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As the new year begins, focus on these trends and challenges that are likely to remain hot topics throughout the year
With ever-changing technologies and regulations introduced each year, legal professionals face challenges related to client growth, flexibility, and building a successful online presence, among others.
As law firms gear up to face the new year, it’s a great time to reflect on where organizations can improve and focus time and money.
First, we’ll look at the top challenges that law firms need to address in the coming year, followed by expected trends in legal practice areas.
Work-life balance and flexibility
Work flexibility is one of the biggest trends today across all professions. Workers expect flexible hours, work-from-home arrangements, or open-concept office floor plans, as more millennials and Generation Z employees are comprising a larger portion of the workforce.
This can be a challenge for law firms, though these considerations have been making their way into the legal realm over the last few years. The Clio Legal Trends Report 2018 showed that 59 percent of law firm respondents think that establishing a successful work-life balance is important to achieve overall success. However, the same report showed that 77 percent of lawyers catch up on work outside of business hours, which can take its toll on families or personal lives.
Legal work often requires extra hours during more demanding cases. But law firms need to make work-life balance an even bigger priority in 2019, as young professionals continue to expect flexibility from their employers. Even if working overtime sometimes has to be a reality, there are other ways to give employees benefits, like work-from-home options or additional days off.
Online feedback and reputation
The multitude of easy lawyer-finder websites that exist today may start to overwhelm people who need legal help. Clients often want to talk to a real person, but they don’t quite know how to find the right representation with a quality experience.
Lawyers need to build up a positive online presence so that clients can find them and read reviews and success stories. The 2017 Legal Trends Report from Clio showed that the second most common way that clients find lawyers is by using a search engine. The first: getting referrals from friends and family.
So, to appeal to both of these client bases, attorneys should try to create an online presence that’s full of genuine testimonials that will make clients feel like they’re getting personal referrals.
This continues to be a challenge for attorneys. The 2018 Clio report mentioned above revealed that just 10 percent of legal professionals collect feedback using an online survey, and 37 percent don’t collect any kind of feedback. For those that do ask for comments, the most common type of feedback is more casual or in person.
Legal professionals would be wise in 2019 to focus on building an online reputation that will help them become searchable and ultimately get more business.
The American Bar Association (ABA) has said that an ongoing trend for law firms is focusing on creating family-friendly policies. These policies could include better time off arrangements, such as longer maternity leave, leave for adoptions, or leave to take care of sick family members.
Other considerations that new mothers would appreciate are amenities like a private room for rest or nursing or onsite childcare.
In 2019, more law firms will likely hire diversity directors or committees, the ABA said. Law schools like Villanova and others have been implementing programs to draw in more minority students, and law firms should be focusing on similar programs.
Ray Berg, a managing partner for Osborne Clarke, told Lawyer Firm News that many benefits come from making diversity a priority. He said that legal professionals should “challenge stereotypes and break down preconceived notions of the sector to ensure everyone can thrive and reach their true potential.”
Those in charge should make sure that their policies are inclusive; for example, allowing employees to take time off for holidays other than the major U.S. federal holidays.
Trending practice areas
A big area that will likely see growth in 2019 is environmental law, also known as green law. As debates heat up about environmental issues like climate change, coal, and eco-friendly regulations, these attorneys will be in high demand.
When the economy becomes uncertain or reaches a recession, bankruptcy law and labor and employment law both amp up. Clients need help with asset management during these times, as well as lawsuits related to employment issues.
While we’re not in an economic recession, the stock market saw a big downturn in the fourth quarter of 2018. The Washington Post says that this change could make last year the worst seen in the last decade. As 2019 begins, this uncertainty could impact the aforementioned law areas, as both customers and businesses may need legal help to address financial issues.
Finally, data and cybersecurity law are going to be a big part of 2019 practices. Datapine recently released the top 10 analytics and business intelligence trends for the coming year, predicting a huge focus on data management and discovery. Electronic discovery practitioners in the legal realm are tasked with managing litigation related to this e-information and navigating data security regulations and best practices.
