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7 challenges facing the legal profession today … and tomorrow
As with every industry, the legal profession has seen many changes in the last few years. The law is steeped in tradition and precedence, but evolution is inevitable.
Technology has brought convenience, but it comes with unique challenges. There are also issues relating to increased competition, finding and keeping talent, and the succession plan of law firms, both large and small.
Let’s look at 7 of the biggest challenges facing the legal profession today.
Challenge #1: Cybercrime and Internet security
We’ve all seen news reports of hacks and data breaches from major companies, and the legal profession is not immune to this type of digital crime. Law firms store an incredible amount of sensitive data, documents, and private information. It is essential that firms adopt best practices to ensure that information is as safe as possible.
This includes taking steps to secure all communication tools, including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Firms can also incorporate 2-factor authentication, use mobile apps and vendors with the highest level of security, and set policies regarding how and where sensitive data is stored.
Challenge #2: Adoption of new technology and software
There is so much technology out there. Every day brings a new app, new software or new program. Attempting to implement everything – or conducting long-winded training sessions for programs that seem to hold little value for attorneys – is the quickest avenue toward frustration. Especially when many of the so-called “solutions” create more problems than they claim to solve.
Firms should ensure that any new technology is as user-friendly as possible, and keep training sessions to a minimum.
The software also poses a problem when it quickly becomes obsolete. The need for constant updates means a firm’s IT department has to devote critical time just to manage updates. One solution may be switching to a cloud-based IT service provider. Cloud-based technology makes it easy for people to access information from anywhere. The service provider also often takes on the responsibility of performing maintenance, updates, and support, allowing a firm’s IT department to devote its time elsewhere.
Challenge #3: Lagging behind in adoption of technology
While it’s not advisable to adopt every type of new technology, failing to recognize and incorporate vital tools in time could also jeopardize a firm’s future success. Firms that fail to “get on board” may lose ground to competitors, alternate providers or in-house departments that understand how to use such technology.
Challenge #4: Understanding online marketing and social media
Social media has changed the way we all communicate. It provides a new avenue to attract clients and retain current ones. It is essential that firms understand how to harness this powerful resource.
However, it’s also important to know the best places to devote marketing dollars and which avenues will generate the most return on investment. Doing “everything” might cast a wide net, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will catch the right type of fish.
Challenge #5: Slow growth of the legal services market
A report from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group states that legal services should expect only single-digit growth in revenue and profits per equity partner in 2018. Even firms that sustained growth in 2017 are not guaranteed the same success this year.
To combat this slowdown, many firms are consolidating and merging. While this might be the answer for some firms, the tactic is not without challenges. The restricted growth means even more competition to attract and retain clients.
Challenge #6: Increased competition for talent
A Green Target Report on the Legal Industry Outlook states that “The talent pool for traditional firms also continues to shrink, as competition increases from in-house legal departments and alternative service providers.”
The days of young lawyers starting and ending their careers at the same firm are becoming rare. Attracting and keeping talent is increasingly difficult.
“To ensure that high achievers stay put, firms need to redouble efforts to prepare a younger generation of lawyers for success. Key areas include business development training and protecting work/life balance, similar to the opportunities and benefits available in non-traditional legal roles,” according to the same report.
Challenge #7: A lack of succession planning within law firms
A large number of senior attorneys and equity partners are preparing to retire in the coming years, and many industry experts believe that firms are not equipped to handle the loss. The main reason is a lack of qualified, young talent who stand ready to take the place of departing attorneys. There is also the issue of chronically under-performing lawyers and a growing overcapacity at firms.
The legal field faces many challenges in the coming years. The firms that come up with innovative solutions for solving these problems will achieve success.
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