2020 was the year no one saw coming—and its effects aren’t going to fade any time soon. After all, as we move into 2021, societal and market changes brought on by Covid-19 continue to impact everyone.
But how have these shifts spurred practice area growth?
Data privacy and cybersecurity
As much of the working world moved online, cybersecurity attacks skyrocketed. From state bar associations to the federal government, various organizations and entities are continuing to develop new regulations to protect people’s private information better.
As laws around client and consumer data protection continue to develop, more companies are looking to law firms for up-to-date legal counsel and support.
With the pandemic wreaking havoc on markets—upending some and vastly expanding others—it’s no surprise that companies have been restructuring more than usual, and areas of law that dovetail with mergers and acquisitions are staying busy.
Certain sectors of the economy are temporarily undervalued, and others—such as pharmaceuticals and tech—are still growing, so we can expect active M&A to continue in 2021. From financing to contracts, corporations will continue to rely on law firms for advice and legal documents.
PPP loans helped bridge the gap for some businesses, but every business’s situation is different. For some, it’s been a year of trying to run a business in an area of the economy that remains volatile. For others, they’ve been unable to recover from a financial hit last year fully. Either way, bankruptcy rates have stayed higher than average.
And with PPP loans expiring sooner than some businesses are ready for, these challenges aren’t going away. Business owners will continue to need legal advice and guidance when filing for bankruptcy.
Taxes and estate planning
A new administration opens the possibility of tax law changes, including lowering estate tax exemption thresholds and eliminating step-up in basis. While these potential changes already spurred a flurry of activity in 2020, clients seeking to establish trusts to protect their wealth will likely continue in 2021.
Upheavals to employment routines have opened the door for employment-related lawsuits.
With the switch to remote working, many companies’ timekeeping practices shifted or dropped off altogether. From workers seeking reimbursement for the cost of working from home to employees feeling pressured to work beyond typical business hours, the sudden switch opened employers up to issues they weren’t adequately prepared for.
Additionally, many frontline workers felt they had to choose between health risks and their jobs. As employers attempt to balance the economic benefits of reopening or expanding in-person services with employee health precautions and local Covid guidelines, more lawsuits are sure to follow.
A few potential pitfalls for businesses reopening in 2021 include hastily written (or nonexistent) policies as companies bring employees back to the office, vaccination requirements or lack thereof, discrimination, and disclosures of private health information.
Finally, President Biden promised to make gig workers employees. If those changes do happen, we expect a significant adjustment period—and litigation.
Communication remains key
However your practice grows in the year ahead, solid communication with clients should remain a priority.
At any stage in a working relationship—and especially in one that’s just beginning—clear communication can go a long way toward building goodwill and eliminating confusion and ensuing frustrations.
As you take on new clients, make routine video conferencing a priority. Your practice management system’s secure online portal can also help keep things moving smoothly. Not just for document sharing but also for chat features, which can offer an informal way for clients to reach out with an issue or question—instead of letting it build.
No matter what your practice area, client relationships matter.