As another eventful year draws to a close, legal professionals across the land will soon gather to share past accomplishments over clanking champagne toasts at Holiday parties. At some point during the festivities, their animated conversations will no doubt shift to 2019, along with predictions about what the new year has in store for their profession. The past 12 months have certainly been transformative ones for attorneys, from corporate counselors and law firm partners, to all the private practice lawyers in between. Driven by technology, client demand and globalization, the upcoming year promises to be even more of a game-changer. With that said, here are the top 5 legal trends to watch for as we usher in 2019.
Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO)
During the past several years, lawyers have been adapting to a worldwide paradigm shift in how legal services are provided. Fueled by the Internet, globalization, and economic challenges, legal process outsourcing (LPO) transfers the responsibilities of lawyers, paralegals, and other law professionals to outside vendors, both domestically and abroad. Initiated several years ago, on and offshore LPO has rapidly gained acceptance within the legal profession in order to:
- Reduce operating costs
- Increase resource and personnel flexibility
- Expand in-house capabilities
Electronic discovery, or “e-discovery”, is now a $2 billion per year industry that uses innovative technology to more promptly and efficiently locate and manage legal data. Enter the field of e-discovery professionals, who are now hired to save time and effort for lawyers while replacing the old-fashioned method of shuffling documents between litigants. Cumbersome reams of paper documents have now been replaced with click-accessible electronic files, although the need to store boxes of hard copies in the event of a technology failure remains.
Virtual Legal Professionals
Spurred on by the demand for family-friendlier work schedules, the empowerment of mobile Smart devices, software services, and Web-based technologies, now lawyers and other legal professionals can virtually work from anywhere, including home. Due to the independence a virtual workplace affords them, more legal professionals are able to productively serve their employers, while also enjoying flexible hours and a renewed focus on work-life balance, in these legal occupations:
- Virtual paralegals
- Freelance legal secretaries/virtual assistants
- Freelancing law students who are looking to earn extra money
- Legal transcriptionists and court reporters
- Contract lawyers
Alternative Billing Methods
For years, clients across the globe have complained about controlling their legal costs by replacing the traditional billable-hours model with a new system that’s more efficient. As a result, alternative legal fee-for-service billing methods are rapidly gaining in popularity, such as:
- Fixed-fee billing
- Flat-fee billing
- Blended-fee billing
- Capped-fee billing
According to a recent legal industry survey(1), over 80% of the law firms and private practice attorneys hired on as outside legal counsel are now offering some form of alternative billing methods in place of standard hourly rates or billable hours.
Electronic Legal Services
The legal marketplace itself is evolving, and attorneys no longer hold carte blanche for those seeking legal representation, information, and advice. Driven once again by the Internet, and the instant global connectivity it provides, people can now seek legal assistance from a growing number of non-attorney professionals at the click of a key. This growing trend is notably enabling disadvantaged and impoverished individuals to successfully manage their own legal affairs. Access to vital legal resources that these online legal service models provide include:
- Paralegal technicians
- Virtual assistants
- Offshore legal vendors
- Legal document preparers
- Legal self-help websites
As more traditional legal service fees continue to rise, in lockstep with those economic realities will be the continued global emergence and acceptance of these innovative and less-expensive, electronic legal service delivery alternatives.
Better Legal Recruiters Embrace Change
The legal profession, like most others, is currently undergoing a transformative sea-change due to the Internet, globalization, and client demand. Poised on the cutting edge of those changes stand legal recruiters, and the legal recruiting firms they represent. Better legal recruiters stay informed about the hottest trends in the legal profession and use that vital information to locate and place talented attorneys within positions that afford all parties the highest level of future employment potential. Good recruiters have the insider connections, communication networks, and reliable placement resources to streamline employer quests for viable lawyer candidates. To search now for a better legal recruiter in your zip code, visit The Legal Recruiter Directory.
¹ Findings from the 10th Annual Law Department Operations Survey; Produced by the Blickstein Group in cooperation with Consilio; page 6; December, 2017.