New Year predictions for the legal industry

With the aftermath of COVID-19 and the prediction that this will result in a mass increase in separations and divorce amongst Australian families, small businesses going bust, a huge number of commercial leases and commercial spaces being vacated, a deepening of the rental crisis, and homelessness reaching unprecedented levels, the Australian Legal Industry will play a pivotal role in navigating the Australian community through 2022.

I believe that 2022 will see the rise of the sole practitioner and micro/boutique law firms taking centre stage in the legal profession. These law firms will be client designed and centric, they will feature fixed fees, be predominantly virtual and online, and use subscription models and explicit service guarantees to demonstrate trust and transparency in their service delivery to clients.

2022 will see a huge uptake in legal technology across the entire legal industry. Client service delivery technology, such as triage tools (Josef), video connection platforms (Pro Help Legal Australia), and intake AI (Settify), will be in high demand, and will result in more efficient, high performing law firms. Tools enabling lawyers to price beyond the billable and project manage client matters (Scope Matters launching soon) will be in high demand too.

Legal marketplaces, such as Legally Yours, or legal comparison sites, e.g. FirmChecker, will play a pivotal role in making an inroad into the huge inaccessibility crisis we currently have in Australia. According to Jordan Furlong, up to 88 per cent of legal matters don’t make it on to a lawyer’s desk or into the court system.

Collaboration and partnerships between law firms and other professional services will see the rise of the multidisciplinary firm focused on the SME market, and this will also be a trend in legal technology, where companies will start to partner up to provide holistic legal tech solutions to SME law firms.

There will be a much-needed focus on women in law and women in legal technology, spearheaded by the Women of Australian Legal Technology Association (WALTA) movement, and this will shine the spotlight on the lack of diversity in both sectors and how we can address it.

Like-minded lawyers who are progressive in nature will seek connection, CPD education, business support services, and referral partnerships with each other. A huge focus on how to start progressive law firms, attract junior legal talent, and how to develop business, will be key topics of discussion in progressive law circles.

Over the next 12 months, true legal innovation innovation focused on clients and how to make legal services more accessible, convenient, affordable and efficient will be a key focus of all law firms in Australia, and Aussie legal technology will take centre stage on both a national and global stage in this regard.

Traditional law firm models and the way lawyers work will be completely different, with a focus on lawyer wellbeing, mental health, flexibility, and achieving a ‘whole life’ balance.

The pro bono legal landscape and the paid legal market that services the ‘missing middle’, will work together to create solutions that are aimed at eliminating the ‘hamster wheel’ of access to justice most Australians currently face when trying to seek legal information, support and advice.

Whilst there has been a lot of tragedy and chaos caused by COVID-19, I believe a positive effect will be a more accessible, efficient, client-centric, healthier Australian legal profession being created in 2022.