Recruitment

5 legal trends to watch in 2022

sonder consultants London

Naika Quiñones, US Specialist Consultant

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked extraordinary change in all aspects of life – and most significantly for us, the legal industry. 

With many adaptions and additions proving significant and the Covid landscape still a little uncertain, the question is, what’s next?

 Luckily, we can provide some insight. Here are our top trends for 2022.

AI

As we all know, technology adoption has been vast these past two years. Even the most traditional of law firms have made way for tech innovations. As we head into 2022, we expect to see very sophisticated advancements in existing technology. AI, for instance, will take the spotlight as data volumes continue to expand. Firms will use AI to supplement manpower, speed up and streamline data management, filing, and storage.

IndustryARC’s LegalTech Artificial Intelligence Market Forecast for 2021-2026 predicts that AI will speed up the contract review progress of law firms by 20-90% without sacrificing accuracy.

Cloud-based Tech 

Cloud-based and client-centred technology is also a hot topic. We have seen firms leverage technology to provide excellent, effortless client experiences at every stage of the client journey. Rather than simply using cloud-based practise management software and one or two other cloud-based tools, “successful firms of the (near) future will run their entire firms in the cloud from end-to-end, including client intake, on-boarding, meetings, billing, and payments.” – Clio

Firms that have increased their revenues by 135% since 2013 were seen to have adopted cloud-based client centred solutions at a much greater rate.  

Client-led change 

Over the last few years, change and innovation has also sparked a massive shift in consumer behaviours, attitudes, and expectations. We can do pretty much everything virtually and online now, so why should this be different in the legal industry?

According to a legal trends report by practice management software company, Clio, in 2018, only 23% of consumers were open to working with a lawyer remotely. Now, much of this change is client-led:

  • 79% of consumers see the ability to work remotely with a lawyer as a key factor in choosing who to work with;
  • 67% said they would look for a lawyer offering both remote and in-person options when searching for a lawyer; and
  • 58% want the option to have a consultation through video.

Hybrid law firms 

When the pandemic first hit in 2019, firms transitioned from office to working from home reasonably flawlessly. Two years later, and with demand for both in-person and remote working required, firms are now trailing hybrid models to keep operations seamless and associates happy in the Covid era.

The recent regional results of the Thomson Reuters survey, “Stellar Performance: A Survey of Standout Talent”, reveal that the appetite for flexible working has increased dramatically in the legal profession. 63% now want to work flexible hours, compared to 22% pre-pandemic. On average, they want to work in a hybrid manner, with 2.1 days at home moving forwards – up from 0.6 previously.

However, it seems that mix-and-match hybrid models have proved difficult to get off the ground in 2021, with many false starts and rules and restrictions proving hard to manage. 

Heading into 2022, getting phased office returns right is still a huge challenge facing law firms. According to a Citi Hildebrandt Client Advisory report, firm leaders believe the current norm of part-time, in-person work is presenting more hurdles than operating a fully remote model.

The report also found that despite demand for remote working, firm leaders mostly said they wanted their lawyers back in the office at least three days a week. The pace of firms implementing hybrid approaches will pick up, and the trend is “the most immediate challenge or opportunity, depending on how firms perceive it” heading into next year.Therefore, in 2022, after many lessons learnt in 2021, we can expect to see more firms successfully implement hybrid-working models, and connect with top talent that demands it.

From 2019 to 2020, Zoom’s overall profits went from $21.7m to $671.5m. But while the company doesn’t expect such extravagant growth moving forwards, it believes remote and work-from-anywhere trends are here to stay.

Optimism

Demand is up solidly against pre-pandemic 2019, while productivity is only down less than 1% compared to 2019 (Reuters). Even more impressively, the third quarter of 2021 was reminiscent of previous high times for the legal industry, with legal markets all around the world extremely busy.  Many firms experienced growth across most practice areas, with corporate work, especially work involving the hot M&A sector, leading the pack.

Looking forward, market optimism in legal spending is currently at its strongest point in the last decade. Globally, four in 10 corporate clients anticipate an increase in legal expenditures in the coming year; only half as many (20%) are expecting a decrease. 

In 2022, helping corporate clients manage regulatory uncertainty will be a crucial growth area as more local and national governments worldwide begin to adjust their regulatory requirements to better deal with the lingering problems of the pandemic. In addition, a rise in regulation related to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues is also expected. The predicted increase in regulatory matters is evidenced by corporate clients’ legal spending predictions, with the regulatory practice area predicted to be the strongest growth area in 2022.

    This is just a small insight into the current and future state of the legal market. It’s been a busy year, and one things for sure it’s not slowing down as we head into 2022. We are expecting big things, continued innovation and fierce competition for top talent. 

    If you’re interested in advancing your legal career, get in touch with our team of experts for detailed information with regards to different jurisdictions and career advice to help with a big move.  

    “The best way to predict the future is to create it”
    – A Lincoln
    For more information on salary trends, market updates and the general process in securing a role.
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