The pandemic and its effects have dramatically affected the legal industry and will undoubtedly continue to have a long-term impact on how legal work is conducted in the years to come. For lawyers, it hasn’t always been easy navigating the practice of law during a worldwide pandemic. Nevertheless, they’ve adopted new technologies into their firms at rates never before seen, and are increasingly relying on technology to ensure newfound business resiliency, productivity and profitability.
While it’s unclear how many of these changes will persist post-pandemic, a new report released earlier this week offers evidence that the legal industry has changed for good and the pandemic’s effects will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on the practice of law.
The Legal Industry Report 2021: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic, was published by MyCase. (Online: https://info.mycase.com/industry). The report is based on the results of a survey of over 2,000 legal professionals that was conducted in August and September of this year. (Note: I am the Legal Technology Evangelist for MyCase).
The report provides in-depth insight into how the pandemic impacted law firms, the steps lawyers took to continue to grow their firms during this unprecedented time, and how those tactical decisions helped build the foundation for long-term sustainability. Some of the most interesting survey results focused on how the technology choices that lawyers made during the pandemic helped to keep their law firms afloat despite the many challenges presented by pandemic-related uncertainty.
From the shift to remote work and choosing new technology to implement and using legal software, law firms were able to adapt and thrive during this challenging time. And most notably, the technology choices they made allowed them to continue to provide their clients with the best possible service even when working remotely.
For example, survey respondents were asked about their firms’ use of remote working software. Nearly half (46%) reported that their firms invested in remote working software as a direct result of the pandemic. And, according to the survey results, the most popular remote-working tools firms used due to the pandemic were video conferencing tools (32%), e-signature (22%), law practice management software (14%), time and billing software (13%), and communication software (16%).
Cloud computing software usage was also addressed. The results indicated that the vast majority of lawyers now use cloud computing software. Before the pandemic, 76% of law firms used cloud-based computing, and that percentage has now increased to 88%. The types of cloud-based software that law firms adopted due to the pandemic included law practice management software (23%), document management software (13%), calendar management software (12%), and credit card online payment tools (12%).
Notably, for the vast majority of respondents, their firms’ investment in cloud-based remote working software has been beneficial. About 73% reported that the remote working tools had increased productivity, and 80% reported that remote working tools were part of their firm’s long-term business continuity strategy.
Law firms invested in several different types of software to enable remote work during the past two years. For example, during the pandemic, getting paid was challenging for many firms due to social distancing requirements. As a result, the adoption of touch-less payment processes was necessary to keep firms profitable during the pandemic. For that reason, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of respondents (77%) reported that their firms now use online payment processing tools to accept credit card payments from clients.
The good news is that the majority of survey respondents reported that this transition to online payments increased profit or revenue stability for their firms. According to the survey results, 60% of law firms’ revenue stayed the same or increased in 2020.
E-signature tools were another time-saving remote-working tool that law firms increasingly relied on during the pandemic. Because social distancing requirements prevented in-person meetings, e-signature software was the best option for obtaining the necessary signatures on documents. For that reason, it’s no surprise that the survey results showed that the overwhelming majority of respondents (79%) reported that their firms used e-signature tools. Of those firms, 67% saved time as a result, and 28% saved six or more hours each month.
The bottom line: remote working technology is here to stay. The pandemic pushed many law firms to acquire and implement technology that enables remote working. This technology investment not only bridged the remote working gap, but also increased the productivity and profitability of many firms, and laid the groundwork for long-term business resiliency. So no matter what happens in the future, those law firms will be prepared.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase legal practice management software.