It’s been more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic upended daily life for most of the world. In the wake of this upheaval, Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report tried to make some sense of the changes we were seeing across the legal space, and made some predictions about how the pandemic would continue to impact legal professionals in the future.
In that report, we imagined a “better normal”, one which would take the place of the “old” normal and lead to positive changes across the legal space. Now, we’ll look back at what we hoped would occur as the pandemic subsided, and see how things have developed after the legal space has had two years to adapt to and overcome the challenges of the pandemic.
VUCA and VUCA Prime
In the 2020 Legal Trends Report we discussed the concepts of VUCA and VUCA Prime as a framework for coping with the challenges of the pandemic. Both are acronyms, with the first meaning Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. VUCA was originally coined in the military as a way of describing adverse conditions on the modern battlefield, while VUCA Prime represents a way to take positive action when dealing with a VUCA environment.
Have we seen a VUCA Prime mindset take hold as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic? In many legal practices, the answer is yes.
The 2021 Legal Trends Report explored the role of agility—being flexible in order to meet goals—and found that this is a key trait that consumers are looking for. Surveys identified that 79% of consumers prefer to have the option to work both in-person and remotely with their lawyer, signaling a need for legal professionals to provide flexibility in their operations. The rise in demand for remote experiences, or at least the option for remote experiences, was influenced by pandemic safety measures, but this is a change that will likely persist into the future.
In response to these changing consumer demands, lawyers told us they were prioritizing investments in the software tools that enable connecting with their clients on their terms, equipping them with the adaptability to meet the VUCA environment head-on.
The ongoing ebb and flow of the virus has also showcased the benefits of this flexibility over a longer period of time. As restrictions have tightened and waned along with the spread of the virus, firms with the ability to work and connect in a variety of ways have been able to continuously adapt amidst the uncertainty. It’s clear that the ability to adapt to whatever challenges may arise will continue to benefit legal professionals even after the pandemic is well and truly over.
Another interesting finding in the 2021 Legal Trends Report revealed that the most successful firms were adopting technological tools at a faster pace than others. These tools include CRM solutions, payment tools, and client portals, all of which can be implemented to create a more flexible and streamlined client experience. As we have seen, having these options available is key to successfully navigating a VUCA environment, and has empowered successful firms with the ability to tailor their services to evolving consumer expectations throughout this period of change and confusion.
While the VUCA environment brought on by the start of the pandemic has not disappeared completely, it is clear that VUCA Prime has been deployed not only in legal, but across the business world to meet new challenges and changing consumer expectations. As the immediate impact of the pandemic subsides in some places, it will be important for lawyers to continue to deploy VUCA Prime to navigate the equally confusing and uncertain path back to a post-pandemic world.
A better normal?
In 2020 we expressed our hope that the pandemic would eventually give way not just to a “new” normal, but a better normal for everyone. In regards to the legal space, we hoped that this would take the form of client-centered approaches to delivering cloud-based legal services.
What we have seen thus far is a clear and significant change in the use of technology in the legal space. The vast majority of legal practices are now employing various types of software to manage their firms and connect with their clients, and there is little evidence to suggest that this trend will be reversed anytime soon.
Another trend that has been gaining traction since the state of the pandemic is alternative billing structures. These provide clients with greater choice in the services they purchase, and can contribute to making legal services more affordable.
The next challenge for legal services providers is improving how they implement these solutions. Ideally, the proliferation of technological solutions will contribute to better client services, better work-life balance for legal professionals, and improved access to legal services for all.
Realizing these benefits will require embracing the possibilities offered by technology, like hybrid offices, flexible working hours, and the ability to access the office from anywhere using a phone or tablet. While there is still progress to be made, legal professionals have shown a willingness to adopt the technologies that enable these changes, and now must work to fully realize their potential. If this happens, lawyers and their clients stand to benefit from an improved experience that builds on the lessons of the pandemic to chart a course for a brighter future.