Practice Technology

COVID-19 sparks rapid tech adoption that has helped lawyers weather economic downturn

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COVID-19 has sparked lawyers to adopt technology at a much faster clip than previously seen in the legal industry and ahead of consumer expectations for doing so, according to cloud-based company Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report.

The report was released Tuesday to mark the opening of the eighth annual Clio Cloud Conference, which will run through Friday. This year, the conference will be virtual for the first time ever because of the pandemic.

In his opening keynote address, Clio CEO and co-founder Jack Newton stated attorneys who have embraced using technology to provide virtual legal services have had more success weathering the pandemic-driven economic downturn and have positioned themselves for greater success than their competitors moving forward.

“There is an enormous opportunity to thrive on change,” Newton said.

According to survey results highlighted in the report, 85% of responding firms are using software to manage their practice, and 79% of responding lawyers are relying on cloud technology to store their firm’s data.

Meanwhile, 83% of firms are meeting with their clients virtually; 73% allow clients to pay invoices electronically; and 62% of firms permit clients to securely share and sign documents electronically.

“For the first time ever, there is a significant majority of lawyers embracing technology to help run their law firm,” Newton said.

Clio used aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals to assess how the use of three technology solutions that it offers—online payments, client portals and client intake and customer relationship management software—impacted financial performance. Firms that use the products individually, as well as those that use all three, outperformed firms that did not, the report found.

For example, in August, firms using electronic payments collected 16% more revenue per lawyer. In that same month, firms using all three tools collected nearly 40% more revenue per lawyer.

“A 40%-revenue-per-lawyer difference—whether you are a solo, in a small or boutique practice, or in a midsize or large firm—is a game-changing difference, even more so in a time like this,” said George Psiharis, Clio’s chief operating officer, during a conference session on the report.

But even with the greater tech adoption, 2020 has been a challenging year for the legal industry because of the economic impact of COVID-19. A drop in revenue has come as COVID-19 also has forced many consumers to put off seeking legal help, with some thinking that lawyers put their work on pause during the public health crisis, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has also prompted consumers to increasingly desire technology to facilitate legal services that they ultimately seek. Clio reports that 69% of consumers prefer to share documents electronically; 65% prefer to pay electronically; and 56% prefer video conferencing to a phone call.

Nonetheless, Clio’s report found that consumers incorrectly think many lawyers do not provide such capabilities. For example, 26% of consumers perceive that most lawyers are able to meet virtually with clients, though 83% of lawyers have that capability. Additionally, 40% of consumers think most lawyers accept electronic payments.

“In what is perhaps a first in the Legal Trends Report, we are seeing that lawyers are in fact further ahead of the curve in adopting new technology than consumers expect they are,” Newton said.

During his keynote address, Newton also announced several new ways Clio will assist lawyers in using technology to connect with and serve clients.

Clio is partnering with Google to integrate Google My Business into Clio to make it easier for consumers to find lawyers who create business profiles. Clio is also integrating Zoom and Microsoft Teams into its platform, as well as offering a new Clio for Clients mobile app to help lawyers better communicate with their clients.

“I think we can look at the devastation of 2020 as an opportunity to build something from the ground up and to build something that is not a new normal but a better normal,” Newton said.

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