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Legal21 August, 2020

Future-Ready Lawyer Survey 2020 - special focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the legal sector

In 2020, Wolters Kluwer published an independent survey – Future-Ready Lawyer Survey 2020: Performance Drivers – to assess readiness and resilience in the legal sector regarding the future. The survey, conducted in January 2020, includes insights from 700 legal professionals across the USA and nine European countries.

The survey examined future trends in law at a time when the entire sector is undergoing a profound transformation, as well as the extent to which legal professionals are ready to improve their performance.

Download the survey results

In addition to the results of the survey, European experts share their views on the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on the legal sector today and in the longer term.

Excerpts from the Future-Ready Lawyer Survey 2020: Performance Drivers with an expert opinion from Grégoire Miot

Grégoire Miot is Head of New Markets for legal software at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory and the French Ambassador for the European Legal Tech Association (ELTA). He also co-authored The LegalTech Book (Wiley – 2020).

In your opinion, what are the main qualities/characteristics of those who have successfully withstood the crisis so far?

The COVID-19 crisis has posed an unprecedented challenge for our organisations and processes. For many legal professionals, working 100% remotely – and therefore relying solely on digital technology – has radically altered their working methods. What we are increasingly calling 'the new normal' has forced us to reconsider our habits, collaborative practices and even our skills. At the same time as we began to adopt new hygiene habits, we became progressively more aware of the issues surrounding cybersecurity, data accessibility and collaboration.

Finding alternative ways of handling routine tasks that previously required paperwork and a physical presence inevitably translates into a growing reliance on digital solutions in our work. What's more, the professionals who were able to bounce back quickly had already begun their digital transformation.

Going fully digital in just a few days was a profound shock for many. As a result, there is real preparatory work being done to avoid reliving the experience in the future. The next step will be a period of reflection, allowing us better to grasp legal tech issues, which involves awareness-raising and training. This is borne out in the Future-Ready Lawyer Survey; while many organizations expect to use advanced technologies like AI and block chain over the next few years, such technologies are still poorly understood (< 20%).

Which legal fields/professionals will be the most affected? And what do you think will be the long-term impact on their roles and the added value they provide?

All legal professionals face the challenge of digitally transforming their work to remain agile, competitive and efficient. The COVID-19 crisis will have put the entire legal sector on track to harness its legal data in a different way.

Consequently, software publishers have a big responsibility to be transparent and to offer advice on their products and services during this time. The organizational crisis that followed the health crisis provoked a sense of urgency for many legal professions and may lead to hasty technological choices based on poorly defined needs.

The use of legal metadata has become a critical issue because it was already in the spotlight thanks to the consequences of Brexit and the loss of the LIBOR index. With the crisis, legal departments have notably focused on force majeure clauses. This perfect example of using contract management tools (CLM) in parallel with AI solutions will finally demonstrate their true added value.

Electronic signature and data management solutions are often the starting point for digital transformation projects. However, they will not be sufficient unless paired with collaborative tools that help to organise access to legal information and facilitate smooth communication with the rest of the company.

Finally, software publishers must also prepare to bolster their own offerings in response to increased customer expectations concerning visibility on their product road map, service levels and a perfect understanding of their business challenges.

How has the pandemic, a driving force among several others, accelerated or impeded the transformation of the legal profession?

The rush by some legal professionals to use technological 'must-have' tools like electronic signatures has revealed a profound change in perceptions of the legal tech sector.

Beyond the evolution of demand, which quickly adjusted to the new work context, this period highlighted a lasting paradigm shift when it comes to investing in new tools, with an approach founded more on ROI than on pure functionality. While professionals have long based their choices on functional requirements (e.g. spreadsheet list vs. intelligent matrix), the crisis has fundamentally promoted an economic approach to technological tools (time-consuming tasks vs. saving time and money).

This has also brought legal professionals into contact with next-generation tools and technologies that once seemed too far removed from their daily work and needs. This crisis puts legaltech back at the centre of a business challenge for the legal profession and is clearly sparking a rapid arms race to prepare for the recovery.

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