The disruption caused by the global pandemic of 2020 is impacting law firms already, with legal professionals taking action, and also projecting and planning for changes to come. With no clear end to the crisis in sight, however, many legal professionals are faced with uncertainty as they deal with the challenges of ensuring business continuity today and building business resiliency for the future.
In June, Wolters Kluwer issued the survey − Impact of the COVID Crisis on the Legal Sector − to assess how the crisis has affected legal professionals in Europe today, and what the implications are for law firms over the next year. The survey includes insights from 1,866 legal professionals in law firms across 10 European countries and examines impacts on business; cost management; ways of working; and technology and investment.
While it’s clear that the Covid crisis will have long-term impact on the legal landscape, for many law firms it is too early to understand the depth and breadth of that impact. Across Europe, 31% of law firms say it is too early to assess their business outlook for the next year. And while 19% expect no change in their business, 37% of respondents expect a decrease and 13% expect an increase in business. Many firms are also unsure of when business will return to pre-Covid scale, with 45% saying they don’t know when this will happen. Meanwhile, 43% are expecting a return to business as usual by mid-2021 or earlier.
Across the board, Survey respondents indicate that the Covid crisis will impact the way that legal professionals in law firms work. Post-Covid, legal professionals expect to work increasingly in a virtual environment. The majority say they will: work from home more in the future (52%); increasingly collaborate remotely with colleagues and third parties ahead (62%); improve the way they virtually/digitally communicate with clients (66%); and expect an acceleration of remote, virtual hearings as a new way to interact with judges (41%).
With this new way of working setting the stage for the future, early indicators show that law firms are cautiously taking steps to manage their businesses, while also looking to strengthen their capabilities for the future.
The Covid crisis solidified and even accelerated the importance of technology solutions, including legal technology solutions, to business continuity and client service. The majority (56%) of law firms report that their need for legal technology solutions has increased as a result of the crisis, and 66% report that their investment in legal solutions will stay the same or increase moving ahead. As legal professionals navigate a new legal landscape, it’s clear that the use of technology is now more important than ever and critical to improved relationships, performance and productivity.
For more findings from Wolters Kluwer’s Impact of the COVID Crisis on the Legal Sector Survey, download the survey report here.