Clio’s 2021 Legal Trends Report brings together critical insights about how legal services have adapted to the challenging circumstances of the past two years and what forces will shape these services in the future.

Now in its sixth year, the 2021 report includes aggregated responses from 150,000 legal professionals using Clio over the last two years, as well as, survey responses from more than 1,000 legal professionals and 1,000 general consumers in the U.S. on what they deem most important to them today and in a post-COVID world.

This analysis builds on findings from the 2020 Legal Trends Report, which identified technology adoption as a key aspect of law firm survival and success during the height of the pandemic. In 2021, the most successful firms continue to be those that adopted the technological solutions for more flexible client-centered services.

As consumers have adopted more remote forms of communication in helping adapt to the realities of the pandemic, they’ve grown accustomed to new methods of interaction that have also shifted their expectations when it comes to working with a lawyer.

Below is a summary of key takeaways from this year’s report.

It is critical for law firms to design and deliver more flexible legal services that meet new consumer expectations.

This year, 79% of consumers see the ability to work remotely with a lawyer as a key factor in choosing who to work with, and more than half indicated a strong preference for video conferencing solutions across multiple points in a legal matter. While technological solutions may have provided a significant competitive advantage in the past, they are now becoming a standard feature that law firms are expected to offer in meeting the deeds of today’s clients. Failing to recognize this reality and adopt the tools consumers expect will leave firms at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining clients.

While the technology gap between growing and shrinking firms has closed considerably, extensive use of well-implemented technological solutions continues to correlate with firm success.

Legal practices that have consistently grown their revenues are more likely to adopt client-centered technologies. In fact, these firms are 37% more likely to be using online payment solutions, 41% more likely to use client portals, and 46% more likely to use client intake and client relationship management (CRM) solutions. Reporting tools are also used twice as much in growing firms, or firms that saw a minimum of 20% year-over-year revenue growth. The success of these firms underscores the importance of understanding how to effectively harness the benefits of these flexible technologies in an ever-tightening and highly competitive market.

Successful firms are redirecting spending away from physical office space and towards more client-centered, flexible solutions like practice management software.

Data from the report shows that when it comes to financial spending, firms are focused less on investing into physical office spaces and more into enhancing their digital capabilities with practice management software. Survey data shows that legal professionals are most likely to see legal practice management software as a significant expense (67%), and they are most likely to spend on additional software in the future (61%). Office space was where law firms were least likely to invest 27%. The implications of these investments indicate that as a whole, the legal industry will be more prepared to create more tech-enabled client experiences.

The current reshaping of how legal services are delivered and accessed will persist into the future as client expectations continue to adjust. Firms that embrace new tools and processes are poised to become more resilient, flexible, and client-centered, while those who do not will struggle to remain relevant in a world that has changed for the better.