Embrace the Revolution: 3 Trends Reshaping the Practice of Law


The legal profession has changed dramatically over the past decade: Client demands, innovation, globalization and specialization have transformed the industry. But what lies ahead?

With change set to intensify across all practice areas in coming years, exciting opportunities and challenges line the horizon for law firms and corporate legal departments. Understanding the changes, monitoring trends and keeping up to speed on industry developments will be crucial for legal organizations to stay at the top of their game.

As part of our Future Law Office research, we asked 350 lawyers with the largest law firms and companies in the U.S. and Canada to name the issues they believed would have the greatest impact on their practice in the next five years. More than one-third (34 percent) cited emerging technology, followed by corporate governance regulations (19 percent), privacy and data security issues (18 percent) and globalization (12 percent).

So, what exactly is in store for the future of the legal profession, and how can your organization adapt?

1. "Tech" it or leave it.

Savvy legal firms of all shapes and sizes have incorporated innovative technology such as the cloud and performance analytics to streamline productivity, optimize workflow and accommodate flexible staffing arrangements.

Strategic partnerships with IT departments have become essential for legal professionals who don’t want to get left behind: 8 in 10 lawyers at the largest companies across the U.S. and Canada we surveyed said their collaboration with IT specialists had grown over the past two years. They also named litigation or eDiscovery as top driving forces behind the alignment (44 percent), followed by data privacy and security (41 percent).

This alliance is growing stronger. Legal professionals now turn to IT colleagues to help them adopt, evaluate and manage software, electronic data and cloud computing in the face of cybersecurity and compliance concerns.

2. Make fees flexible.

The global economic crisis catalyzed customer demand for quality, value and certainty. Legal firms and professionals are being pushed to deliver specialized expertise on a temporary or one-off basis, and to provide more flexible legal fee structures.

A majority of general counsel polled (72 percent) said they apply alternative payment options. More than half (53 percent) of chief legal officers in departments with 25 or more employees — and 36 percent of those with 25 or fewer — exclusively deploy flat fees.

Transparency and globalization are also fueling the fee shake-up. Customers can now immediately access case and billing information, regardless of their locations or time zones.

3. Restructure the office.

Firms are reducing overhead by allocating temporary office space so some lawyers can work virtually part of the time and on-site at other times. Legal office design has also been overhauled. Traditional corner offices for senior attorneys are being replaced by functional flexibility: sit-to-stand desks, casual working environments and immediate access to technology.

As the legal profession gears up to become more dynamic, global and client-focused than ever, the next decade could be as exciting as the last. By staying up to date on the latest industry trends, organizations can continue to thrive amid a rapidly changing business environment.

To learn more about trends driving change in today’s legal workplaces, download Future Law Office 2020: Redefining the Practice of Law now.