Pandemics and plagues are a catalysis for social and economic changes in the world’s social order. When such disastrous and terrifying events appear throughout history, they tend to upend critical societal structures, such as health systems and medical treatments, economic life, socioeconomic class structures and race relations, fundamental institutional arrangements, communities and everyday family life. The legal field is no different. In fact, “[a]ttorney turnover has risen to record levels, edging dangerously close to firms losing one-quarter of their associates in 2021.” More specifically, “70% of corporate lawyers and 58% of law firm lawyers say they are likely to leave their current position in the next year.” Needless to say, change is not coming, it is already here for current and future attorneys, all thanks to COVID-19 and the subsequent shifts in the way the legal profession operates on a daily basis.
To make matters worse, there is a surge of legal work pilling up for these legal organizations now facing staff shortages. Today in 2022, law firms are facing increasing pressure to hire new legal talent, especially given the exponential growth in the legal field since COVID-19 began in 2020. In fact, “[t]he global legal market is expected to grown from $713.12 billion in 2021 to $788.94 billion in 2022.” So, how do law organizations, small and large, avoid losing more than 50% of its work force to other legal positions or alternative professions? Well, like all great attorneys, the legal industry too needs to learn to adapt like a chameleon or otherwise face being left in the dust by technologically savvy companies. As such, law firms across the board are re-evaluating business operations, including, who does the work, how it gets done, and where it gets done. Especially post-COVID19, many legal professionals expect a tech-enabled organization that also supports their preferred way of working: hybrid or full-time remote. Still, experts believe that “[R]ecruiting and retaining both legal and other professional staff may well prove to be among the biggest post-pandemic challenges confronting law firms in 2022.”
With increasing importance on legal technology, law firms are scrambling to offer its employees top-tier technological advances. Shockingly, only 35% of law firms surveyed indicated that they felt prepared to deal with this priority. Further, it is no surprise that such costly modifications do actually come with an expensive price tag. Thus, the next challenge for these law organizations becomes how to save money elsewhere to accommodate for these higher overhead costs.
One interesting trend is the increase in the paralegal workforce. “According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, the paralegal job growth rate is 12% higher than average leaving an opening for nearly 43,000 paralegals annually.” Another interesting trend is that the eDiscovery industry grew to over $2 billion in 2021, as demand for this service continues to rise.
Interestingly, eDiscovery is now essential to meet discovery requirements under the Federal and State Rules of Civil Procedure. “Law practices are adapting to these procedures and learning that an effective eDiscovery service will provide a reduction in cost and reduce the burden of reviewing mountains of data by attorneys.” Finally, legal process outsourcing is becoming ever so popular in the United States with annual revenues of $35 billion.
Needless to say, the pandemic has forever changed the way attorneys practice the law across the globe. Thus, in order to retain the talent needed to attack the new work load received, law firms need to pay particular attention to their employees’ needs and requests to recover from such a traumatic and life-changing experience. The pandemic truly forced all individuals, not just attorneys, to reflect on their personal values, professional commitments, and overall, work-life balance. Specifically, approximately, “27% of the 3,700 associates from 77 Am Law 200 firms surveyed by The American Lawyer for its 2021 Midlevel Associates Survey, said they would leave their current law firm for higher compensation. More importantly, 60% of respondents said they would consider leaving their firm for a better work-life balance.” Therefore, law firms must find a way to juggle new workforce demands with higher overhead costs to find a happy medium to operate happily as a team and profitably as a business, for years to come.