The COVID-19 pandemic and global economics have affected the legal industry just as they have affected others. In 2022, these forces could break down some of the oldest traditions in the law, like having big, expensive offices.
But the evolution in the legal field also presents some good opportunities for lawyers. Whether you are currently looking for a legal position or you want to make some changes with your current one, 2022 will bring trends that make your work easier, more profitable, and more efficient.
Here are some of the top legal trends to watch in 2022.
Continued Remote Work
Firms, courts, and government agencies hastily cobbled together remote work systems in 2020. But over the past two years, IT infrastructure and remote work policies have improved
In the past year, judges and lawyers realized that remote work can streamline many processes, from the court’s Monday morning calendar calls to the firm’s Wednesday afternoon staff meetings.
As a result, 2022 will likely bring continued work from home, remote hearings, and online filings, even if COVID-19 concerns dissipate.
Remote work made lawyers more productive this year. It will also make lawyers more profitable by lowering their overhead expenses.
In 2021, firms were stuck in long-term leases that required them to pay for office space that went unused for much of the year. Many of these leases have expired or will expire in 2022, allowing firms to “size” their office space for their current needs.
Since the pandemic started, law firms cut their occupancy expenses by about 2.2% per lawyer. Even with this reduction, the average law firm still spends a whopping $45,000 per lawyer annually on office rent. This number is shocking, as many lawyers now work from home for at least part of the week.
In 2022, look for more firms to shrink their office footprint to compensate for the reduced need for office space.
New Job Opportunities
The Great Resignation of 2021 will continue in 2022. While many law firms blamed Millennials for shrinking firms, the statistics tell a different story.
Younger lawyers quitting in 2021 did not drive the Great Resignation. Instead, it was older lawyers retiring that most impacted the number of professionals in the field.
The Great Resignation creates a significant opportunity for younger lawyers. As senior partners retire, the firm will likely retain the retiring partner’s clients. This means law firms will have just as much work as before. Young lawyers have an opportunity in 2022 to move up to fill these vacancies and take on new work.
Lawyers should see a big bump in work arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The human and economic toll of the pandemic will likely create significant litigation as parties, legislatures, and courts try to allocate costs.
Some cases you will likely see in 2022 could include litigation against:
- Businesses that failed to protect workers and customers from COVID-19
- Doctors and hospitals that had to triage patients and ration care
- Employers who retaliated against workers who reported dangerous pandemic practices
- Parties to contracts who could not perform due to the pandemic
You may also see significant criminal and civil litigation over fraudsters who promoted false cures during the pandemic.
New Uses for Technology
Lawyers are often the last to adopt new technologies. Lawyers usually wait for clients, government agencies, and courts to adopt new technologies before adding them to their own practices.
But for some uses, law firms can adopt new technologies without waiting. In 2022, firms will adopt or upgrade:
- Client portals
- AI-assisted document review
- Encryption and cyber-security systems
- Automated workflows and collaborative spaces for lawyers and staff
These technologies will improve attorney efficiency.
Changes Driven by Lawyers and Clients
Although the practice of law has changed a lot over the past two years, most of the changes were made to protect and improve lawyers’ health, productivity, and profitability of lawyers. They have also helped lawyers to become more efficient, providing more work for the same fee.
These trends will continue in 2022, particularly for the law firms that are most prepared to adapt.