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From tech to outsourcing – how COVID-19 Changed the Legal Sector

In March 2020, the world turned upside down when the coronavirus pandemic picked up full speed. Businesses began to close, home offices were the only offices, and Netflix became the only source of entertainment…

Entering a post-pandemic world, many industries have changed completely, and the legal sector is one of them. Many lawyers have felt the need to reinvent themselves, and many traditional law firms have had no choice but to turn to the latest technology as remote work became the only option.

A big push in the new law was seen worldwide as lawyers had to survive and adapt throughout the pandemic. From a global perspective, China has become a leader in changes in the legal sector by taking the Legal Tech market to the next level. According to Thomas Reuters, “more than 51 percent (of Legal Tech patents) were filed in China last year [2018], while 23 percent were filed in the US and 11 percent in South Korea.” Since going digital was the only option, significant changes were made, such as Zoom court hearings, AI solutions for drafting contracts/reviewing documents, and offshoring work.

As we move into a post-pandemic world (hopefully), the legal market is faced with the challenge to keep moving forward and embrace these changes or regress into the traditional model. The business world has proven that success will come if you rely on data. The legal market can adopt this method and depend on data as well with new technology being introduced. With COVID-19 bringing more light to the legal tech industry, firms are starting to utilize data analytics, eliminating client misalignment and providing business insights. Sooner than later, the legal sector will consist of data analytics that helps improve law firms, starting to act more and more like evolving businesses rather than a traditional law model.

Different areas of law have been hit differently by the COVID-19 pandemic. Litigation has had a hard time coming back on track because of the backlog in trials, but practice areas such as employment, corporate, tax, commercial, and compliance have seen many growths.

A new area of law that has changed the legal sector is the “COVID-19” law. This adaptive area has come about from new laws and legislation being introduced by governments trying to help save the economy and struggling families. Areas like employee benefits, vaccination requirements, and mandatory leave law have seen legal attention as things shift post-pandemic.

Another area of the legal sector that has completely soared is the law practice management software. During the pandemic, law firms scramble to find a way to manage clients and cases. From streamlined law firm productivity to all-in-one marketing and business management software, the market for management software has transformed itself. Of course, legal software (older version of the current ‘LegalTech’) has been around for decades, but the pandemic pressed the fast-forward button on this software, becoming not just an extra tool but a necessary tool. In addition, cloud-based software offers attorneys the convenience of making their cases mobile and flexible.

A new phenomenon in the legal sector is contracting independent lawyers through alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). ALSPs are a type of legal tech industry that provides law firms, financial institutions, international corporations, and startups with access to attorneys from all over the world. During COVID-19, ASLPs were being utilized more and more since everything was digitized anyway. In addition, companies like LawFlex also offer document reviews, e-discovery, and global legal advice, which connected the world digitally during the pandemic.

Another phenomenon that picked up during the pandemic was legal process outsourcing (LPOs). LPOs are law firms or businesses practicing legal support services from outside law firms or legal support services companies. Like LawFlex, LPOs offer document reviews, e-discovery, project management, and more. In addition, many LPO firms participate in offshoring, which is when the provider is based in another country. This involves the practice of outsourcing any activity except those where personal presence or contact is required.

Before the pandemic, the legal sector was set on its traditional ways of conducting business and handling clients even though the legal technology was accessible. Still, the legal tech industry pushed its way into the traditional legal sector, affecting the industry for good. Hypothetically, if the pandemic never occurred, it probably would have taken law firms a much longer time to adapt to the new law industry, which has been up and coming for years. However, the 2020 digital sweep was a force that has made even the most traditional law establishments adapt to legal technology.

With these changes, how will the legal sector move forward? Most likely, more efficient and cost-effective. With LPOs being used more, law firms can focus on obtaining more cases since they can outsource the “busy work” to companies to help speed up the legal process. In addition, with ALSPs, businesses have access to lawyers globally and do not have to worry about the traditional law model, taking up more time and more money. Overall, this new way of tackling the legal sector is beneficial for both lawyers and the client. Thus, although COVID-19 hit businesses very hard, there is a silver lining in everything, and the legal sector hopefully can progress instead of regress.

Noa Siskind is an incoming fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee. She is interning with Robus through a two-month intensive Masa abroad program. She is studying public relations with a minor in business administration and plans to attend law school in the near future. Noa has spent her time at Robus learning about the legal tech industry and hopes to apply this knowledge to a future law career in the US.

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