The traditional law firm model is undergoing massive change. What worked 10 years ago in the legal industry isn’t providing clients with the value they now demand. Professional legal services are no longer held captive by law firms, either, as alternative legal positions have been created due to the changing markets. If you’re looking for a job in the legal field or wanting to grow within your legal career, here are 5 industry trends you need to understand to get hired.
With the advancement of technology, including the internet, cloud providers, and mobile devices, legal professionals are no longer tied to their desks while they work. Lawyers, paralegals, and others can now work practically anywhere.
With the increase of remote work, virtual law firms have evolved. Because legal professionals can serve their clients as well as their coworkers by using Skype, laptops, or smartphones, industry employees can better fit their work schedules around their personal obligations and create a better work-life balance.
Virtual firms come in all sizes, from boutique to Big Law. This increased flexibility allows law firms to reduce overhead costs while continuing to provide efficient, valuable legal services.
In a further effort to reduce overhead costs while increasing flexibility, many litigation firms outsource services, such as discovery, to contract lawyers or other legal professionals. For example, recent changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow specific electronic communications to be discovered in courts, such as emails and text messages. Many states are moving to e-discovery as well.
For significant, complex litigation cases, outsourcing e-discovery has reduced legal costs while satisfying new evidence rules. Many non-law firm entities now exist that focus solely on providing e-discovery services and litigation support.
In addition to outsourced discovery and litigation support, many professional legal services are provided by non-lawyers, such as document preparers, virtual assistants, and legal vendors. These services allow you to enter the legal field without forging ahead through the traditional law firm route.
Many of these outsourced services can provide the same client value at a reduced cost. Further, many of these services target low-income or rural populations, bringing the law to individuals who may not have traditional access points. As the cost of traditional legal services continues to increase, these non-lawyer outsourced services will continue to grow in the next several years.
Lawyers aren’t typically business administrators. Thus, they know very little about marketing their services. With the advent of social media, online legal marketing can make or break a legal service provider.
Managing social media marketing provides unique challenges for traditional lawyers in a world of tight competition. Marketers must take into account the attorney’s local ethics rules as well as the ultimate goal of the marketing (for example, to attract new business or become a recognizable expert in the area of law). Over the past several years, many marketing firms are taking on the legal profession, helping legal industry professionals market their services while educating people about the law.
Gone are the days of the town lawyer who handles everything from divorce to real estate. Today, most legal professionals find that specializing in a niche area is most effective. Just like you wouldn’t go to your primary care physician for heart surgery, you wouldn’t ask a litigator to prepare your estate plan.
With the legal market evolving and competition becoming more fierce, many traditional law firms have adopted a boutique style, specializing in a few practice areas. This allows the legal professional to be the one to call if their area of expertise, such as mergers and acquisitions or intellectual property, arises.
The legal industry will continue to evolve over the next several years, if not decades. It pays — quite literally — to understand the current legal trends while you’re searching for your next dream position.