Across the U.S., the legal fraternity experienced a slowdown during the global coronavirus pandemic that put their income at risk. Most industries are poised to make huge changes as the world moves into the post COVID era, and the legal industry must not be left behind.
Affects COVID-19 has had on the legal system
Since late February, the number of legal matters opened each week in the U.S. dropped considerably as consumers preferred to delay legal matters during this time of uncertainty. Depositions were canceled or rescheduled, deadlines extended and hearings postponed.
However, more people than ever before suddenly found their finances in disarray. They needed their lawyers to act rapidly to help them access various funds from endowments, structured payment plans, and other investments. They also increased their collection efforts, fearing defaults, forbearances, etc.
Attorneys who deal with estate planning have had a busier time as have those who deal with employment issues. There has been an urgency to help clients in both these legal categories.
Changes law firms made to accommodate clients
Even as many courts shut down and cases were postponed for nonessential court services, essential services continued as courts implemented virtual and remote proceedings. Law firms were also quick to adapt to remote work wherever possible but found that older clients are more reluctant to have online meetings.
Agile and adaptable law firms will survive
A transformation can bring law firms many benefits and one of the most significant is how the work environment needs to change. Innovative law firms have already moved away from the idea of working from a central office location. They have successfully adopted a model where lawyers work full-time from home, largely enabled by the fast advances in technology.
This has decreased the need for huge office spaces but has also proved less stressful and more conducive to their productivity, with these attorneys saving time on long commutes.
Virtual and remoted proceedings in courts appear to be here to stay even after the pandemic subsides, and an automated court system promises a silver lining for the bar and the bench. Many in the legal industry feel will make the law accessible to previously disadvantaged groups within the population.