New year, new trends. Our field never slows down. Keep up or risk being passed by.
Host Carl Morrison looks at a dozen developing trends for the coming year and beyond. Everything from the evolution of the Limited Licensed Practitioner field (looking at you Arizona and Utah) to the breakneck acceleration in legal tech, artificial intelligence, workflow automation, and process improvements.
The post-pandemic “Great Resignation” is creating more opportunities than ever for paralegal professionals. Make 2022 the year you truly understand your value, embrace change, advance your skills, and take charge of your career.
Special thanks to our sponsors NALA, ServeNow, and InfoTrack.
Mentioned in This Episode
Carl Morrison: Before we start today’s show, I would like to thank our sponsors; NALA The Paralegal Association; ServeNow; and InfoTrack.
Carl Morrison: Hello everyone. Welcome to The Paralegal Voice here on Legal Talk Network. I’m Carl Morrison, the Director of Legal Operations and Advanced Certified Paralegal and your host of The Paralegal Voice.
Well folks, it’s a new year, happy 2022. I can’t believe I’m saying that. It seems just like yesterday that I was starting here on The Paralegal Voice back in 2017 if you can believe it, and really excited to be with you for another year of great shows. And, you know, I was really excited to record this month’s episode, January’s episode, because, hey, I get to start the new year off, right? And I’ve been reading a lot of articles and blogs and keeping up with the trends that’s been going on in the legal industry and reading what a lot of these experts are saying and what the legal trends are going to be for 2022. And I thought well, this is a great way to start a new year, new episode on what are the legal trends?
So I wanted to share with you guys what I have been seeing and hearing and talking with some of these experts about what 2022 is going to look like. We have been living for two years now in the midst of a pandemic and we have seen a lot of changes, the big sea of changes that have occurred in the legal industry. And so I wanted to share with you guys my perspective about 2022, what I’ve been seeing in the way the legal industry and give you all my perspective. So let’s just jump right off into it shall we.
So I’ve got what I’ve identified as 12 different legal trends. Some list say there’s 10, some say there’s 5. I came out of all these things that I have been reading, there’s really good solid 12 trends that are occurring, that are going to occur for us this year. So they’re in not in any particular order. So, I’m just going to start with my very first legal trend for 2022 and that is what I’m calling the limited license practitioner. A lot of individuals like this call it non-lawyers, and I hate that term. Makes it sound like it’s a negative connotation, but these particular individuals, these limited license practitioners, you probably have heard me talk about like the LLLT, the Limited License Legal Technician Program in Washington State. Even though that program has sunset, there are other programs in other states that have started or in the midst of starting and this is a trend that is taking off.
Utah already has their Limited Paralegal Practitioner Program, the LPP in three different areas which includes family law, landlord-tenant collections. Those are the three major areas in Utah. Arizona is one that just recently came online. It’s the Licensed Paraprofessional Program. It has the same areas as Utah, but also adds small claims, civil and very limited criminal and those licensing exams have were started last year. I believe they’ve already may have actually implemented and granted licensing to those that have passed in the respective areas. And so you’re going to really see more and more of those come online coming up. California, they have a working group. They have already asked for public comment. So they’re investigating having a limited paralegal type role. Minnesota has — they’re in the midst of their working group. North Carolina started. It’s just beginning. They’re starting of investigating a very similar role. All these means is greater access to justice. So we are going to see more and more of these programs come online this year. And so it’s a great time to be alive in the legal industry and to be as a paralegal if you’re looking for ways to grow professionally.
The second legal trend that I really wanted to talk about is what I call the law firm talent wars. You know, the pandemic created and you’ve probably read it, you’ve probably seen it. I think I’ve even talked about it.
