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Profitability

How law firms’ 2021 plans are being shaped by their 2020 experiences

Jordan Schuetzle  Director, Proposition Strategy and Market Development

Jordan Schuetzle  Director, Proposition Strategy and Market Development

As law firms were thrust into supporting remote workforces through most of 2020 and into 2021, to say that it was a difficult transition for some of them would be an understatement. They all found their way eventually, and there were some key learnings that took place along the way.

Many of those learnings helped to define law firms’ operational and legal tech strategies for 2021 and beyond. What can your firm learn from the experiences of others as they navigated these largely uncharted waters?

Embracing technology

Partners at many firms find themselves open to the idea of using technology to deliver legal services more effectively. According to research from Acritas Sharplegal, 84% of partners responding to a survey expected their firms to increase investments in technology.

While this does not necessarily signal unconditional openness to adopting new legal tech going forward, the experience of adapting to the unique market conditions in 2020 may well have created a willingness to consider alternate ways of handling law firm operations.

Changes in law firm tech investment and strategy

There is growing evidence that the pandemic is making a difference in the way law firm leaders think about investing in technology.

For example, 81% of respondents to an October 2020 Law Firm GC Survey 1 on the Impact of COVID-19 indicated that they expected substantial changes in their firms’ technology investments and strategy in the coming years. In other research, 72% of respondents surveyed for the Thomson Reuters Law Firm Leaders Report indicated that increasing the use of technology to reduce costs would be a priority in 2021.

Acknowledging that WFH can work

For years, companies in most industries were willing to at least consider the idea of letting people in the office work from home. In the legal industry, however, there always seemed to be a resistance to it.

Once they were forced into supporting an entirely remote workforce during the pandemic, law firms found that the disruptions they believed would occur were much less severe than anticipated. As a result, many firms are acknowledging for the first time that working from home can work.

In fact, some 81% of senior risk managers responding to the Law Firm GC Survey thought that remote working would increase and become a permanent part of the firms’ operations, which is a good thing, considering the apparent preferences of attorneys. According to data from Acritas, the number of attorneys who have expressed an interest in working from home at least one day a week has more than doubled from 37% prior to the pandemic to 76%.

Increased client collaboration

It appears that the pandemic has also changed the way firms think about doing business in areas such as client collaboration.

Data from the Law Firm Business Leaders Report indicates that 59% of large firms have already implemented or plan to implement opportunities for increased collaboration. This includes 52% of those respondents who said their compensation plans either already did or soon would include incentives to encourage collaboration.

What other trends are on the horizon for 2021?

2020 was the epitome of the famous adage from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, “change is the only constant in life.” It was, indeed, a year of constant learning, quick adjustments, and overcoming obstacles. And those learnings promise to continue into 2021.

1. 2020 Legal Management Resources, LLC, Law Firm General Counsel Roundtables Survey


Watch Thomson Reuters’ webcast, How midsize law firms managed to end 2020 with record profit growth, on-demand to learn more about the trends that will continue to shape the coming year and what your firm can do to navigate them.

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