Solicitors set to transform traditional business models and ways of working with the use of new technology

The Law Society of Ireland has published the Business Recovery Survey Report, which found that solicitors believe the use of information and communications technology (73%) and changed work practice (65%) will have the most positive impact on their business in the next 6-12 months.

The Business Recovery Survey Report research was commissioned by the Law Society and conducted by independent consultant Crowe between March and May 2021. It 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.

Key findings reported by solicitors in the Business Recovery Survey Report include the following:

Impact on business

51% reported a moderate impact on their practice due to the pandemic. Among those who experienced a moderate impact, reduction in work, disruption in the courts and ability to see clients were the top impacts reported.

Concerns about future impact

The top three concerns about the impact of the pandemic were turnover / income (25%), concern about the future of their business (18%) and fear of the economic impact / recession (16%).

Transforming technologies

At 73%, solicitors believed the use of information and communications technology (ICT) will have the most positive impact on their business in the next 6-12 months. Remote working, the necessity of investment and upgrading of IT systems, and increased productivity and greater time efficiency were cited as the most positive impacts associated with the use of ICT.

Changed work practice

65% of solicitors reported that changed work practice will have a positive impact on their business in the next 6-12 months. The benefits of changed work practice reported were adaptation within the new remote working environment, increased flexibility within working arrangements and improvements in and better use of technology.

Sonia McEntee, a sole practitioner based in Co Cavan, is a member of the Law Society’s Practice Support Task Force. Ms McEntee 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. 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,” Ms McEntee said.

“This report shows that the impact of the pandemic varies across practice areas. However, financial pressures and the need for operational changes were consistent throughout. Solicitors adapted and responded to meet these challenges and more to ensure continuity as an essential service in their local communities.”

The Business Recovery Survey Report outlines some key recommendations for future implementation:

  • Going forward 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.
  • The digitalisation trend of legal services is set to continue. Initiatives, schemes and supports by the Law Society should follow this trend 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. 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,” Ms McEntee said.

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