After a year of remote working, experience from 2020 will play a significant role in determining legal trends in 2021.
Don’t get us wrong—we expect a celebration of in-person events when things reopen. But 2020 has altered expectations and shown us all the competitive advantage of having our tech dialed.
So, what to look for in 2021?
Clients embracing remote options
While you can expect to have clients who still prefer to do everything in person, 2020 drastically changed what most clients expect to experience when working with a law firm.
In particular, clients now expect to have the option and convenience of digital and remote solutions. For the last year, clients have been able to meet with lawyers from the comfort of their own homes, pay bills online with a credit card, and sign documents from their home computer.
Your clients may be excited as anyone else when they can hug friends or listen to music in a crowded bar again, but don’t expect them to forget about all those new conveniences they experienced last year.
Digital solutions are here to stay.
Less time spent on admin work
One perk for law firms over the last year is that working from home inspired many lawyers to explore new tech—and save a lot of valuable time that could be redirected to billable hours.
When it comes to task automation, there are a number of options available. Different firms have gone in for varying levels of automated admin work, but here are a few things good legal tech can accomplish:
- Integrated time tracking for less billable time lost and reduced data entry
- Legal-specific accounting programs that eliminate the need for the double data entry slog inherent to generic accounting tools
- Linked billing and accounting that results in:
- More accurate billing
- Easier three-way reconciliation
- Data metrics at your fingertips to help you track progress and set goals
- Invoice templates for more consistent bills
- Batch billing (think: 100 bills in ten minutes)
- Online payment options with a legal-specific credit card merchant that make bill payments more convenient for clients
- Automated reminders sent to clients with low retainers or overdue bills
- Secure client portals for swift document sharing and client messaging
Automation of standard office tasks saves time, reduces error, and helps prevent billable hours and client costs from slipping through the cracks.
Remote office tool use
We’re all excited for a carefree hang out with friends again, but when it’s not a pandemic, working remotely can be kind of nice. And for solos and small firms, it may be more cost-effective than renting a commercial space downtown.
2020 forced many lawyers to get comfortable with remote work tools, and we expect trends to continue there. Whether it’s secure client portals for meetings and document uploads or sending bills by email, remote office work will likely remain a key market that continues to drive innovation.
Cloud-based programs offer location-independent flexibility, which can be particularly convenient if you’re working from home.
Cloud-based tech comes with certain advantages, especially when collaborating remotely:
- Log on from anywhere, on any device
- A self-maintained system with no software installation or routine IT help needed
- Project updates happen in real-time so everyone is working with the same version of a document
Whether full-time remote or embracing a hybrid of office and remote work, the convenience of cloud-based tech will continue to be important.
As you consider your priorities for supporting your team’s work in 2021, keep in mind changed client expectations, time saved with automated admin work, tools to keep your remote office running, and the convenience and adaptability of cloud-based technology.