2022's Top 5 Legal Industry Trends: Hybrid Work

The legal industry is transforming before our eyes. New technologies and workplace models are reshaping small law firms’ operations. In this five-part series, we’ll analyze the top 5 trends affecting the legal industry in 2022. This week: remote work.

Just three years ago, a minority of law firms operated with a hybrid working model. The 2019 ABA TechReport found roughly 70% to 90% of law firms of all sizes — other than solo firms — primarily used traditional office spaces. But suddenly, attorneys who once spent up to 80 hours per week in the office were operating entirely out of their own homes.

Even now, many firms are continuing with a hybrid workplace model. The increased flexibility and greater work-life balance of the past 18 months are hard to give up — especially when many firms have been just as productive (if not more so) while working remotely.

Here’s why hybrid work is one trend that’s likely here to stay.

Legal employees prefer hybrid work

A recent survey shows 77% of attorneys worldwide want to continue a hybrid working model going forward. Nearly a third of senior lawyers and 54% of attorneys across all experience levels said they would leave their firm without a hybrid arrangement.

The good news? Hybrid work is good for your firm, too. Offering the option to work remotely can help firms recruit and retain top talent. As Michelle Foster, founder of The Foster Group and a former litigation partner, puts it, “The pandemic forcing attorneys to work remotely actually exposed an opportunity to have a better work-life balance.”

Hybrid work offers employees at small firms the best of all worlds. Working remotely gives attorneys and staff the power to choose how, when and where they work, supported by legal practice management software that connects the entire firm to every case, on- and offline. And by working at least one day in the office every week, employees still benefit from in-person mentorship and interaction.

Hybrid work can increase your firm’s performance — and your bottom line

Despite what we may have thought three years ago, productivity has gone up for many firms since going remote. Some associates report they’re now taking part in a greater number of depositions. They can simply connect virtually without the burden of travel. Others say collaborating with senior partners has become easier thanks to digital tools.

Hybrid working could also provide tangible benefits to firms’ bottom lines. Recent statistics show the vast majority of firms now ask attorneys to come into the office at least three days a week — provided they have the tech infrastructure to support hybrid work. Others, meanwhile, only request their staff to be in-office one day a week. If your firm is no longer at 100% in-office capacity and your lease allows for it, cutting back on office space can save considerable budget.

How cloud-based technology helps hybrid firms collaborate effectively

An effective tech stack enables an effective hybrid work model. As Smokeball President Ruchie Chadha told LegalTech News in December, “There will still be a huge appetite for remote and hybrid workweeks in 2022. As flexible work days continue to be the ‘new normal,’ law firms need to re-evaluate their technology adoption plans. They’ll need to invest in new equipment and software that meet the demands of the industry’s competitive landscape and support their short- and long-term productivity and profitability goals.”

What does that technology include for small law firms? Tools that allow attorneys and staff to collaborate in real time. Key documents and data stored in the cloud, allowing access any time, anywhere. And software that empowers teams to easily identify outstanding tasks, update one other on progress and communicate during complex matters.

In the next installment of this five-part legal industry trends series, we’ll analyze employee retention.

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