Top 5 Challenges Facing Lawyers Today
The legal profession is a competitive one. It always has been, but these days—with rapid changes in the way we practice law—it seems to be even more so.
For example, one study found that lawyer density has been steadily increasing in six major European nations.
These changes can be exciting and dynamic, but with them comes a host of challenges. Lawyers will need to overcome them in order to stay competitive and relevant in their profession.
So, what are the major challenges facing lawyers today?
And what can lawyers do to overcome them?
1. Technology, The Internet And Clients
We can all agree that technology helps in a lot of ways.
It has made many aspects of both work and personal lives easier and more convenient. Technology has also changed the face of the way many industries operate.
One reason it’s a challenge for lawyers is this: client expectation.
Clients’ expectations are more than ever sky high and on-demand.
Access to the Internet provides potential clients with access to legal information at their fingertips. They are empowered by technology and today, they expect their attorneys will be proactive in finding ways to be efficient and offering options and solutions in terms of results. This can strain relationships between lawyers and their clients, which puts additional pressure on attorneys to find ways to meet these expectations.
With the access people have to information today it’s becoming more common for legal clients to have done research on their own prior to speaking with an attorney. This has changed the role of the attorney to educating the client in new ways like sorting through reliable and unreliable information the client may have found in their research.
2. Low-Cost Legal Service Providers
Technology has also allowed for the creation of legal service providers.
They have cropped up all over the Internet, offering low-cost legal services—a very attractive proposition for those seeking what they know can be costly services.
According to its 2012 IPO filing, in 2011, legal services provider LegalZoom made $156 million in revenues with a $12 million profit margin.
Online legal services also make consumers feel empowered—that they can get the documents they need at a lower cost than retaining an attorney. This poses a big issue for lawyers, as people migrating to using these services can chip away at your client base.
In today’s global economy, lawyers may face barriers in expanding practices overseas.
Countries around the globe are asking themselves if easing rules for attorneys to practice in foreign countries is helpful or hurtful. There’s no clear answer, and countries are handling it in various ways.
Canada, for example, allows lawyers from the U.S. and other countries to practice there relatively easily. Lawyers from other countries may also be able to take advantage of regulatory changes in the U.K., Singapore and Australia, as well.
Other nations, however, are firm in their efforts to block or minimize the ability of lawyers from other jurisdictions to practice within their boundaries.
Technology, globalization and competition all play into the regulatory environment of the legal profession.
Traditional ethical rules and regulations need to be looked at closely. But at the same time, as lawyers seek more flexibility with technology and globalization in the industry, they also face attempts to make them subject to broader regulation like new regulations from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in England and Wales.
5. New Lawyer Development
Lawyers in all stages of their careers face these challenges.
But newly qualified lawyers entering the field must, in addition, differentiate themselves from others in the market. They need to develop traits that set them apart from their peers—and this isn’t easy when first entering a profession.
The younger generation already has less of a learning curve when it comes to technology, so this challenge will be about finding the best ways to use new technology to their advantage.
A useful resource for future and current lawyers can be found at AllAboutLaw.
Set Yourself Apart
Just because these challenges exist doesn’t mean there’s nothing lawyers can do to navigate around them.
One effective way, as previously mentioned, is to become qualified to practice in other countries. The UK is a popular destination for dual qualifying because English law is the law of choice for many international transactions.
If you can dual-qualify, you can expand your practice beyond your country’s borders and advance your career. You are making yourself more marketable, while setting yourself apart in the following ways:
- Enhance your professional profile
- Offer a wider range of legal services to your clients
- Knowledgeable to clients on other country’s laws
- Increase your revenues
The key is to stay on top of the challenges in the legal profession and make moves to ensure you keep up. Some challenges are out of your direct control—competition, globalization, regulation—but some you can proactively tackle. Keeping up with technology changes, and becoming qualified to practice overseas, are two very doable ways to face challenges head on.
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