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Top 5 Legal Industry Trends to See in 2022-2023


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December 9, 2022

legal industry trends 2022

The legal industry is transforming before our eyes. New technologies and workplace models are reshaping small law firms’ operations and allowing them to serve their clients’ needs better than ever. To thrive in the future and remain competitive, firms must get on board with some or all of these legal trends.

In this article, Smokeball will discuss five top legal industry trends in 2022-2023 and give tips on how law firms can integrate them into their operations.  

Legal Industry Trend 1: Legal Workflow Automation

If you run a law firm or work in one, you are aware that tasks get completed in a certain manner and order. Some tasks are repetitive and are handled the same way every time. For these, automation may be an option. Legal workflow automation saves law firms an immense amount of time and labor by automating tasks within a firm’s legal process workflow that do not require a manual approach.

Of course, some types of legal work will always need human attention. However, a multitude of tasks within the legal workflow of a firm can be automated, such as:

  • Basic intake;
  • Initial screening procedures;
  • Collecting and confirming contact information;
  • Creating basic agreements, contracts, and other documents;
  • Legal marketing.

The importance of automating basic legal work when possible cannot be overstated. With many of the lower-level tasks automated, lawyers are more productive and provide higher-quality legal services. On top of that, lawyers who spend less time doing repetitive, low-level work report higher satisfaction with their careers, as they have more time to innovate and explore creative solutions to problems.

Another reason legal workflow automation has become one of the top legal trends with firms and legal departments is that this legal technology allows for effective risk mitigation. The fact is that humans make errors during repetitive tasks, but automating processes with best practice standards can lead to error-free document production, as long as safeguards are in place to prevent errors from creeping in.

Legal Industry Trend 2: Law Firm Data Security

Security and confidentiality have always been the top priorities of law firms and legal departments. With today’s reliance on digital processes, it’s more vital than ever to prevent breaches and unauthorized access and use of legal information and data. For this reason, it is no surprise that legal data security has been one of the top legal trends in 2022 across the nation, according to multiple legal trends reports.

How problematic are security breaches within law firms? In 2021, 17% of small and solo law firms and roughly 35% of mid-size firms reported suffering a cybersecurity breach.

The impact of a cybersecurity problem on a law firm can be devastating on many levels. First, any firm that suffers a security breach due to inadequate legal technology is likely to also experience a hit on its reputation. Second, the firm will likely suffer financially from the loss of clients, delays to current legal services, and outlays of time and money needed to address the breach and restore operations to normal.

Fortunately, law firms that jump on the data-security train will find solutions to their security problems and fears. Companies like Smokeball offer cloud-based law firm security encryption services that provide some of the highest levels of cyber protection on the market.

Safeguard your firm’s data —
and grow more productive

See how Smokeball helps you Run Your Best Firm.
Schedule your free demo today.

Legal Industry Trend 3: the Blockchain

Many think about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency when they hear the word “blockchain”. However, blockchain technology is used in many other applications. It has gained a foothold in the legal sector and exploded in use to become an in-demand technology in 2022.

What Is the Blockchain? 

Blockchain is an immutable, decentralized ledger that efficiently and securely records transactions and tracks assets within a peer-to-peer network. Any additions or other modifications to a blockchain ledger are transparent to all authorized users.

How the Blockchain Benefits the Legal Field

Blockchain brings efficiency to the field of law. Lawyers spend a lot of time on administrative and low-level tasks. With blockchain technology, much of the transactional work and legal services lawyers engage in can be securely automated, saving valuable time.

Specific Use Cases

Many law firms are already using blockchain as a regular course of legal business and are treating it as a legal technology. It is proving to be useful in a variety of ways within the legal profession.

Smart Contracts 

The execution of smart contracts does not need human intervention. The terms of smart contracts are contained within lines of code and self-execute when triggered based on specific protocols. What makes smart contracts attractive and highly useful in the legal profession is the security they provide for parties to agreements and their efficiency.

With some lawyers regularly reviewing hundreds of contracts every day, implementing smart contracts could free up their time for more high-level tasks. And since the terms of the contract are part and parcel of the code itself, the contract cannot be altered. In the end, the client experience is enhanced, and productivity increases.

Intellectual Property (IP)

Blockchain technology can effectively deal with every concern and challenge that the IP industry faces, from copyright protection to royalty payments and management.

Take authentication. Authenticity is of utmost importance with regard to digital assets like NFTs. With blockchain technology, a digital asset’s transaction history can be traced all the way back to the original creator, which prevents fraudulent activity in these types of transactions.

Piracy is another concern in the IP world. The commercial loss associated with digital piracy is staggering. Law firms and businesses that use blockchain enjoy a high level of protection from piracy thanks to its 100% transparency and access to every use and transaction of their and their client’s assets.

Chain of Custody

Chain of custody refers to the links of a chain that connect the custody and control of evidence for a case. From the time it is gathered to when it is presented for legal purposes, the evidence must be subject to a chain of custody that prevents it from being tainted, altered, or lost. Any break in that chain is grounds for contesting the validity of the evidence.

Blockchain technology can effectively drop the risk of evidence becoming tainted or altered to zero. It also provides superb traceability by creating an immutable record every time someone interacts with the evidence. And because blockchain is decentralized, it is impossible to hack into it and make unauthorized changes.

