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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

Go deeper

Fortnite developer brings on its first lobbyists

An 11-year-old gamer plays Fortnite in South Pasadena, California, last April. Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The company behind the wildly popular video game franchise Fortnite, which is suing Apple over alleged anti-competitive practices, hired its first lobbyists this month to “monitor” antitrust issues in Washington.

Why it matters: Epic Games’ case against Apple has potentially huge legal and financial stakes. The company’s decision to enlist K Street veterans with connections on both sides of the aisle indicates it is tuning into D.C., where both parties have railed against anti-competitive practices in the tech industry.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.

Colleyville Rabbi credits survival to active-shooter training

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, one of the people taken hostage in a synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, said in an interview with CBS Monday that he initially took in the man because he thought he needed shelter.

The big picture: Cytron-Walker said he spoke to the hostage taker, identified by the FBI as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, for several minutes and made him tea before Akram took the rabbi and three other people hostage during Shabbat services for around 11 hours in Colleyville, Texas.