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10 Trends That Are Reshaping the Legal Industry

A 2004 article titled ‚ÄúTrends That Are Shaping the Legal Industry‚ÄĚ was published on the American Bar Association news page. Information on budgets and planning, new ways to legal research, social media, and litigation technology were all highlighted in the top 10 trends. It‚Äôs been fifteen years since the publication of that article and the Legal Industry has since experienced new trends that are reshaping the industry all over again.

According to the Balance Careers, here are the next 10 trends that are reshaping the legal industry:

1. Electronic Discovery

Recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically Rules 16 and 26: to Require the Parties’ Discovery Plan to Address ESI Preservation and Inadvertent Disclosure Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, make electronically stored information such as e-mails, instant messages, voicemails, e-calendars, graphics and data discoverable in litigation. The explosive growth of electronically stored information (ESI) has impacted almost every business who, at this point, has either already implemented ESI into their daily operations or is in the process of transitioning to ESI. New roles in litigation support e-discovery, and trial technology has emerged to address the electronic realities of a digital age.

2. The Multi-Generational Workforce

For the first time in the nation’s history, five generations are working together in the workplace: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. As attorneys, paralegals and other legal professionals tend to work beyond retirement age, many law firms and legal departments are trying to balance a generation gap of more than 50 years between the oldest and youngest employees.  Five generations working together in the same work environment present new workforce dynamics and challenges.  Additionally, the next shift in workforce culture will happen when nearly 75 million currently employed Baby Boomers reach retirement and the entry of more Millennials and Generation Z employees will continue to change workplace dynamics.

3. Social Networking

Similar to the trends in 2004, now legal professionals have an ever-growing number of social media tools at their disposal to accomplish a variety of legal tasks and career objectives. This has already affected, and will continue affecting, how legal professionals recruit, job hunt, and network, locate and discredit witnesses, and manage their careers and interact with clients.  Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are also key marketing tools, helping lawyers and legal professionals reach a broad audience and accomplish branding, advertising, and client development goals.

 

4. Legal Process Outsourcing

In recent years, the legal industry has experienced a global paradigm shift in the delivery model for legal services. This new model of legal outsourcing, also known as legal process outsourcing (LPO), refers to the practice of a law corporation obtaining legal support services from an outside law firm or LPO provider. Legal outsourcing is transforming law practice as law firms and corporate legal departments seek to improve their business by minimizing costs, increasing flexibility and expanding in-house capabilities.

5. Work-Life Balance

A competitive economy, income that is waged hourly, and a desire to do well at your job or advance to a high position may have all played a part in pushing you into overdrive at your workplace. The pressure to do more with less has forced a growing number of employees to sacrifice their personal life in order to work harder and longer. As greater workloads pile up, workers are demanding a better work-life balance. New workplace policies such as flex-time, telecommuting, part-time work, phased retirement, temporary leave, compressed schedules and other alternative work arrangements are transforming today’s workplaces to promote a healthier work- life balance.

6. Globalization

Although globalization is not new, it is gaining momentum due to the growth of the Internet, the automation of legal processes, developments in data security and emerging technology tools.  As law firms continue to expand their footprint worldwide, globalization will continue to reshape the landscape of the legal industry in the coming years.

7. Eco-Consciousness

As making environment-friendly decisions becomes a global priority, this impacts the business and practice of law as well.¬† Law firms and legal professionals across the globe are establishing new procedures that cut energy waste, reduce their carbon footprint and promote individual responsibility.¬† Environmental law or “green law” is a growing practice area and many firms are establishing niche sub-practices in fair trade, organics, renewable energy, green building, and climate change.

8. Virtual Law Firms

Another trend in that is spreading through the workforce globally is new work-from-home jobs. This is seen in the legal profession through Virtual Law Firms. Virtual law offices provide an alternative method of practicing law that permits flexible work hours and fosters a better work/life balance for legal professionals. Virtual work is not just for lawyers; a growing number of legal professionals are working remotely.  Working virtually allows legal professionals to serve their employers and clients while maintaining a better work/life balance and modifying their schedule to fit personal and family needs.

 

9. Alternative Legal Service Delivery Models

The legal marketplace is changing and clients can seek legal assistance from a growing number of non-lawyer professionals including paralegal technicians, legal document preparers, legal self-help sites, virtual assistants and offshore legal vendors. These new options enable bringing affordable legal services to disadvantaged populations and empower citizens to address their own legal matters.  As the cost of legal services continues to rise, new legal delivery models will continue to emerge and gain momentum in the coming years.

 

10. Alternative Billing Models

Pressure to lower legal costs has forced law firms to diverge from the traditional billable-hours model in favor of new alternative billing models such as fixed, flat, blended or capped fees. In fact, a new law department metrics survey reports that 72.8% of fees paid to outside counsel in 2009 were based on billing arrangements other than standard hourly rates or the billable hour.  In order to foster long-term relationships and maximize value, more law firms are embracing alternative billing as a way to meet the needs of cost-conscious clients.

 

It’s important to follow trends so that law firms and legal organizations remain efficient, relevant, and competitive.

Some trends could negatively impact a company while others have the potential to launch a company to great success.

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