The global pandemic was a catalyst for immediate change in response to crisis, and a time machine that accelerated the transformation of the legal industry. How did it impact legal professionals? What have they learned and what are they focusing on for the future? And, perhaps most important, what will it take to thrive in the post-pandemic?

The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey: Moving Beyond the Pandemic Report provides insights from 700 legal professionals across Europe and the U.S.

It shows that the legal sector sees digital transformation and technology as critical to achieving better outcomes including improved services, productivity, efficiency and performance.

The Report examines:

  • Leading Trends and Readiness Across the Legal Profession
  • Strengthening Client-Firm Relationships
  • The Changing Legal Department
  • The Changing Law Firm
  • Technology Advancements and Advantages
  • Impact of the Pandemic

Learn more about Survey findings and download the Report now!

Report, Tablet

The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation of the legal industry: 80% of lawyers report that their needs for technology solutions increased as a result of the pandemic.

While the pandemic pressured the legal sector worldwide, agile organizations that embraced new ways of working during the crisis will emerge stronger.

Learn more about the Report!

Key Findings

The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey: Moving Beyond the Pandemic examines issues and trends impacting legal professionals as they rebound from the challenges of the past year, and position themselves for higher performance ahead.

The Survey revealed a number of performance gaps – gaps in understanding and capabilities – within, as well as between, law firms and corporate legal departments, which need attention and improvement. Facing new pressures as they emerge from the pandemic, the time is now for legal professionals to transform their organizations, with technology solutions and capabilities at the center of new legal landscape.

The digital transformation of the industry has gained unprecedented momentum, which continues today. In the past year, technology was a lifeline to the legal profession in serving clients, connecting with colleagues and driving efficiency and productivity. As the legal industry continues to recover and a “new normal” emerges, technology will be a driving force. The question remains, who will be future ready?

Leading Trends

Following an exceptionally challenging year, lawyers expect the trends they’ve already been facing to accelerate as they move beyond the pandemic, yet few are very prepared.

Law firms and legal departments are facing mounting pressures across multiple fronts as the impact of each trend the Survey examines has increased. Lawyers reporting their organization is very prepared to address these trends still remains low. This reveals that organizations can further strengthen the capabilities they need to meet the growing challenges they are facing.

Top Trends and Readiness

Client-Firm Relationships

More than ever, corporate legal departments expect their law firms to leverage technology to increase efficiency and productivity.

Legal departments are increasingly pressured to do more with limited resources. Technology solutions are becoming more important as means for achieving this, both within legal departments and at the firms they work with. Legal departments use multiple criteria to evaluate law firms, and technology is becoming increasingly important.

Within 3 years, 91% of legal departments will ask law firms to describe the technology they use to be more productive and efficient.

Today, only 32% of law firms say they are very prepared to Use Technology to be More Productive.

Legal Departments in Change

The pandemic intensified pressures on legal departments, as they tackled bigger workloads and smaller budgets. Legal departments say their top challenges are:

  • Automating Routine Tasks and Leveraging Technology in Work Processes
  • Reducing/Controlling Outside Legal Costs
  • Managing the Growing Demands on the Corporate Legal Department.

To help overcome these challenges, legal departments plan to increase their investment in technology with 84% saying they will make Greater Use of Technology to Improve Productivity moving forward.

Other changes include Greater Collaboration with Firms, Increased Innovation and Greater Use of Alternative Fee Arrangements.

Expected Changes in Law Firms

The majority of law firms expect changes in how they deliver services moving forward. Firms anticipate change across practice areas, technology, client relations and staffing.

Top changes law firms expect to make include:


While many firms faced increased financial pressures as a result of the pandemic, they continue to view technology as an important investment in their future ability to thrive. Law firms increasingly realize the impact of transformational technologies: Big Data and Predictive Analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation.

Technology Leaders Were Most Resilient Through the Pandemic

The Increasing Importance of Legal Technology is one of the leading trends lawyers say is impacting their organizations. While most organizations acknowledge this, not all are fully leveraging technology to support business performance and continuity, as well as competitive advantage for their organization and clients.

The Survey found that those who already fully leveraged technology were best prepared to support clients remotely when the pandemic began. Importantly, they also reported increased profitability at much higher rates than others.

Technology Leaders continue to outperform other organizations. Emerging from the global pandemic, Technology Leaders clearly showed why investing in the right technology is key to higher performance.

Despite the pandemic, significantly more Technology Leading law firms saw profitability increase than Transitioning or Trailing firms.

47% Technology Leaders
28% Transitioning
13% Trailing

The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey

Legal Luminaries’ Insights

The Future Ready Lawyer Survey Report provides insights from legal industry luminaries from Europe and the U.S. on the impact of the global pandemic on the legal profession, and more.
Jeroen Zweers
Last year was the most extensive digital workshop ever. This has made the whole society Digi savvy seven years faster.
Jeroen Zweers
Sally Guyer
As market uncertainties continue and increased volatility and variability are established as ‘normal,’ organizations urgently need to ensure that their contracts and contracting processes are fit for purpose.
Sally Guyer
Dean Sonderegger
… forward-looking organizations think through emerging trends and make plans to adapt as necessary and as such are more resilient when changes accelerate.
Dean Sonderegger
Robert Ambrogi
The toothpaste is out of the tube, and no one should even bother to try to squeeze it back in. With regard to tech adoption, there is no going back.
Robert Ambrogi
Dean Sonderegger
Technology will play an increasingly important role is in redesigning the client experience. This includes the introduction of more self-service and collaboration tools, as well as improved online tools that give clients real time reporting and insights.
Katie DeBord
Law firms have become much more open to trusting cloud security – this will in turn drive greater innovation because law firms can more easily transition to new software which can be deployed through a cloud desktop.
Jean O’Grady
… as CFOs push for greater control over legal spending on BAU work, in-house legal teams have a huge opportunity to make a clean break with the past and embrace a ‘new means of legal production’ – tapping technology at scale, better use of process analysis and management, and greater use of specialised legal talent …
Richard Tromans
The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey

About the Survey and Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory

The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey: Moving Beyond the Pandemic from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory included quantitative interviews with 700 lawyers in law firms, legal departments and business services firms across the U.S. and nine European countries – the United Kingdom, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Belgium and Hungary – to examine how client expectations, technology and other factors, including the pandemic, are affecting the future of law across core areas and how legal organizations are prepared to address these. The survey was conducted online for Wolters Kluwer by a leading international research organization from March 4 to 18, 2021.

Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory is a division of Wolters Kluwer, a global leading provider of legal and compliance solutions that enable professionals to improve productivity and performance, mitigate risk and achieve better outcomes.

Wolters Kluwer (WKL) is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the healthcare; tax and accounting; governance, risk and compliance; and legal and regulatory sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with technology and services. Wolters Kluwer reported 2020 annual revenues of €4.6 billion. The group serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 19,200 people worldwide. The company is headquartered in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands.

The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer Survey
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