Boom in the legal sector comes with challenges in the workplace, according to Clio’s 2022 Legal Trends Report
Despite economic turmoil, pandemic-era disruptions, and rising inflation, the legal industry has thrived, with increased demand for legal services. But with that growth comes challenges as the profession reckon with the “Great Resignation” and shifts in workplace culture. These are some of the takeaways from Clio’s seventh annual edition Legal Trends Reportwhich the company’s founder and CEO, Jack Newton, unveiled on Monday.
Speaking from the stage at the first in-person Clio Cloud conference since 2019, Newton said in a packed ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, that the report shows law firms have absorbed the shock waves of the past two and a half years to remain resilient and even thrive.
And technology has played a pivotal role as firms have responded to client needs and lawyers’ demands to redefine their roles in the workplace.
“What it reinforces is that you find new ways to operate. You are champions of this new way of working and you work effectively even in the face of adversity,” Newton said during his keynote address.
But he added a caveat: “Although the industry has persevered during a global pandemic and the great lockdown, it is clear that we are far from fresh water.”
Clio released the 80-page report on Monday. It draws on aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals and surveyed 1,134 legal professionals, 458 professionals from other industries, and 1,168 consumers from the general population.
The report says demand for legal services has reached record highs as pandemic-related disruptions have given way to increased demand for legal services.
The average law firm workload increased by 10% from March 2021 to August 2022 compared to 2019. During the same period, the average number of billable hours was 22% higher. The report also indicates that the number of hours billed to customers increased by an average of 28% and the average revenue received increased by 31%.
The report also examines the impact of the “big quit” on the industry, with quit rates reaching 19% over the past 12 months, Newton said.
According to the report, of one in five lawyers who changed jobs in the year to April 2022, 37% said work-life balance was the reason for the change.
This matched the percentage of lawyers who said they left their jobs for better pay.
“It used to be that if you wanted to hire top talent at a law firm, you just had to pay top dollar and that talent would come to you,” Newton said. “And what has changed dramatically in 2022 Legal Trends Report is that law firm culture matters more than ever in attracting and retaining top talent.
The report also offers insight into the impact of changes in law firm culture.
Before 2020, approximately 40% of lawyers worked exclusively at their firm; now it’s less than 30%, according to the report.
However, lawyers appear divided on the issue of remote working, with around half of respondents saying they would prefer to work from home.
The report also reveals that 86% of lawyers say they work outside of a regular 9-to-5 work schedule, with 73% of respondents saying they were willing to communicate with their clients over the weekend. “Most clients want the ability to meet or at least communicate with their attorney in the evenings or on weekends,” the report said. “It’s probably because meeting on a normal business day can be inconvenient for customers.”
Newton told the ABA Journal that even in tough economic times, there will always be a need to attract top talent and create flexible work environments that allow lawyers to perform at their best.
“I don’t think it will ever go back to where it was before COVID,” Newton said. “We’re going to see a permanent change in the flexibility the average law firm will offer its employees.”
Newton also suggested during his keynote that cloud-based law practice management software will be central to businesses in these difficult times.
He introduced the concept of the “anti-fragile” law firm to describe companies that will do more than just weather the storms to come, they will also find ways to innovate using technology.
Over the next decade, along with changing client expectations, law firms will be exposed to other stressors that could include “global instability, a looming recession and regulatory reform,” it said. said Newton.
“If we think about building anti-fragile law firms, I think we’ll all be better equipped to drive fundamental transformation in the legal industry and emerge from these challenges stronger than before,” the CEO said.
During the keynote, Newton also revealed several new features and updates to Clio, including a website builder called Clio Grow that allows businesses to quickly build an online presence; text messaging functionality to allow lawyers to communicate securely with clients; custom billing features; and advanced integrations with third-party apps.
“You can go from having no website to one of the most sophisticated legal websites on the planet in less than 10 minutes,” Newton said of Clio Grow.
The two-day event is Clio’s first hybrid conference, with more than 2,000 people expected in person and 1,000 expected virtually from 22 countries around the world, including the UK, India, the Philippines and Swiss.