Lawyers navigate challenges in an evolving legal landscape
The fifth annual survey of 700 legal professionals in law firms and corporate legal departments across the U.S. and Europe revealed several key issues and trends affecting the future of the legal profession.
73% of lawyers expect to integrate generative AI (GenAI) into their legal work in the next year.
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Trends transforming the legal industry
This fifth-anniversary edition of our Future Ready Lawyer Survey finds the legal industry navigating a period of unprecedented change, in which social and technological trends are transforming the landscape like never before.
On top of the technological revolution, the legal industry – and the wider business world – has also been transformed by the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Large-scale remote working is now firmly established in the zeitgeist, but back in 2019, the topic didn’t even arise in the Future Ready Lawyer Survey.
What are the next trends? For one, the rising demand for Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) guidance and expertise has impacted the legal sector significantly over the past two years. Law firms must deliver expert guidance to corporate clients seeking support, while for their part, legal departments are under increasing pressure from stakeholders to remain compliant with their own reporting requirements, improve ESG performance, shape policies, and develop sustainability credentials.
73% of lawyers expect to integrate generative AI into their legal work in the next 12 months
There's a lack of consensus about generative AI being an opportunity or a threat
Almost three quarters of lawyers say they understand how generative AI can be applied to their work
AI has grown into a force to reckon with the past years. In 2019, for example, traditional AI was still a technology that lawyers eyed on the horizon, with more than half (58%) predicting it would have an impact on their work over the next three years. Fast-forward to 2023, and we see an overwhelming 73% of lawyers expecting to integrate genAI into their work in the next year.
There's a lack of consensus about generative AI being an opportunity or a threat.
Lawyers from both groups expect to make greater use of technology to improve productivity
87% of lawyers agree technology greatly improves their day-to-day work
Lawyers are under pressure to invest in technology and use it more widely
Embracing technology to boost productivity and efficiency is key to meeting clients’ demands
Clients are increasingly expecting their attorneys to have technical knowledge that can help them navigate the complexities of the digital world.
With client attrition continuing to be one of the biggest challenges to the legal industry in the next year, leveraging technology is one way through which law firms can elevate customer service, promote satisfaction, and ensure loyalty.
Client demand for expert ESG guidance is increasing
Majority of law firms and corporate legal departments not yet very prepared to meet ESG needs and demands
With sustainability increasingly a top priority on the societal and corporate agenda, ESG has quickly emerged as a significant and specific demand on the legal profession, and it's growing fast.
Although a majority of law firms (68%) have established dedicated ESG practices within at least the past three years, navigating this growth area is proving to be a work in progress. And, the majority of law firms (69%) feel they are not yet very prepared to meet client demand in this area.
Establishing ESG practices in law firms is a work in progress
A future-ready workforce
Recruiting and retaining talent is a key challenge for the legal sector
Talent recruitment and retention are difficult in the hybrid era
There's an increased demand for specialization and a decline in generalist work
Most lawyers are impacted by heavy, complex workloads
Most lawyers (81%) from firms and corporate legal departments see the ability to recruit and retain talent as a key area of focus. In fact, 38% of legal departments expect talent recruitment and retention to be among the top three challenges in the next three years.
The difficulty in finding the right people is likely to become a major obstacle to tackling heavy workloads and productivity demands.
DEIB: Improving the employee experience
Lawyers are generally satisfied with their employer's performance on creating a diverse workforce and inclusive culture, but many law firms and corporate legal departments have yet to establish formal Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) policies.
A high percentage of lawyers (82%) work for organizations that claim to have successfully created a diverse and inclusive environment
55% of law firms and corporate legal departments currently have formal DEIB policies in place
43% of those organizations have no formal DEIB policies in place, with some (22%) saying they plan to do so in the next 12 months, and 15% in the next few years
Many law firms and corporate legal departments have yet to establish formal DEIB policies
Download the 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Report
The 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Survey: Embracing innovation, adapting to change from Wolters Kluwer takes the pulse of global legal practitioners in law firms and corporate legal departments as they address significant changes, opportunities, and challenges the legal industry faces today.
"Law firms that lag in adopting legal technology risk losing not only clients, but also emerging talent. Professionals entering the legal market in the current environment want to join firms at the leading edge of innovation."
Robert Ambrogi is a Massachusetts lawyer and journalist who has been covering legal technology and the web for more than 20 years, primarily as publisher of the blog LawSitesBlog.com and the podcast LawNext.com.
"The legal industry is definitely lagging behind. One of the main reasons is still the lawyers themselves. Their attitude towards technological progress is often biased and too negative."
Valerie Keilhau is Managing Director of the Federal Legal Tech Association Germany. She is a fully qualified lawyer with several years of experience in the field of public relations. For the Association, she advocates an innovation friendly legal framework and the interests of the German legal tech industry.
"Hybrid work environments will negatively affect lawyer training development, which, in turn, could adversely impact the quality of legal services and for law firms, profitability."
Janet LeVee is Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, where she has practiced for the last 15 years as a valued legal advisor. Janet brings to her practice over 30 years of legal experience across a broad array of commercial matters with a particular focus on technology transactions.
"At present, most law firm' business models do not strongly align with technology that can significantly increase the production and delivery speed of their billable work with perhaps eDiscovery as the only major exception with broad use"
Richard Tromans is the Founder of Artificial Lawyer, the globally read legal innovation news site, and Chair of the Legal Innovators UK and California conferences. He has worked in the legal sector for over 23 years as a journalist and strategy consultant.
"The biggest risk is that the evolution of the law may stagnate because of excessive dependency on AI tools based on historical data without taking into consideration enough the current societal developments and what lies ahead"
Iris Wuisman is Professor of Company Law at Leiden University and Partner at ACE Management Consulting
About the Survey and Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory
The 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Survey from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, a division of Wolters Kluwer, included quantitative interviews with 700 lawyers in law firms, legal departments and business services firms across the U.S. and 9 European countries namely Germany, the Netherlands, UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, and Hungary. The Survey was conducted online for Wolters Kluwer by a leading international research organization from May 17 to June 4, 2023.
Wolters Kluwer (WKL) is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the healthcare; tax and accounting; governance, risk and compliance; and legal and regulatory sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services. Wolters Kluwer reported 2022 annual revenues of ~5.5 billion and serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs 20,000 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands.
Download the 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Report
The 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Survey: Embracing innovation, adapting to change from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory takes the pulse of global legal practitioners in law firms and corporate legal departments as they address significant changes, opportunities, and challenges the legal industry faces today.