The staggering impact of the coronavirus pandemic spurred abrupt changes and adaptations in the legal industry in 2020 that no one could have anticipated. The question of 2021 is, how much of those changes will be permanent, and when will we know?
A picture of the "new normal" for legal services may emerge in autumn
Widespread stay-at-home orders accelerated several rising trends in the legal field, including wider adoption of remote working arrangements for lawyers of all stripes and supplementing in-house counsel teams with flexible legal talent.
By the back third of the year, we should have a better idea of what the “new normal” looks like for the legal world. Much of the outlook depends on whether the majority of the populace is inoculated against COVID-19. However, if vaccination proceeds as currently projected, we predict that by October, we will have a clearer picture of how much of those legal trends have graduated to business-as-usual.
Virtual managed review will become a regular feature
The necessity of remote review projects over this past year has given law firms and corporations plenty of time and examples to “prove the concept” of this mode of review. Our clients have found that these virtual services more than meet their needs while providing welcome flexibility in terms of review rates, locations, and skillsets.
Uncoupling review work from centralized locations infuses review projects with even more nimbleness. Remote reviews can save time and therefore money and even give you access to legal talent and technology outside your geographical area
Thanks to greater familiarity with virtual reviews during the pandemic, legal consumers will become savvier judges of remote solutions and deploy more intentional criteria to select quality providers.
Clients will expect their review partners to be able to provide:
- Agile solutions and strategic workflows that maximize transparency and control while minimizing overall costs;
- Established processes for real-time quality assurance such as daily updates on productivity and project status;
- Multilayered information security to include virtual review technology with advanced multifactor verification, secure user segmentation in which lawyers can work without seeing each other’s materials, and ISO-certified private secure data centers;
- Robust screening and information security training of lawyers.
Remote work and flexible legal talent won't go back into the genie's bottle
The pandemic changed the workplace environment for legal professionals almost overnight. Remote and flexible working arrangements for lawyers will continue to proliferate in 2021 and beyond.
Talented lawyers have always sought flexible working arrangements outside partner-track firm work and standard corporate 9-to-5 gigs – whether to spend more time with their families, pursue their hobbies, or any other reason. And this year, amid continued economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic, flexible legal talent will also be particularly attractive to employers and clients. Flexible talent allows corporate counsel to deploy the resources that they need for a certain timeframe without overcommitting or going over budget. Flexible lawyers make financial sense for legal departments not only because you can use them – and pay for them – only when you need them but their average hourly rates are about one-third of the equivalent lawyer from a firm.
Flexible legal talent providers like Legility will continue to grow our roster of credentialed legal experts, delivering flexibility and expertise to organizations only when and where it’s needed for exactly as long as they need it.
'New Law' is here to stay, and demand will grow
While alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) are still relevant, the term doesn’t fully encompass the range of innovative, technology-enabled services today’s New Law companies can offer. New Law providers will continue to need to differentiate themselves from cost-arbitraging ALSPs by focusing on underlying processes that deliver strategic benefits to clients.
While New Law companies may, in fact, offer a lower price point, like ALSPs, they also offer added value through the innovative use of technology and artificial intelligence and enhancement of traditional law practice.
Demand for the alternative pricing models, creative legal solutions, and nontraditional staffing found in New Law isn’t expected to lose pace in the foreseeable future.