I’m sure I’ve written articles about the great resignation and the great resignation occurred because the pandemic created an opportunity is what I call it where individuals realized wait, I can work from home. I don’t have to go into an office all the time. I want a better work-life balance and people were leaving, leaving their jobs because they realizing a way both me and my spouse don’t have to work together. Only one can work. The other can work part-time from home if they want to or not at all because identifying ways to streamline and not spend so much money and focus on the inward. And so as a result, this great resignation happened because there was almost like an epiphany for individuals realizing wait, there’s more to life than the billable hour. And so this pandemic created that workforce that recognized there’s more to life. And as such, now we’re seeing this period where firms, especially law firms, but also in-house corporate legal departments are realizing wait, I as a manager, I as overseeing a firm can actually get the best of the best by offering better work from home situations because attorneys, managers, they all understood and saw a way you can still work and not have to come into the office.
And so there’s this real push for firms really stepping up their game in the way of salary and benefits that they’re offering to new hires, still even trying to retain people but more importantly, they’re trying to steal the good talent to have the best of the best in their practice. And so, there’s a whole “war” between firms and in-house corporate legal departments looking for the best and it’s not just Associates, it’s not just Partners, it’s us paralegals, it’s us legal operations professionals, it’s everybody within the legal industry. There’s a real true war going on trying to find the best talent out there.
Our third trend for 2022 is well I just mentioned this, paralegals, paralegal jobs and your thinking well Carl paralegal jobs have always been good. Well, that’s true but because of the whole pandemic and firms and companies leaning into legal technology, leaning into being able to give the best service to their client, they need the best of the best, and it’s also paralegals because, you know, I’ve said it before, we’re project managers. That’s not how we look at ourselves, but that’s what we’re doing. It’s managing a case, managing the workload, managing our partners, our attorneys that we work for. And so, there’s this real push for talented, good, well-skilled paralegals. And so, you know, the Bureau of Labor Statistics have said and their report says that the next 10 years, there’s about a 12% growth. It is still one of the fastest growing professions out there and 2022 is no different. There are plenty of jobs. If you guys just look on LinkedIn, I get notifications all the time looking for talented paralegals, senior paralegals, in-house corporate paralegals, so on and so forth. And so. we’re really seeing that paralegal industry for 2022 is not just going to like fall to the wayside or slow down because technology is taking our place. No, technology is not. We still have to drive technology and so our jobs are pretty well secure and we really don’t have to worry per se. You make the best of your job the way you do it but in the way of actual opportunities, there are plenty of opportunities out there for paralegals, for us and 2022 is no different.
Number four, let’s talk about our legal trend number four for 2022. That is legal technology. Again, you’re probably thinking, well Carl technology has been around for a while now, so why is 2022 any different? Ah, there’s the magic question.
So, let’s think about what has happened in the past two years as a result of the pandemic. We were all forced to work from home. Firms were closed, made us have to work from home, state mandates things to that nature.
As a result, there was not just firms having to embrace legal technology but think about all the other peripheral. The court systems had to truly embrace technology, legal technology. Governmental agencies the same thing. And so, there’s been and especially with the big pandemic this increased interest in these digital interfaces. So courts, government agencies, law firms, you know, we’ve all been thinking about how the pandemic created the solutions for us and really think about let’s just focus about one, court, the court system. The court system had to get creative and how to — because you couldn’t just stop hearings or trials, and so they had to embrace technology. Things like Zoom. Here in Nevada, they used BlueJeans. I can’t remember which system they use in Arizona but state by state, every state court system had to embrace some sort of video conferencing service in order to keep things moving. And so, hearings went to an online format. Some trials, online format. And so, this legal technology was so vitally important in order to keep the wheels of justice moving. And so, historically within the pandemic, many firms took a what I call just to make it happen kind of approach to that collaboration working remotely type of situation, but now the opportunity is to revisit the tools that firms are using, courts are using and the training that we have to have to be able to really leverage that technology making that experience all the better, not just for us, but also for our clients.
