Please enjoy this blog post by Dean Sonderegger, SVP & General Manager of Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.
In looking at the impact of the pandemic on each of our lives, the general sense that I get is that we are seeing an acceleration of trends that have already been in place. A quick look at the packages waiting on doorsteps in any neighborhood illustrates this point: there was already a trend towards online ordering and delivery – COVID-19 has just accelerated that trend.
When looking at the legal industry, most would say that the industry was already experiencing disruption due to technology, and the question was how and to what extent that trend will accelerate. In January (pre-pandemic), Wolters Kluwer used an independent global research firm to poll 700 attorneys in law firms and CLDs across ten countries to get a sense of where and how technology is impacting law.
The 2020 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer: Performance Drivers examined trends affecting the future of law as the industry continues to change, and how well-prepared legal organizations are to drive higher performance. Not surprisingly, the survey found that legal professionals see technology as the top performance driver and critical to improved relationships, performance and productivity.
While the Increasing Importance of Legal Technology was the top trend at 76%, fewer than one-third of lawyers believe their organization is very prepared to keep pace with changes in the legal market. The survey also found performance barriers, and revealed gaps in understanding, expectations, experience and capabilities that inhibit top performance. Readiness for change remains a top challenge for legal professionals, and while legal technology is increasingly important, serious gaps in understanding and preparedness remain.
These trends impact the relationships between law firms and corporate legal departments as well, especially as use of technology becomes more critical to how well law firms meet client expectations. Corporate legal departments, faced with the need to improve productivity and efficiency, have turned to technology more aggressively and they are pressuring law firms to do the same. Within the next three years, 81% of corporate legal departments said they will require law firms to describe how they are using technology to be more productive and efficient – nearly double the rate of 41% asking this today.
This indicates a shift in corporate legal departments’ priorities from last year to now. In the 2019 survey, price was a top factor for corporate legal departments evaluating new prospective law firms, and in 2020, a law firm’s use of technology became a much more important factor. Technology is still a means to an end (efficiency, time or money saving), but it has become a much more important means to an end.
What does this indicate for the future? As the impacts of the pandemic continue to unfold, I believe that we will see further acceleration of the trends that have already begun to transform the practice of law. While the survey found that technology is key to enabling organizations to work more quickly and efficiently, the pandemic will certainly impact how legal professionals use technology to define the value and results that they offer – and how well they will be able to adapt to change in the future.