Lawyers can benefit from a deep interest in their clients ‘cases, not only to anticipate their legal service needs, but also to appreciate – and perhaps embrace – clients’ approach to business innovation and on duty. Today, as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are responding to what they see as opportunities presented by new technologies and changing customer behaviors. Digital business development and digital service delivery are becoming the norm, and a growing storm of digitally empowered competitors is starting to wreak havoc across many sectors of the economy.
The legal profession must be prepared to follow their example.
McKinsey: COVID accelerates digital innovation
At the start of the 2020 ‘containment’ phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, consulting giant McKinsey & Company questioned the attitudes of business leaders as they envisioned an uncertain future of social distancing and downturning. the economic activity.
McKinsey researchers found that 90% of business leaders believe the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally change the way they do business over the next 5 years. Eighty-five percent believed COVID-19 would have a lasting impact on the needs and wants of their customers during that same period.
These changes, they believed, presented enormous opportunities for growth and innovation. Unfortunately, few executives believed their companies were up to the challenge. Only 21% of those surveyed said their business has the resources, expertise and commitment to seize new growth opportunities. Instead of innovating, they focused on reducing costs, increasing productivity and implementing safety measures.
Fast forward to 2021. According to McKinsey, disruptive pressure from digital technologies has increased during the pandemic, spurring forced “sudden pivots” into innovation by forward-thinking companies and, in places, their firms. lawyers as well. Sudden pivots observed by McKinsey researchers include:
Changes to sales models. The social distancing imperative has led to a rush for increased digital engagement and has brought with it a ray of hope for small law firms: With digital, small law firms are able to build up a “perfect team” of sales pitch talent. This allows small businesses to compete with larger competitors.
New digital products. Across the country, businesses have used digital technology to connect with customers who never walked through their doors. Restaurants closed to in-person meals have moved to direct-to-consumer “ghost kitchens”. Museums have used digital technology to open up their premises to an audience that could no longer visit in person.
The legal profession has also responded. The number of remote depositions has exploded. Zoom hearings have helped keep court records manageable. A hot real estate market has heated up with Zoom real estate closings. And signings of wills while driving have taken place across the country.
Client demands will soon lead to even more drastic technological changes within the legal profession. For example, sobering predictions for the future of KPMG International’s legal work include the rise of technology providers to replace traditional lawyers, the use of in-house staff for all routine legal work and inquiries. of clients to subject external lawyers to performance measures that include how much money they are making for the client.
Changes in customer behavior. Consumers are familiar and comfortable with using video conferencing technology for a wide variety of previously in-person activities. Church services, telehealth, exercise classes, and many social activities with friends, family and associates are now all conducted online.
Clients expect lawyers to embrace technological change more fully. A recent article by The American Lawyer argued that lawyers who will be successful in the future are those who can “integrate seamlessly” with the technologies used by clients (eg, AirTable and Slack instead of e -mail) and align with the culture and workplace of their clients. business goals.
New legal entrants to the market. Citing the example of automaker General Motors and vacuum cleaner maker Dyson that makes medical devices, McKinsey researchers noted that the pandemic has broken down regulatory barriers that once protected companies from outside competition. Lawyers interested in learning more about the next wave of new competition for technological aids to the practice of traditional law can consult the most recent report from the Utah Supreme Court Office of Legal Services, which contains a list of nearly 50 providers of non-traditional legal services and new technologies. – offers of assisted legal services (PDF).
ABA: Technology offers an opportunity, but so does growing pains
The innovations happening in the business world offer a useful perspective to consult the recently published report by the American Bar Association, Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward (PDF), which documents the views of more than 4,000 ABA members across the country. As we have already noted (here, here and here), the experience of the legal profession in dealing with the pandemic has left many lawyers convinced that working remotely is not only doable, but desirable, both from the point of view. view of the individual lawyer and the client. The pandemic has destigmatized remote working and permanently changed the way law firms will operate in the future.
While most post-pandemic thinking from ABA members has turned inward, reflecting the view that legal talent is every company’s market differentiator, the report is nonetheless adorned with the recognition that the technology will play a key role in the profession’s response to public publication. -Legal needs in the event of a pandemic. In the future, ABA survey respondents would also like to see:
Committed and forward-looking leadership. Survey respondents indicated that they want law firm leaders to develop a vision for their firm’s future and a plan to achieve it.
Better remote work support. Lawyers are frustrated with the quality of technical and administrative support from law firms. According to the survey, most want better technology and more staff for remote work.
Let the value drive the compensation. The authors of the ABA report claim that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided law firms with a unique opportunity to reconsider and reassess compensation policies, based on the true value lawyers provide to the firm and to his clients. The data is there, if the management of the law firm is willing to look at it and act on it.
Part-time and flexible-time policies. Likewise, the authors of the ABA report say the time has come to “seriously review and revise part-time and flex-time policies.”
Commitment to diversity and equity. Over 47% of lawyers of color reported experiencing stress at work because of their race or ethnicity; 52% of female lawyers experience stress at work because of their gender. The authors of the survey predicted an exodus of diverse talents if this situation remained unchanged.
In recent remarks at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, outgoing ABA President Patricia Lee Refo acknowledged the opportunity and challenge facing lawyers as the country emerges from the crisis. COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to sort through what we have learned over this year and a half about the advantages, limitations and pitfalls of remote proceedings and other technologies that promise to expand access to justice and reduce the cost of legal services, ”she said. “It’s just imperative.”
We appear to have arrived at a unique moment in time, where digital technologies allow a seemingly limitless array of new legal service offerings, and clients, newly conditioned to manage their personal and business affairs remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. , don’t just embrace digital technology, but expect digital technology to be harnessed to deliver better products and services. It is a moment the legal profession cannot afford to miss.