Legal profession wanes in wake of virus too

You can’t sue a virus.

But if you could, COVID-19 would face an army of lawyers going after it.

It’s disrupting all aspects of society, including legal work.

Indeed, an analysis and a survey done by Clio, a leader in cloud-based legal technology, found that law firms are seeing a significant slowdown in their businesses.

Clio was able to do so by analyzing aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals using the company’s legal practice management software. And it found that the new legal matters being opened each week in 2020 fell 30%.

And those legal matter openings continued to drop as the pandemic got worse, the data analysis showed.

“When compared to the brief increase at the end of February, the number of new weekly matters dropped a total of 40%,” the briefing said.

Clio also surveyed nearly 500 legal professionals, and they are concerned. More than three quarters say their day-to-day operations have been significantly impacted.

The briefing described a disturbing irony:

“Respondents expressed widespread concern over the future success of their businesses and their ability to make ends meet. Much of this concern is likely due to the fact that the majority of firms have seen a drastic decrease in the number of people reaching out for legal services. This immediate decrease in the demand for legal services, however, appears to be in spite of a steady—if not increased—need for legal help.”

But people appear willing to put off seeking legal help. Nearly 50 percent indicated “if they had a legal issue they would very likely delay reaching out for legal help until after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.”

“We’ve seen no indication that the need for legal services has subsided during the pandemic, but for many people, dealing with them right now isn’t top of mind,” said Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of Clio. “Law firms concerned about cash flow should be focused on understanding what barriers currently exist for clients, and be sure they are prepared to adapt their services to current and future needs of clients.”

But if the pandemic shows of being under control and social distancing rules are relaxed, lawyer then could see an uptick.

“The second half of 2020 will test many law firms, as they could face increased workloads while dealing with public reluctance to go to physical offices, creating meaningful bottlenecks in the legal system. In this environment, firms that have strongly embraced technology will be the ones who succeed and deliver for their clients,” Newton said.

About the Survey

The first iteration of this report looked at aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals using Clio’s legal practice management software. Included also are survey data from 485 legal professionals in the United States, collected between April 3 and 9, 2020, and from 1,042 general population consumers, collected on April 14. Within this timeframe, confirmed COVID-19 cases increased globally from 1.1 million to 1.5 million, and almost doubled in the U.S. from 279,000 to about 500,000. As the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, law firms will face unprecedented challenges. These briefings will contribute to an overall annual state of the legal industry analysis in this year’s Legal Trends Report, which will include further findings that legal professionals have come to rely on for the past five years. 

The full research findings can be found at clio.com/covid-impact. The report will be updated on an ongoing basis as new information comes to light about COVID-19 and its effect on the legal industry. 

 

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