The Pandemic and the Legal Industry
Katie Mak is a first-year Law LLB student at King's College London. With interests in becoming a solicitor, in this post, she discusses how the pandemic has impacted law firms and the legal industry in general.
The pandemic has undoubtedly made a significant impact on all of our lives. From online school and recorded lectures at university to social distancing and great reductions in social/extracurricular activities, these past couple of years were unexpected to say the least.
But how has the pandemic impacted law firms and the legal industry in general?
Like many others in different industries across the world, solicitors have had to work from home during the pandemic. This meant that traditionally in-person activities, like client meetings and hearings, were done online on video.
While the pandemic has shown that some things, like team meetings and learning from exposure, are truly done better in-person, the pandemic has also shown that solicitors working from home can be successful. This may impact office requirements in the future and increase the likelihood of the adoption of hybrid schedules, mixing in-person and remote work.
More focus on clients
In these especially economically stressful times, solicitors have had to focus on their clients’ needs and wants more than ever. For commercial law firms, this may have meant that solicitors may have taken up more business advisory roles.
Increase in profit?
Interestingly, many commercial law firms saw an increase in profits. This may have been for several reasons:
Economic downturn meant that legal services were higher in demand
This is especially true for practice areas like restructuring, which has to do with modifying the operations or structure of a company confronting financial difficulties, and capital markets work, which has to do with buying and selling stocks and bonds. This will also vary depending on the industry the law firm is working in.
Solicitors were able to cut down on commuting time
Not needing to commute to work every day meant that more time could have been made towards billable hours. (A billable hour system is a billing system that many law firms use whereby clients are charged by the number of hours that the employees at the firm worked for them or their case.)
Law firms were able to reduce overhead costs
These overhead costs could include things like electricity, business meals, and travel expenses, especially due to the massive decrease in international travel. Reduced international travel has also increased the amount of time solicitors could devote to billable hours.
However, this isn’t to say that there weren’t any negative impacts on law firms; in 2020, many law firms took pre-emptive financial measures like furloughing staff, reducing salaries and deferring promotions.
But overall, many top law firms performed better than expected over the pandemic.