Lawyers may leave firms that are not innovative
New research reveals that a significant number of Australian lawyers are prepared to leave their law firms for an employer that is more innovative.
The 2022 Thomson Reuters Tech and the Law survey – conducted by Momentum Intelligence in December of last year – received completed responses from 826 legal professionals, including 670 private practice lawyers and 156 in-house lawyers.
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The survey explored attitudes, perceptions and priorities towards legal technology and a respondent’s organisation’s challenges and priorities for the upcoming year.
Increases in innovation and tech uptake
The survey found that almost three in five (59 per cent) of those in private practice saw their firm’s investment in technology increase during the pandemic. Twenty-one per cent said that their firm’s increased uptake of tech was “significant”, while 38 per cent said the increase was “moderate”.
Adoption rates of all legal technology solutions have risen since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with legal research services (21 per cent increase from 2020 levels), know-how and precedent solutions (20 per cent increase), document automation solutions (14 per cent increase) and reporting and dashboard solutions (9 per cent increase) the biggest drivers of change.
The extent to which firms are innovating, including via such technological advancements, is shaping up to have a significant impact on their capacities to attract and retain top talent.
Innovation and talent retention
Innovation, Thomson Reuters wrote, “is often seen as a way for firms and legal practices to enhance client service and empower their lawyers to be more effective”.
“However, firms who lack innovation may be at risk of losing talent to more innovative firms,” it surmised.
When asked if they would be prepared to leave their firms/practices for a firm that is more innovative than their current employer, nearly one in three (29 per cent) said “yes”. Thirty-two per cent are “unsure”, while 39 per said “no”.
That means that almost two-thirds of Australian lawyers in private practice are, or may be, prepared to leave their current employers for one that they deem to be more innovative.
Top challenges facing firms
This said, private practice employers are not immune to the need to attract and retain top talent at this critical juncture.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, talent retention in a competitive marketplace is seen as the biggest challenge for law firms right now, with 50 per cent of respondents identifying this as one of the three biggest hurdles facing their own firms.
Talent retention is seen as the largest challenge at a time in which the “Great Resignation” is looming for Australia’s legal marketplace, which is being driven by numerous factors, including “disconnection”. It is a movement that many general counsel believe will also impact in-house legal teams. For private practice, at least, it is a movement that can serve as a “wake-up call” for firms, according to one chief operating officer.
The second-biggest challenge facing firms right now is standing out as a top client service provider (48 per cent), with creating innovative ways of working the third-most identified challenge (40 per cent).
Given the aforementioned concerns that individual lawyers have around firm innovation, however, it may need to become a more urgent priority for employers.