No doubt about it: Every sector was affected by consumer and marketplace changes brought about during the pandemic. And that includes the legal profession.
Though the law industry tends to get a reputation for being traditional and consistent, it’s become surprisingly responsive over the years. As public needs and expectations have shifted, law firms and practices have shifted their focuses, too.
What’s new on the law scene? Below are seven of the most substantial trends happening in the practice of law right now.
1. A desire to help more diverse populations.
Diversity and inclusion have become guiding principles across corporate America. Accordingly, lawyers are presenting a more welcoming face to people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Not only are firms sourcing lawyers from underrepresented communities, but they’re making access easier for non-English speakers.
For example, California-based Adamson Ahdoot showcases its access to translators fluent in languages from Farsi and French to Cantonese and Tagalog. In addition to offering free translations, the firm fronts the cost to send translators along on client depositions, hearings, and other meetings.
2. A realization that social media is a new service center.
Laws may not have caught up yet with online behaviors but progressive attorneys aren’t taking a wait-and-see attitude. This trend can’t come too soon. Countless for-profit and nonprofit organizations have a presence on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and even TikTok.
This presence affords opportunities. At the same time, it opens the door to social media-specific litigation. Consequently, law firms making a name for their brands in this area now may become tomorrow’s social media law influencers.
3. A need for more cybersecurity experts.
Law schools continue to send graduates out to take the bar every year. However, only a select few are heading out the door with a deeper understanding of cybersecurity law. As a result, many firms are finding help by hiring cybersecurity professionals in cases concerning hacking, phishing, and related threats.
Cybersecurity consulting is also happening at the micro-level. That is, smaller firms are getting advice on how to protect their internal servers and cloud-based systems against attacks. According to a Legal Talk Network, this type of pragmatism can pay off. With ransomware attacks on the rise—partially due to the rise in remote work—law firms need to protect themselves from an embarrassing, costly breach.
4. A revised view of the “typical” commercial real estate contract.
Though every commercial real estate contract has its particular nuances, many agreements have changed in the past two years. When companies were forced into virtual and hybrid working arrangements, they began rethinking their brick-and-mortar needs. Resultantly, many decided to lease less space on shorter terms.
How much faster will the turnover of leased commercial properties be in the coming years? Commercial Observer findings suggest that the need for flexible workspaces—and, by proxy, contracts—could triple by 2026. Lawyers can therefore help clients reword and rework existing and future agreements to satisfy all parties and reflect an evolving workforce.
5. A willingness to leverage AI systems.
Chatbots and other AI-driven solutions aren’t just for retailers. They can be useful for lawyers, too. That’s why so many firms have added AI-enhanced chats on their websites. The chatbots provide a way to gather information and perform case “triage” 24/7.
One of the major benefits of incorporating AI into law firm operations is to save human and fiscal resources. Once in place, AI systems can do everything from gathering marketing data to allowing prospective clients to schedule their own free consultations. Consequently, core staff members can focus on higher-level responsibilities rather than ones that are easily automated.
6. An increased eagerness to take a stand on relevant issues.
More and more, consumers are demanding that companies publicize messaging on social issues. While some law firms are choosing to remain politically agnostic others are showcasing their social beliefs.
No question about it: This is a tricky branding maneuver, especially for full-service firms that attract a variety of clients. Nevertheless, issuing bold, candid positioning statements can make sense in some situations.
7. A growing disdain for paper documents.
The law firm of today, tomorrow, and the upcoming generations looks fairly paperless. While some firms have clung to keeping paper records, more are storing paperwork, images, and other relevant documents online. This isn’t just because of the environmental advantages, either. Having access to a virtual file from anywhere gives lawyers more freedom.
Remember that many law firms have moved to hybrid styles of working. Being able to view and transfer key items with a click eliminates barriers to delivering an outstanding client experience. It also enables social distancing between colleagues without affecting work output or quality.
Forget about the antiquated picture of the stodgy, unchangeable lawyer. That type of legal professional is a relic of yesteryear. Today’s top attorneys, law clerks, paralegals, and staff members are embracing the biggest trends affecting their industry.
This is a Contributed Article.