Oct 17, 2020 - Economy

How lawyers learned to Zoom

Zoom and lawyers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic has nudged the legal industry to more widely adopt virtual business practices.

Why it matters: Lawyers have rarely been early adopters when it comes to tech, but the pressures of the pandemic on their bottom line have forced law firms to adapt or die — and clients may end up benefiting.

By the numbers: In its 2020 Legal Trends Report, the cloud-based legal tech company Clio found the pandemic hit the legal industry hard, with revenue per lawyer dropping by $2,373 in May year-over-year.

  • As many as a quarter of law firms surveyed said they had let go of staff, and over half of legal professionals say they are worried about the financial future of their firm.

Context: To survive, law firms have been forced to accelerate their adoption of services that can be done remotely, like the e-signing of contracts, electronic billing and virtual client meetings.

  • Brick-and-mortar offices are becoming less important, with 7% of legal professionals reporting they had let go of their commercial office space and 12% saying they were considering doing so in the future.
  • 37% of consumers, meanwhile, said they believed that most if not all lawyers should run their practices virtually in the future.
  • "What we are witnessing is a permanent transformation in how we deliver legal services," says Jack Newton, Clio's CEO.

What to watch: That shift could benefit the average consumer, who consistently reports being unable to get the legal help they need.

  • "Innovative lawyers are going to step up and find ways to deliver legal services that are more affordable and more accessible," says Newton.
  • That could be as simple as adopting clear client portals on law firm websites and electronic payment systems that bring the customer experience of legal services more in line with other industries.
"Law is the last major industry to be fundamentally changed by technology, and COVID-19 is going to cause that."
— Jack Newton, Clio
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