And so, firms are really investigating and realizing wait, we don’t have to have all this office things. Wait, we can really truly operate in a paperless environment. Wow. Okay. Why do we need to investigate, you know investing in greater technology to make the work life more efficient, more streamline, all in the premise of doing it for better services to the client because I will tell you working in-house, corporate legal I, as director legal operations I am constantly looking at the spend that outside counsel is doing. And if they are able to do things more efficiently and effectively then to me the cost is a better cost because I know that they’re doing everything they can to provide better legal services for us, the client. And so, legal technology is really a big drive, especially for 2022 because let’s think about it, we still have probably about another year that the experts say about the pandemic that we’re going to have waves of periods where people are going to be sicker. I mean here in Nevada we’ve just been dealing with the Omicron variant for the month of January and it drove everybody back home and working from home exclusively. And so, because of this we’re going to have these little waves, but it’s important this year to really lean into legal technology to really be able to continue providing the best legal services to our clients and not just doing it in a reactive format, but really, actually, proactively, how do we do this for their future for continued life in 2022.
Our legal trend number five is DE&I, Diversity Equity and Inclusion. It was born out from a couple of years really. DE&I has been around for a little bit, but it’s really more even so this year, 2022 is all about looking at ways to be more inclusive and to be more diverse in your practice. It’s not going to go away. So, having to work from home or wanting to work from home, these initiatives and firms are going to be even more embraced. And I challenge you, the listener, that if your firm hasn’t investigated setting up a DE&I type of initiative, talk to your partner, talk to your senior partner, talk to others in the firm and find out why aren’t we doing a DE&I?
Why don’t we have a committee to investigate ways for us to be more diverse. Again, I come from the angle of in-house corporate legal and while we’re not ones to necessarily pick a firm just because of their DE&I, but we’re going to look to see what initiatives are they doing? How diverse are they in their practice? And so, it’s important that if you haven’t embraced it to be proactive, and step up and if it’s an area that you find really important, talk to your partners, talk to the office administrator and say, hey, I want to help. Look at NALA. NALA created — I believe it was just this past year, their DE&I committee which I think is fantastic and they’ve been putting out all sorts of articles and videos and things to that nature related to DE&I. And so, it’s important. That’s not going to go away in 2022. We are going to continue on with it.
Legal trend number six, artificial intelligence. Now, I have done a show — I think it was last year. I interviewed an individual about artificial intelligence and talked about the fear. People have a fear about AI that it’s going to replace their jobs. Well, if you’re doing what I call rote work where it doesn’t require substantive knowledge. It doesn’t require a bunch of intelligence to do it. Then AI is going to replace that type of job. But if you’re doing what you should be doing as a paralegal and providing substantive legal work that would be done by an attorney and then you’re fine. Where AI comes into play is really when law firms start to realize and that’s what it started this last year. It’s going to continue for 2022. That’s why I’m adding this as a trend for 2022 that law firms are really recognizing and realizing the value of having a smart AI system manage certain types of tasks and it’s typical. You see it in for those of you that are listening that E-discovery. Of course, you’re dealing with volumes, terabytes of data. That’s where AI comes into play that helps review and you teach the system to look for certain types of records and things to that nature.
But day in day out type of work as the data volume continues to expand it’s really important for firms to use that type of technology to supplement that manpower, to speed up and streamline the process, filing systems and storage and things to that nature. On the in-house working in a corporate legal department, AI comes into a lot of help when you’re dealing with contracts. A lot of contracting systems have AI to help with being able to create or find certain kinds of phrases in a contract or clauses in the contract, whatever the case may be. AI comes in to help to really streamline because that’s what AI is really to be used for. It’s not to replace an individual but it’s to help streamline and make the process more efficient. Because that’s really what we’re trying to do in the legal industry is find ways to be able to provide the best legal representation to a client at the most efficient method possible. One of the things that I’ve done is the Legal Lean Sigma program, which is all about process improvement and it’s important that individuals such as yourselves understand that, hey, I need to find ways to make my job more efficient so I can do more and be able to provide better services to the client. So, don’t worry. Don’t think that, oh my gosh, artificial intelligence is going to take my job away. No, that’s not true. It’s there to help us and firms and corporate legal departments, they’re recognizing the importance of artificial intelligence.
