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Influential Legal Trends Impacting the Legal Industry

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It’s often been said that the legal industry is one of the slowest industries to embrace change. However, over the past few years, the legal industry began embracing the use of more technology to solve a litany of issues that often resulted in inefficiencies. Firms are also using technology to find innovative ways to grow their practices while improving client care.
 
Influential Legal Trends Impacting the Legal Industry
  We’re going to look at some of the most influential legal trends impacting the legal industry, how they may affect law offices, and how they may potentially affect your current and potential clients. Before we start, we’d like to note that each trend below may not be beneficial for every law office. Managing lawyers should investigate the trends, and, if interested, seek to learn more about them as well as the best possible methods for implementation. Implementing any sort of new process is best done when you’re able to get your entire office on board. So, before settling on any one digital solution, talk with your staff members who will be directly affected by using the software. Get their input. Find out which tasks they believe could be made easier. Ask if they have any recommendations for legal tech solutions. And check in with them on a regular basis after adopting the solution to ensure they don’t have questions and that their duties are made easier and not more difficult.
 

If you recently passed the bar or if you’re a lawyer looking for a new position, keep these legal trends in mind. Get familiar with these concepts and explore them.
 
Having said all of that, let’s talk legal trends!
 
Legal Trend #1 – Electronic Discovery (E-Discovery)
 
Electronic discovery (e-discovery) refers to the use of electronically stored information from a variety of digital sources. Some of the most common sources include email, private messages, emails, voicemails, texts, graphics, and data from electronic devices, including computers. Essentially, anything that could be considered as electronically stored information (ESI) is covered under the concept of e-discovery. Recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure make such data or information part of the discovery process.
 
E-discovery is not a concept that is easy to wrap your mind around. There are a lot of considerations related to it. Yet, the continued, growing use of various forms of ESI makes mastering the basics a necessity.
 
How e-discovery may affect law firms and staff. Any staff who directly works on legal matters should possess a basic understanding of e-discovery as a whole, as well as whatever legal tech solution chosen to manage the process. It is also important to research and review the ethical guidelines in your jurisdiction related to e-discovery. Continuing legal education courses in your jurisdiction may be offered related to this subject.
 
How e-discovery may affect clients. Clients may not understand how e-discovery works, what they must turn over, or what they need to turn over. They also may not understand that there are tools available that can do certain things such as restore deleted emails, online conversations, files, search data, and other online data. For clients who own a business, they may not know that they need to keep certain types of information for a specific amount of time as stated in the data security standards for their particular industry.
 
Legal Trend #2 - Embracing a Diverse Workforce
 
According to PEW Research, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce starting in 2016. They make up approximately 35% of it. The Baby Boomer generation is, of course nearing retirement age although some have no plans to retire). The number of Generation X workers has also decreased. ABA reported in 2018 that a report suggested that race and gender bias certainly exists in the legal profession. However, compared to yesteryear, there is an increase in diversity based on gender and other minority status according to NALP.
 
How embracing a diverse workforce may affect law firms and staff. Embracing a diverse workforce may have its challenges. More importantly, it presents the opportunity to showcase innovative problem solving techniques as well as different ideas.
 
How embracing a divorce workface may affect clients. When law firms embrace a diverse staff, they may find that their clients are more comfortable. Additionally, potential clients may be more likely to contact the law office because of its inclusion.
 
Legal Trend #3 - The Use of Social Media
 
Every person reading this can probably think of at least one social media debacle you have witnessed. It is said that both life and death exist in the power of the tongue. You have likely all probably witnessed the downfall of at least one public figure because of social media. Law offices, as well as their staff members, routinely embrace the use of social media. It can be used to network, ask for help from more experienced legal professionals, and even research opposing parties as well as witnesses. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the use of social media is simple.
 
