilities. These trends however take time to be implemented and adjusted to each law firm’s reality. This may explain why many law firms have already begun looking into available options on the market or have actively begun implementation.
We hope you found our insight and advice useful. And you? what will you do to serve your clients in 2022?