Consumers see lawyers as essential, but firms need to adapt to the shifting needs of potential clients.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 4, 2020 — Clio, the leader in cloud-based legal technology, announced they are releasing a series of briefings over the coming months to provide real-time analysis of the impacts of COVID-19. Leveraging their experience reporting on legal trends, these briefings are intended to help legal professionals pivot their firm operations in light of changing demands and better understand the barriers consumers are facing in accessing legal services.
In the company’s first briefing, early analysis of aggregated and anonymized data from Clio’s legal practice management software shows that law firms are seeing a significant slowdown in business, as the number of legal matters opened each week has declined over 30% since the start of the year. Survey data also shows that 56% of law firms have seen a significant decrease in requests for legal assistance.
The data shows that one reason firms are seeing slowdown has to do with consumer attitudes toward legal problems. Almost half (49%) say that if they had a legal issue, they would very likely delay reaching out for legal help until after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided, while an additional 22% reported that they were under the impression that lawyers have ceased offering legal services completely.
“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.”
The report also found that a minority (14%) of firms say they’ve seen an increase in business, and 13% of consumers say they expect to deal with a legal issue resulting specifically from the coronavirus pandemic.
Current public perspectives
Clio’s data also shows how public perception of lawyers remains positive: 78% say they consider lawyers to be an essential service, and 20% say they consider lawyers to be more relevant now than before the pandemic.
Concerningly, social distancing is having an impact on how individuals perceive the justice system and may be influencing the reason consumers are choosing to delay reaching out for legal help. Of those surveyed, 38% say that if they had an issue go to trial, a remote hearing (as opposed to in-person) would negatively impact the outcome.
Meeting the needs of clients during COVID-19, and after
The survey data indicates that technology will prove key to meeting the immediate needs of clients. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they would prefer working with a lawyer who could share documents electronically, while 58% said that if they were to hire a lawyer in the next two months, they would prefer to meet them by videoconference rather than in-person.
Encouragingly, legal professionals are aligning their plans with consumer preferences: 83% said they believed cloud technology (saving files and documents to a secure remote server rather than a local hard drive) was necessary for survival, and 69% said they believed technology is more important now than it was before COVID-19.
Given that so many consumers are holding off on pursuing their legal issues—and as some geographies consider loosening social distancing restrictions—the legal industry must consider how they plan to meet the needs of clients in the post-COVID era, which could see a wave of increased demand.
“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,” Mr. Newton concluded.
Additional survey insights indicate:
- 47% of consumers say that they’ve used many more different types of technology tools than they had before the coronavirus situation began.
- 38% of consumers say they’ve become much more comfortable with technology than they were before the coronavirus situation began.
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.
Clio, the leader in cloud-based legal technology, empowers lawyers to be both client-centered and firm focused through a suite of cloud-based solutions, including legal practice management software and client intake and legal CRM software. Clio has been transforming the industry for over a decade with 150,000 customers spanning 100 countries, and the approval of over 66 bar associations and law societies globally. Clio continues to lead the industry with initiatives like the Legal Trends Report, the Clio Cloud Conference, and the Clio Academic Access Program. Clio has been recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, a Deloitte Fast 50 and Fast 500 company, and, most recently, Company of the Year, Anchor Success by the British Columbia Tech Association. Learn more at clio.com.
Media and Analyst Contact:
SourceCode Communications for Clio