Clio, an industry-leading provider of law practice management, client intake, CRM, and document automation recently released its 2022 Legal Trends Report. The Report is based upon aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals in the United States, surveys of legal professionals, professionals from other industries, and consumers, and aggregated and anonymized IP address data (to analyze where lawyers are working from and how this has changed over time). The results, or at least a part of them, may be surprising to some, reinforcing to others, and downright scary for others.
Here are some key takeaways:
Key Takeaway #1: 2021 was a rebound year for the legal industry as demand for legal services increased and the disruptions of the early pandemic began to recede. Lawyers across the country saw increases in their workload as pent-up demand surged, with reports of some firms even turning down work or raising rates (or both) as a result.
Rising demand and strong financial performance across the industry drove a corresponding increase in both firm headcounts and attorney compensation.
Increased casework indicates higher demand for legal services.
Utilization rate (how much of a typical eight-hour workday is spent on billable hours for clients) is up – 18% in the past 6 years.
Realization and collection rates rose dramatically since 2018 but plateaued in 2021.
Industry-wide data suggests the average lawyer could increase rates by 3% to keep up with recent changes in the CPI relative to 2019.
Key Takeaway #2: The pandemic profoundly and permanently transformed where and how lawyers work.
Many lawyers realized that cloud-based technology enabled them to work and stay connected to their firm and their clients from anywhere. Office use has declined.
Fewer than 30% of lawyers continue to work only from the office.
In the 12 months prior to April 2022, nearly one in five lawyers left the law firm they were working for, and 9% reported that they planned to leave a firm in the next six months.
25% more clients prefer virtual meetings over in-person meetings and the rest indicated no strong preference either way.
Key Takeaway #3: As remote work becomes more common within law firms, it’s important to consider the impact this has on legal professionals on an individual level. With more work taking place within the home, the lines between personal and professional responsibilities have increasingly blurred, creating a state of imbalance for many lawyers.
While most lawyers indicate that they prefer to work traditional office hours, 56% work after 5 p.m., 28% after 6 p.m., and 11% after 10 p.m.
86% of lawyers work outside of the typical workday hours.
73% work outside of regular business days.
10% of lawyers prefer to work on Saturdays while 42% actually work then.
Working outside of regular business hours corresponds to poorer outcomes – both personal and professional.
Key Takeaway #4: Many lawyers are working irregular hours and working remotely. Technology has played a large part in enabling them to access firm information and maintain communication with clients, increasing a firm’s ability to keep up with client needs, regardless of where a lawyer works.
The most influential factor for clients in deciding which lawyer to hire is client reviews.
A distant second and third factors (tied) are locale and response time.
The least significant factor was whether the lawyer had a commercial office or worked from home.