If you’re a legal practitioner, you know how important it is to keep up with changes in this industry if you are to stay competitive in the market. This is doubly so for small and medium law firms who have to keep an extra eye out to compensate for the lack of budget and resources that bigger firms have – one mistake can cost you time and money.
It’s not an easy task. Running a law firm is challenging and the danger to get engrossed in small details and losing focus of the big picture is ever-present. No one said that client work and budgeting is secondary but when you’re knee deep in an ongoing case, it’s kind of hard to see where the market will be heading in 20, 30 and even 40 years time. An uninformed lawyer is a bad lawyer and if you don’t keep track of changes – you risk becoming obsolete. We’ve interviewed a number of senior attorneys across different firms in the US and have summed up their concerns into three main big issues.
The virtual legal library
The majority of legal practitioners we’ve interviewed predicted that in the coming 20 to 30 years, a firm’s legal print library would simply disappear or be significantly reduced in size to less than half. This isn’t about professionals abandoning legal texts altogether but more about how information is consumed. Spurred by technology such as smartphones and tablets, the digital format has significantly impacted traditional print libraries and will continue to do so. But the issue should not be viewed as a mutually exclusive proposition: legal libraries will continue to grow with electronic information sources being available alongside traditional legal texts. Future attorneys will have to know when it is more appropriate to use electronic sources versus the traditional print and manual method.
The virtual law firm is here
Working remotely is already a reality in law firms and statistics show that this trend will only continue to grow in the next three decades. 21% of the professionals we have interviewed have predicted that 3/4 of the staff will be operating permanently outside the office by 2044. All of this thanks to advances in technology and the opportunities they have created. More and more people are becoming used to working on the go, legal process outsourcing is already done by almost everyone, including small firms, to save time and money which in turn means that fewer office-based employees are needed and as we mentioned above, tablets and eBooks already supplement and will replace the traditional print library with a more mobile virtual one.
The informed consumer
Another trend that has legal firms on the lookout is the increase in online tools and information available to consumers. This has resulted in more and more people turning to the internet to manage their legal affairs. As a result, firms will have to specialize further or become highly specialized in the next decades in order to stay competitive. A solution to this is for firms to invest in tools and outsourcing in order to streamline and simplify a practitioner’s daily tasks, allowing him more time to focus on higher-margin jobs. Having a preconfigured workflow, using management software and taking advantage of document assembly tools will all help in an increasingly-competitive market.
These trends seem scary only to someone who does not plan for change. Sometimes, having a competitive advantage to keep your firm in business can mean something as simple as implementing a new practice management system or a more streamlined workflow solution. Traditional lawyers won’t go away anytime soon but a lawyer with an eye on the future is always a plus.
photo credit: FutUndBeidl