While 2020 brought unprecedented challenges for law firms, history may look back and see the year as a “tipping point” that accelerated significant changes in the law firm market.  The 2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market from the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and the Thomson Reuters Institute says the upheaval on 2020 could lead to lasting changes in the delivery of legal services.  The report stated that, “2020 may in retrospect be seen as an important inflection point for the redesign of the delivery of legal services on a broader scale.”

The successful transition to working from home, increased use of technology to improve efficiency and reduce costs, and greater emphasis on work-life balance and employee mental and physical wellness reflects a new willingness to experiment. Firms are expressing greater openness to new practice models, including collaborations with other firms and new law companies such as alternative legal service providers.

“There are signs we may look back on the COVID-19 crisis as a moment that significantly accelerated many changes that firms had resisted in advancing their delivery of legal services, and introduced new changes as well,” said James W. Jones, a senior fellow at the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law and the report’s lead author.

While demand for legal services dropped at the onset of the pandemic, demand for many practices recovered, although some areas such as litigation remain down compared with pre-COVID levels.  Firms managed to increase rates and cut expenses, helping maintain strong financial performance.