In our previous blog post, What’s New for Court Reporting in 2018?, we speculated about new developments in the court reporting industry. However, all areas of business are experiencing drastic change. In this post, we examine the legal industry more broadly and the most significant trends shaping that industry. These are shifts of which every legal professional should be aware and leverage to their advantage.
The Job Market
Although attorney employment is expected to grow steadily, more students are graduating from law school than jobs are available. Many feel these poor employment prospects should be remedied with legal education reform. In spite of this problem, law firms are taking on more work, building more complex infrastructures and compensating for this with savvier hiring strategies. As a result, legal operations professionals such as paralegals, legal assistants and junior lawyers are in high demand and will continue to fill a vital role in the industry.
The growth of technology, data security and automation has led to increased globalization across all industries. As a result, more firms are moving away from a domestic and local focus and merging with foreign organizations to offer services worldwide. With this global expansion, the industry is emphasizing compliance with international standards.
Most businesses have made use of increased mobile devices, secure cloud-based technologies and management software, and the legal industry is no exception. Many firms have established “virtual practices” in some capacity, allowing attorneys to work, in part, remotely from home. This increased flexibility reduces costs, maximizes efficiency and offers attorneys a better work/life balance.
Innovation and Specialization
Lawyers face increased competition from other law firms and legal service alternatives such as offshore legal vendors, online legal self-help resources and legal document preparers. To combat this and remain competitive, law firms have been embracing innovation. This innovation includes technology implementation, process improvement and better project management, communication and analytics. In addition, many firms have branded themselves as specialized “boutique” organizations, focusing on one specific facet of the law—international, intellectual property, patents, divorce, personal injury, etc.—in order to establish themselves as niche experts.
Law firms are looking to minimize costs and increase flexibility. In order to optimize capabilities while maintaining control over workload, many organizations have begun outsourcing certain legal functions. Through legal process outsourcing, law firms can leverage the services of legal support companies or legal consultants to their advantage.
The legal industry is one that has stood the test of time and weathered all change. However, we shouldn’t let this longevity become immutability. Change is often a good thing—even for legal professionals; embracing these legal industry trends and developments will help organizations take on the future with confidence.