Future Law Office 2020: Strategic Partnerships and Workplace-Ready Lawyers Among Key Trends Affecting the Practice of Law

Key trends for the future law office

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” This quote from ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky reflects an essential part of long-term business planning: anticipating the future and taking action now to get there. And it’s smart advice that legal leaders should take to heart.

Today’s legal profession has undergone what many consider a major transformation over the past several years. Fast-moving market pressures continue to change and shape legal organizations, management practices and the delivery of legal services.

What will the law office of the future look like? And what actions today can help ensure success five years from now?

New research from Robert Half Legal offers some answers. Future Law Office 2020: Redefining the Practice of Law explores key factors impacting today’s legal marketplace and how legal organizations are modifying their management strategies to remain competitive and ensure future success.

Here are three key trends from our research that are expected to influence the practice of law during the next five years:

  1. Growing partnership between legal and IT professionals. Data privacy and security matters are among the tech-related issues that are driving closer collaboration between legal and information technology teams. “I believe legal and IT functions will remain independent from one another,” notes James A. Merklinger, vice president and chief legal officer for the Association of Corporate Counsel. “But increasingly, we’re seeing more of a holistic approach to addressing and managing security, privacy and eDiscovery engagements in the legal workplace. Legal professionals are working hand-in-hand with IT experts to assess risks, understand where cyber threats are most likely to happen, identify what technologies are required, and importantly, develop, implement and manage comprehensive security defenses.”

  2. Restructuring the legal workplace. Mobile devices, convenient access to information stored in the cloud and continuing pressures to cut office costs are among the key factors contributing to legal workplace design, according to recent research completed by Gensler entitled Redesign Law: Gensler’s Legal Office of the Future. Not only are law firms reducing the square footage they require due to increasing remote work arrangements, according to Marilyn Archer, firm principal and professional services firm practice leader. Many are also abandoning the traditional law firm look to incorporate workplace design elements that are critical to legal professionals today—such as work areas that foster collaboration, convenient access to tech resources and functional flexibility and efficiencies.

  3. Responding to the demand for workplace-ready lawyers. With hiring managers placing a premium on finding legal professionals who can add immediate value upon employment, law schools are offering courses designed to provide students with an expanded range of professional capabilities. Classes in business strategies, technology transactions, predictive analytics, and entrepreneurship are among the courses being introduced to enable students to gain skills, knowledge and experience that can readily translate to their future business roles.

“As law firms and legal departments adjust their management practices to address today’s workplace challenges, they’re also closely monitoring emerging trends that are shaping the law profession of the future,” says attorney Charles A. Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “This kind of insight is critical to effectively navigate the shifting business realities and to identify strategies required to successfully transition to the legal marketplace of tomorrow.”

To learn more about key trends reshaping legal practice management strategies and how law firms and corporate legal departments are responding, download a copy of Robert Half Legal's report, Future Law Office 2020: Redefining the Practice of Law.