One of the few companies doing regular research on trends in the legal industry and sharing that information publicly is Clio.

The practice management company already broke ground with its Legal Trends Report. But researchers there have upped their game, pulling and publishing data more regularly to track the industry during the pandemic.

Jack Newton

Clio CEO and co-founder Jack Newton is giving regular industry briefings on the data and I was able listen in on his overview for bar leaders recently.

Newton has some important insights and observations, comparing attitudes among lawyers and the consumes they seek to reach.

One stat that stood out to me was the disconnect between lawyers and consumers. Fully 1/3 of consumers thought lawyers stopped working and offering services during the shutdowns. That’s probably related to the widely reported court shutdowns.

In reality, very few lawyers actually shut down. Rather they shifted to remote service and did so with amazing speed. Indeed, Newton reported that only 2% of survey respondents shutdown their practices.

Besides court shutdowns, another possible reason for the disconnect is that lawyers took some time adjusting to how they marketed their services during the pandemic. Early on, lawyers didn’t change their client acquisition strategies. But they are now, Newton said.

It’ll be especially interesting to follow Clio’s recovery predictors as states re-open. Newton says that so far there’s evidence that states that had aggressive lockdowns are seeing a quicker and more promising recovery in legal. States with less aggressive approaches are likely see a more protracted recovery period.

Patrick Palace

Former Washington State Bar President Patrick Palace, who moderated the bar leader briefing, asked about long-term changes to benefit access to justice in a post-pandemic society.

Newton was emphatic that the gap in legal services delivery could be exponentially narrowed in the middle-income sector if lawyers “double down” on what they’ve learned during the pandemic.

Specifically, they could:

1. Adopt video conferencing as a way to interact with clients more consistently.

2. Reduce overhead and reliance on brick and mortar office space.

3. Use technology already widely used by others to modernize business operations: billing, payment plan options, matter management, etc.

4. Pay attention to consumer habits, needs and pain points.

5. With all of the above, lower prices for routine matters to better serve middle to lower-income clients without sacrificing the ability to make a living as a practicing lawyer.

Palace added on Twitter that lawyers could also move the needle by decreasing billing costs by having paralegals and staff perform functions that do not require a lawyer.

Build forms, automation, workflows, and use case management systems to increase efficiency and decrease costs, then pass savings on, he said.