Legal Industry Trend 4: Employee Retention

legal industry trends

Employee retention is far from a new or novel concept — but it’s arguably more important than ever before. An unprecedented number of Americans quit their jobs during 2021’s Great Resignation — 47 million, to be exact — leaving 49% of employers with roles they’re unable to fill. And while legal employment is at a record high, firm members are overloaded with work and one in five attorneys under 40 say they’re considering leaving the profession entirely.

There is no doubt that legal work is often stressful and challenging. However, these numbers demonstrate that law firms need to address the root causes of high turnover if they want to grow into the future and meet any increased demand for their services.

Why Is Employee Retention Such a Hot Topic in 2022-2023?

Thanks to a surplus of high-paying open positions and a low unemployment rate, today’s employees hold most of the cards. A McKinsey study found 40% of US workers are at least somewhat likely to leave their job within the next 3-6 months, and more than half (53%) of employers are experiencing a lower-than-normal employee retention rate.

This is particularly true for millennials and Gen Z, who recognize the dangers of burnout and are less accepting of always-on cultures, and demand more from the workplace than their predecessors. Nearly one-third (31%) of respondents to a survey of millennial lawyers say they want to stay at their current firm between three and five years, as opposed to making partners. Millennial attorneys say they would trade a portion of their current earnings for more time off (29%), a cut in billable hours (26%), and a flexible work schedule (25%).

The Cost of Employee Turnover 

Employee turnover is normal for all law firms. However, too much of it can lead to frustrated plans and jeopardize a firm’s growth and success. The typical firm loses 15 out of every 20 associate lawyers it hires. According to some figures, U.S. law firms lose nearly $10 billion every year thanks to high rates of employee turnover.

It takes more resources to fill a recently vacated position than to train current employees. Hence, retaining legal professionals has become a hot trend because it saves firms time and money. It also allows leaders in law firms to confidently assure clients that their teams are capable of handling their business.

Because it costs more to replace trained and experienced legal professionals, it makes sense in many cases to spend in order to prevent employee turnover. For example, raises are a powerful incentive for employees considering leaving a firm. They should be used when possible to prevent the costs associated with finding replacement lawyers.

But money is not the only way to combat employee turnover at firms. Quality of life improvements is also effective at making employees stay put. A more optimal work-life balance can be achieved by increasing PTO, allowing workers to go hybrid-remote, and addressing mental health concerns.

It has become well understood that many lawyers battle mental health issues due to poor work-life balance. Anxiety and depression are more than common; they are the norm in many offices and lead to lower-quality legal services and high employee turnover. Addressing these issues before they get out of hand means helping lawyers improve this work-life balance, which makes it more likely for them to remain at a particular firm.

For more insight into employee turnover and retention, take a look at Smokeball’s Law + The Great Resignation Survey.

Legal Industry Trend 5: Hybrid Work

technology trends in legal industry

Only a few years ago, the hybrid work model was nothing more than a novelty. In fact, suggesting a hybrid or remote working relationship at that time would have resulted in strong opposition on many fronts.

Within a short amount of time, attitudes have almost entirely flipped. Lawyers whose work life consisted of 8 to 12 hours a day at the office were soon spending half or more of that time working from home.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off this trend, remote and hybrid work models remain popular years after lockdowns have ended. Many of the fears and concerns that firms had about hybrid and remote work were dispelled once the practice began. In other words, business continued. Adjustments were necessary, but overall, the hybrid work model proved to be a viable labor arrangement in the legal field.

Initially, many companies that considered moving to a hybrid model were concerned about low productivity, a lack of access to important documents and information, and inadequate security. Before the advent of powerful digital and cloud-based tools, these fears would have been justified. However, legal technology now prevents these concerns from becoming a reality.

Additionally, many law firm leaders and managers who implement a hybrid model eventually learn that their attorneys and professional staff are indeed productive at home and can be trusted to produce when not in the office.

Legal Employees Prefer Hybrid Work in 2022

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.

A positive spin on the preference: Offering a hybrid work model 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

legal trends 2022

Contrary to initial predictions, many firms have increased productivity since allowing attorneys to work from home. Some associates report they’re now taking part in a greater number of depositions in client meetings — 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 a considerable budget.t

How Cloud-Based Technology Helps Hybrid Firms Collaborate Effectively

The hybrid work model relies on fewer processes that require face-to-face human interaction. Hence, it makes sense to adopt cloud-based technologies to automate and facilitate work productivity among employees who are not always present in the office.

Cloud-based technology, such as that used by Smokeball’s law practice management software, allows law personnel real-time access to important data and documents to review and update when necessary. And the security that goes along with cloud-based systems provides industry-leading protection for sensitive legal matters and client information

Many of the fears that once prevented hybrid and remote work models from being implemented were put to rest during the COVID-19 lockdown. Although some law practices may still be reluctant to embrace the hybrid work model (as well as other new trends and developing technology), the lion’s share of law firms seems to be open to it. Those firms are likely to experience higher overall worker satisfaction and greater efficiency in operations.

Legal Industry Trends 2022-2023: the Bottom Line

Legal trends that last are direct indicators of successful law firm behaviors and policies that many other firms and businesses are mimicking. In every case, technology underpins the most powerful legal industry trends and should be embraced by all players in the legal field.

Although some firms may be reluctant to dive into some of the newer, top technology trends in legal industry processes, such as blockchain, it cannot be denied that firms are turning to these tools for help. Issues such as efficiency, IP protection, and information security are too important to ignore.

Take advantage of Smokeball and book a demo to learn what we can do for your firm.

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