There’s no doubt that 2019 will see change, whether with the introduction of new tools or more demanding expectations from a growing young client base or employee pool. Prepare for what’s coming by addressing these challenges from the start.
At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we provide court reporting services for trials, mediations, dispositions, conferences, and more. We’re accurate, fast, and always in your corner. For more information contact us online or call us at 954-467-6867.
Your perspective changes when you focus on managing your activities, rather than attempting to manage time.
It’s a myth. If you’re an attorney, there’s no such thing as work-life balance. That’s how it might seem from the inside—especially if you’re just starting out practicing law.
Is it really even possible to have a successful career as a lawyer while also enjoying a satisfying personal life? It is. And while it might be easier to attain if you’re further along in your career than when you’re just getting started, there are simple and attainable things you can do to find that balance.
It’s likely we don’t think work-life balance is possible because we don’t quite understand the concept, to begin with. Simply put, it’s a synergy between your career and the other commitments you make in your life. These would include your family and friends, as well as your health and fitness and your social activities.
When we think of balance, we may envision equal parts. That 50/50 partition is something to shoot for, but you might find you’re just as happy with a 60/40 split, too. This is especially true for lawyers, who do spend more time on the job than those in other careers.
This balance makes the assumption that you have enough time in your day to accomplish your work-related tasks, and then participate in the activities representing your other commitments. When this doesn’t happen, we often chide ourselves. We’re not able to manage our time, we say.
It’s impossible to manage time. We all have all the time there is. More cannot be made. Truly, the only thing you can control in this regard is what you do with your time. Your perspective changes when you focus on managing your activities, rather than attempting to manage time.
Cleaning out the closet
Here’s an analogy if you need it. Think of time as something tangible. It’s a container, and the laws of physics dictate that only a certain number of items can fit into a container.
It’s like saying you are going to manage your closet. We know what we mean is that we are going to manage what is in the closet. If we want more clothes or shoes to fit, we’re going to have to get rid of some of the stuff already in there.
If you want to bring more balance to commitments other than your job, you’ll need to make room in that closet by getting rid of a few things.
More billable hours
It’s estimated that a full-time attorney typically billed 1,300 hours early in the 1960s. Large practices today have pushed this up to 2,000 hours or more—which translates to 60-hour workweeks. This is an even higher priority for associates, who want to show they’ve got what it takes to be a partner.
There goes the whole make-room-in-the-closet analogy; might as well just light a match and throw it in. But try this before you start a bonfire:
How do you know if you’re moving toward managing your activities instead of your time? You need a few balancing checks—or stop points where you can assess and re-plot your course if you find you’re not moving toward a work-life balance. Use these activities to create balancing checks.
- Define your priorities and values. Many things you do on a daily basis as a lawyer contribute little toward what you care about. But you don’t realize this because you probably haven’t defined what matters to you. Clarify them. They determine what becomes a priority.
- Identify and isolate your distractions. The biggest obstacle to work-life balance is not the lack of time. It’s the abundance of distractions. The majority of these distractions are expectations you place on yourself to please others at work and at home. Your job as an attorney is to advocate for others. You won’t find balance in your life unless you advocate for yourself, too.
- Create weekly time blocks of personal time. You’re already used to slicing up billable hours into 15-minute increments. Book a few of these—no less than 30 minutes each—as non-reschedulable appointments. Do anything you like with the time, as long as it’s not work-related. Maybe it’s actually sorting through the clothes in your closet.
- Create boundaries around your personal commitments. If you are good at your job, there will always be more work to do. You will discover this earns you additional respect, rather than disappointment. And, for good reason. You’re displaying an important leadership quality. You can only offer stability from a firm foundation.
These balancing checks give you an opportunity to assess the direction in which you’re traveling. Work-life balance for attorneys is not a myth. It won’t be a reality, either, unless you renegotiate your relationship with time—which will reset your approach to how much of it is appropriate to give to your job vs. the rest of the commitments in your life.
Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations, to dispositions and conferences. We’re accurate, fast, and in your corner! For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!