Note: This article has been updated from 2022’s trends.
There is no doubt that the legal landscape looks different as we head into 2023 than in previous years. As the legal industry moves forward in a post-pandemic world, emerging digital technologies will be of utmost importance to lawyers and those who employ them. What follows are some of the top legal industry trends you can expect to see more of as 2023 plays out.
1 – Collaborative Workspaces
There is an increased focus on collaboration within legal practices. The increase in collaboration among legal professionals refers to both an extension of the areas they work (the workspaces), and the way cases are handled.
For instance, legal practices now utilize much smaller offices on average than they have previously. This is largely attributed to a more collaborative effort. For example, more work is done within conference rooms in collaborative environments and less is being handled in private offices alone. These collaborative environments are also believed to be increasing due to the influx of millennials in the legal industry, who may have more of a preference and willingness to collaborate with peers within their practice.
There are notable benefits to embracing collaborative workspaces in 2023. Legal professionals are able to learn from one another and discover breakthroughs and general information about a case that may have otherwise gone unnoticed and undiscovered. It also helps the workday feel less of a grind and more enjoyable for law professionals. Additionally, law professionals tend to feel less personal pressure when in a collaborative environment where they are able to run thoughts and ideas by their peers and listen to their input about particular cases.
2 – Firms are Embracing Private Cloud Tech for Security and Savings
Private cloud technology is a version of cloud-based computing and data storage where the online infrastructure belongs solely to the law firm that uses it. In other words, it is private and not accessible to the public. These private clouds usually have excellent (and special) security methods and protocols in place.
This is particularly useful for law firms who may handle sensitive information on a regular basis (via their clients as well as internal sensitive information). As cybercrimes continue to rise across the country, private cloud technology offers a more secure and reliable way to operate for law firms. Consequently, we fully expect to see the trend of private cloud tech usage among law firms continue to rise in 2023.
Additionally, and as mentioned above, you are seeing more millennials enter the legal field, who generally already have a working knowledge of cloud technology and how to use it effectively and efficiently throughout each workday. This makes it all the easier for law firms to implement. This often serves as a nice complement to the previously discusses AI and automation practices that many law firms are beginning to utilize more regularly.
3 – AI & Automation
In the past, legal technologies were reserved for tasks like billing, practice management, document storage, and accounting. Driven by increasing demand, newer legal technology innovations will allow law firms to remain competitive throughout 2023, including artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.
Data volume is expanding at an exponential rate, which means that law firms and in-house corporate legal departments must embrace automated AI software solutions to streamline data management and enhance the client experience. As a testament to this fact, Zion Market Research projects that the global legal technology market will exceed $37 billion by 2026.
As one of the hottest legal tech trends of 2023, workflow automation is a valuable tool for forward-thinking law firms to remain productive. It takes away from billable hours when law firm management must perform mundane, non-legal tasks, such as marketing, billing, candidate screening interviews, client communications, and accounting. Legal automation technology boosts efficiency and reduces expenses by seamlessly tackling those repetitive tasks.
If you are looking ahead at the top ten legal function predictions in 2025, the ever-expanding role of AI and automation should be included on your list.
4 – Cybersecurity
Cybercrime and information breaches are trending upwards, notably in the legal sector. The transition by many law firms from in-person to remote or hybrid work environments has placed an abundance of sensitive information at risk from a hack or breach.
According to a recent report from the American Bar Association, roughly 30% of all survey respondents reported an online security breach in 2020. Even more troubling, many of those questioned were unaware if their law firms had been breached or not.
Ask any IT legal insider, and they will tell you that cybersecurity remains a top priority for legal professionals and will continue to remain one of their biggest challenges in the future. In response, many legal employers are now introducing rigorous cybersecurity and data protection measures that include remote systems and cloud-based storage solutions.
5 – Alternative Legal Services
Many law firms and businesses are now outsourcing expensive and time-consuming legal tasks that were once in-house to third-party companies known as alternative legal service providers (ALSPs).