Okay, so I got to stop for a short commercial break. We’ll come back. I’m going to finish out my other six legal trends for 2022, so don’t turn that dial.
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Welcome back to the Paralegal Voice. Before the break, we tackled the first six trends and so, now we’re going to look at the other six legal trends for 2022. So, Trend Number 7 is Alternative Legal Services Providers, ALSPs. I think that was my November episode where I interviewed a couple of individuals that provide ALSPs. And think of the providers of alternative legal services are solution sellers, that’s their whole process, their whole game plan is to undertake specific legal tasks and processes and make them more efficient. The reason why this is really important for 2022 is clients, they have — they’re savvy, very savvy, even individual clients, not just corporate clients, but they have a desire to spend less, demand more and expect greater value.
So, the industry is like 11-billion-dollar industry when we’re talking about ALSPs. So, that particular industry is really there to provide corporate legal departments and law firms to give them specialized expertise, the legal support flexibility, an extended network of connections. This really helps and it’s helpful for smaller legal operations, and that use an ALSP. And I’ve talked about in the past, their whole role is to give the temporary or temp-to-hire, project-based legal staffing solutions to help with that increased client demand but ultimately to help reduce the costs. Well, you’re thinking, oh, god, Carl, hiring someone else sounds like more money. Yeah. But if you have a very specific case that you have a very discrete task that needs to be completed, that’s where an ALSP can come into play because you can hire them for a set fee, a fixed fee type of format and complete this task within this time frame for this cost versus having to engage five additional associates and two more paralegals and things of that nature. And so, ALSPs are not going to go away. They’re only going to become more important. And also think too guys, they’re not replacing your jobs and in fact, that’s another career avenue is working for an ALSP. That’s where a lot of associates will go to work because it’s the variety of work. They’re jumping around from case to case, client to client. Same with paralegals, there’s opportunities abound in that niche area. And so, 2022 is no different in embracing an ALSP. That’s my number 7 trend.
Trend Number 8, agility is key. In order really for lawyers and paralegals to combat what’s going on in the world — think about everything that’s happening in the world. You got to be more agile.
We had to — as an industry, two years ago because of the pandemic, we had to be agile. Those firms that weren’t agile suffered as a result or closed. There were some firms that completely closed because they didn’t know how to be agile in the climate. Those that succeeded and blossomed are those that have great agility. And so, clients expect their lawyers to move away from those slow modes of operations. The siloed method of practicing law, you got to be more dynamic, you got to automate your services that you’re providing. Corporate clients are savvy to this and they expect it from their outside law firms.
I read an article recently about where a firm did a video intake. Instead of actually doing — having an individual come in to do intake, it was strictly via a video, like a Zoom type of setting, and they realized, well, wait — and that was because of the pandemic of course, and they realized as they got to a point where the restrictions were lifted and people could go back to work, they were like, well, this really worked, because it really streamlined the process of bringing in clients. And so, they kept it, they kept that format and improved on it, streamlined it, made it more efficient and now they are finding that that intake process is like one of the best and others are coming to them to help them set up their intake method, the video intake method. And so, being agile like that and embracing the challenge like that only helps you grow professionally and helps your company and your firm grow. And so, agility is key for 2022.