How using social media affects law firm and staff. Many jurisdictions, such as New York, have adopted guidelines regarding what lawyers may and may not do on social media. Depending on your jurisdiction, it may be unethical for you or anyone from your law firm to send a “friend request” or to “follow” an opposing party, regardless of whether they’re represented by counsel, unless you’re clear about why you’re sending the request or following them. Social media use can also be a bit like a landmine field as well. It is crucial for lawyers and law firms to be extremely careful about what they say online. Law firms looking to hire should also research the public social media posts of potential new hires to determine if they are individuals with whom the firm would be pleased to associate with.
 
How using social media affect clients. How the use of social media affects clients depends on whether we’re discussing how the client uses social media or how the lawyer’s use of social media may affect the client or potential client. Clients should be encouraged to fully secure their social media accounts, not to discuss their legal matters online, and to not add people they do not know to their networks. Lawyer and law firm use of social media, when done properly, provides an informative environment that educates the public on common legal concepts while also encouraging potential clients to learn more about and reach out to the law firm.
 
Legal Trend #4 - Going Virtual
 
Many law firms are choosing to act in a virtual capacity as opposed to taking on the expenses associated with leasing or buying traditional office space. With the increase in legal tech that allows lawyers to take more control over where they can literally practice, many lawyers have chosen to embrace the work from home, digital nomad life.
 
How going virtual may affect law firms and staff. Going virtual certainly creates its own set of considerations. It may also not be the right solution for some lawyers. Data security, the ability to hire and manage support staff who also work remotely, and determining when and where clients and potential clients may visit in person are issues that must be addressed. However, many lawyers and law firm staff may find that this sort of setup provides numerous benefits, such as the ability to set their own work schedule. When dealing with more than one virtual worker, it is important to consider time zones and how that may affect the workflow of the virtual law firm.
 
How going virtual may affect clients. Virtual law firms may have less expensive rates than traditional law firms since there is less overhead. However, it may also affect when the client is able to contact their lawyer. Virtual law firms may benefit some clients and potential clients by offering online secured meetings. Clients or potential clients may not even need to leave the comfort of their own home to meet with the firm.
 
Legal Trend #5 - Improving Work-Life Balance
 
The legal industry is known to be one of the most stressful. Many law firms are leading the way in improving work-life balance. Work-life balance can involve a lot of concepts and is often an individualized process. In short, what makes one lawyer or legal professional feel better on the job may not be the exact same as another person in their exact position.
 
How improving work-life balance may affect law firms and staff. When law firms support a better work-life balance, they have less turnover and their staff remains more engaged. They may offer several options such as the ability to work remote, take extended leave, offer part-time schedules, or extend other alternative work arrangements that best suit their team members.
 
How improving work-life balance may affect clients. Clients may be affected by improved work-life balance because lawyers and their support staff are happier in their positions. Staff often feels less stressed and may provide more professional empathy toward their clients. This can have a more positive impact on active cases.
 
Legal Trend # 6 - Subscription Models in the Legal Industry
 
Providing legal services is no longer relegated to flat rates and expensive hourly rates. Many law firms also offer subscription models.
 
How subscription models may affect law firms and staff. Subscription models may provide law firms and staff with more income over the long-term when compared with charging a single flat rate or hourly rate for just one matter. Subscription models may include the ability to receive a certain amount of time per month that the client may receive one-on-one counsel, access to DIY forms, and other easy to deliver digital solutions.
 
How subscription models may affect clients. Subscription models offered by law firms may provide better value for clients. They are able to access certain legal services when they need them. However, it is important for law firms to really consider which services are cost-effective to offer as a subscription as well as whether those offerings truly benefit their clients.
 
Legal Trends Continue to Offer Options for Law Firms and Clients
 
Legal trends continue to provide law firms with options that they can elect to embrace. However, all law firms should keep in mind that the trends they decide to embrace will directly impact both the firm and their client base. For the current legal trends or future legal trends, law firms should do their research before making their decisions. There’s also no requirement that law firms must embrace every legal trend available.
 
Choose what works best for your law firm and your clients and implement those solutions before considering others.


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