ALSPs are independent niche companies that specialize in providing high-demand legal services like:
- Document review
- Contract management
- Litigation support
- Discovery and electronic discovery
- Contract lawyers and staffing
- IP management
- Investigation support and legal research
As a relatively new phenomenon in the legal industry, new service categories are constantly emerging in the growing ALSP market.
6 – Focus on Diversity and Inclusion
Social justice and diversity tolerance have remained hot dinner table topics this past year. Simply put, diversity means building a team comprised of individuals with different talents, ages, genders, skin colors, religious beliefs, and other distinguishing characteristics. Achieving workplace diversity requires an inclusive and tolerant mindset, which should be a vital aspect of any company’s culture.
As law firms and companies place a greater emphasis on workplace diversity and inclusion, those viewpoints will be reflected in the recruitment process as employers seek ways to ensure a better cultural fit within their organizations.
7 – Remote Work (Part-Timers)
With the COVID Pandemic still posing a Jobsite threat and virtual meetings becoming more popular, many law firms and in-house corporate legal departments have made remote work and telecommunicating routine practices for employees.
Employers must find ways to screen and hire candidates with an added emphasis on determining which ones can be productive while working from home or at an office, including those who do so on a part-time basis.
Once hired, lawyers and paralegals who work in remote environments must still contact courts and other government agencies. Those legal professionals are now taking advantage of digital interfaces that streamline this sensitive process.
8 – Freelancing Increasing Among Smaller and Larger Firms
The introduction of sophisticated technology, combined with budget-conscious clients and the desire to work remotely, is shaping the future of the legal profession in the form of freelancers. Aided by the power of the Internet, freelancing lawyers are on the rise as they seek ways to break loose from the bureaucratic and demanding nature of legal offices and organizations while earning a living wage and enjoying a healthier work-life balance.
Freelance lawyers and other legal professionals can also freely pick and choose specialty areas and tasks they want to handle instead of working at brick-and-mortar practices. As a result, those freelancers are now spending more time with their family members without necessarily feeling the pressure or constraint of time.
Law firms and corporations of all sizes are now finding ways for these paid consultants to collaborate with their permanent legal staff as part of an overall strategy to improve workplace efficiency and reduce operating costs.
9 – Going Paperless (Document Automation)
As technology has advanced and mobile devices have increased, the need to cart around boxes of legal documents has dramatically diminished. The number of documents that once filled an entire conference room can now be accessed on a laptop, iPad, or even Smartphone, freeing lawyers from a life surrounded by mountains of paper.
With the earth’s environmental future weighing in the balance, you should expect to see even more legal practices taking advantage of document automation technology to minimize their reliance on paper documents in 2023.
10 – Focus on Client Experience
Like everyone else in today’s business world, the legal industry is expected to shift towards a more client-focused approach this year. From embracing remote legal meeting solutions like video conferencing to a heightened interest in diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, client demands are changing.
Any future-focused law firm will need to implement remote processes and adopt a hybrid work model to remain competitive during the next few years. Widening their candidate pool will allow employers to acquire talent from more diverse backgrounds, ultimately providing all employees with enhanced learning and development opportunities.
Innovative practice management systems will streamline text messaging between legal team members and their clients, automate emails, and allow users to access client information anytime, anywhere with a secure Internet connection. Lawyers who work in the field will have the ability to keep a tight schedule and speak promptly with clients when time is of the essence.
11 – Expanding Role of Social Recruiting
Since social media is not going away anytime soon, social recruiting will shape the future of the legal profession for 2023 and beyond. Some examples of growing social recruiting practices include:
- Identifying and connecting with potential candidates on LinkedIn
- Sending candidates direct messages on Facebook
- Creating marketing videos on YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram pages that highlight a firm or agency’s services
- Candidate sourcing using online job boards like Indeed and Monster
- Sharing links to available positions that include relevant hashtags
As more Millennials and Zoomers enter the legal workforce, it is driving the demand for legal headhunters and employers alike to develop effective social recruiting strategies.
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