The analysis consisted of an online survey, interviews with a cross-section of practices, and consultation with the Law Society and other professional membership, representative, and regulatory bodies that represent sectors and businesses impacted by COVID-19.
The research found that just over half of practices reported a ‘moderate’ impact from the pandemic. A reduction in work, disruption in the courts, and ability to see clients were the top impacts reported by this group.
Remote working seen as positive
The top three concerns about the impact of the pandemic were:
- Turnover/income (25%),
- Concern about the future of the business (18%), and,
- Fear of the economic impact, or a recession (16%).
At 73%, solicitors believed that the use of information and communications technology (ICT) would have the most positive impact on their business in the next six to 12 months.
Remote working, the necessity to invest in and upgrade IT systems, and increased productivity and greater time efficiency were cited as the most positive impacts associated with the use of ICT.
Almost two-thirds of solicitors reported that changed work practices would have a positive impact on their business in the coming months. The benefits reported included adaptation within the new remote working environment, increased flexibility within working arrangements, and improvements in, and better use, of technology.
‘Agile and adaptable’
Sonia McEntee (member of the Law Society’s Practice Support Task Force) said: “Solicitors, small practices, and sole practitioners in particular, have proven to be agile and adaptable in the face of a challenging business environment that dismantled traditional business models.
“While the pandemic has impacted the solicitors’ profession, the future outlook reported by solicitors in the Business Recovery Survey Report is positive.
“Solicitors have embraced the use of new technology, and – for those of us based outside of the main urban centres – the benefits could be seen almost immediately. This bodes well for Irish practices,” said McEntee, who is a sole practitioner based in Co Cavan.
“Now is the time to continue to invest in IT and innovate to transform traditional ways of working that would not have been likely 18 months ago. The Law Society will continue to provide practical tools and professional skills training to support its members to nurture this innovation,” McEntee stated.
New ways of working
She stressed that, while the reported showed that the impact of the pandemic varied across practice areas, financial pressures and the need for operational changes were consistent throughout.
The report outlines some key recommendations for future implementation:
- Greater collaboration within the profession, and by the Law Society, is needed, focusing on additional training and guidance. Greater collaborations will also be required with external stakeholders, both domestically and internationally,
- Initiatives, schemes and supports by the Law Society should follow a trend towards the digitalisation of legal services, and focus on new ways of working,
- The Law Society should regularly review and monitor the situation, and respond as required as the next stages evolve.
“It is clear that the impact of COVID-19 on the solicitors’ profession has been substantial but there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future,” McEntee said.
“The Law Society looks forward to using the recommendations outlined in the report to expand existing supports to equip our members with the next-level skills required to manage business operations, finances and staff, and client relationships in the future working environment,” she concluded.