Trend Number 9 is workflow automation and this is going to be a big trend in 2022. I was reading an article, and they were talking about that the researchers from the McKinsey Global Institute, they found that 23% of lawyers’ work is automatable, that can be automated, which when I read that, I was like, whoa, that’s almost fourth a quarter of the work that a lawyer can do which by default means there’s probably about the same amount that a paralegal can do can be automated. But again, it’s like when I was talking about artificial intelligence a minute ago, you don’t have to be afraid of it. By leaning into automation, firms can really reduce the expenses, they can boost efficiency, they can improve employee satisfaction. If you can automate a process — I look for these ways to do it more automated in my work. Think of it this way. Think of some of the types of work that you could make more automated. I just talked about one a minute ago which was client intake. Document creation, collections, these types of processes that you can automate can and make everyone’s job easier. It only behooves you to really lean into automating some steps that can be automated.
And also look at when you’re talking about automated workflows. Look at those low-value tasks, creating a template, backing up documents or onboarding clients. When you free up your paralegals and your lawyers from those low-value tasks and focus on the high value of billable tasks, then that increases productivity for the firm, for the teams that are doing this and lowers the cost for the clients because that is what we have to be focused in on. Working in private practice, we have a tendency. I used to do this many moons ago that you’re just turning and burning, you were billing those hours. Well, it’s important because that’s how you make your money, but clients are savvy and they want ways to streamline and make it more efficient and to lower the costs for the client.
Trend Number 10, this is the need for process improvement. I mentioned a minute ago. I went through a program called the Legal Lean Sigma, and it’s a program about process improvement and they have different levels. It’s based on the six sigma process improvement methodology, and there’s different belts: Green Belt, white belt, black belt that you can achieve.
I’ve gone through the white belt level. I’ve done my 101 on the Legal Lean but it’s all about how to identify ways to improve processes. And because of what I’ve been talking about on the show, a lot of these different areas tie into finding ways to improve processes. So, I challenge you all to think about ways to educate yourself on how to do process improvement. There’s all sorts of books to read on it, there’s all sorts of webinars going through like the Legal Lean Sigma program that I went through, anything that you can do to help in the way of process improvements can help you in your workplace but it’ll help your client long-term and again, help you stay on top of the trends that are going on, i.e., process improvement is a trend. I’m sure it’s a multibillion-dollar industry because there’s so much out there. But it is a trend that’s important for 2022.
Trend number 11, legal operations. I’ve interviewed individuals about legal operations. It is a really blossoming industry. There are so many jobs out there for legal operations. Entry-level, managerial level, director level, and above. And legal operations is all about looking — and it’s not just for corporate legal departments, but it’s also for law firms as well. The corporate legal operations consortium or clock is an organization that helps educate individuals about legal operations. But legal operations as a whole is looking at ways to operate a legal department or law firm and with the lens of process improvement, the clients’ savings, things that nature. So, I recommend that you investigate and look out there up more about legal operations. It’s a great industry but it is one of the trends that 2022 is really on top of. There are so many jobs. They’re coming left and right and same with paralegals. There’s not going to be a loss of jobs for either industry.
My final trend for the year, trend number 12, corporate legal departments tightening the budgets. Tightening those budgets. The drive to cut cost is not new. It’s not new for any year, especially 2022. But you’re going to see, especially this year, because of the pandemic, you’re going to see these legal departments really doubling down on getting rid of the spend and how can we improve on inefficient processes and methods and things like that. All this past year specially, companies are going to see how can I save, where can I save and legal departments aren’t going to escape the budgetary scrutiny that’s going to happen as a result. Legal ops, which I just talked about, it will play a leading role in it in delivering these savings. But it’s not just legal ops. It’s up to the paralegals to help as well. And so, there’s going to be, this year, a whole renewed focus on legal and analytics in order to find ways to streamline and not at the cost of a client or the legal department, the company. Their whole role is to help track performance and ensure that targets are met.
So, I hope everyone has enjoyed my Top 12 legal trends for 2022. I could spend hours on each one of these topics and my goal here was to help you see my crystal ball that I’ve been looking at. And really, I don’t have a crystal ball, it’s really been articles and postings and news. But this is everything that I have seen that I’m seeing for this year for 2022 and I would love to hear back from you guys and what do you think some of the trends are going to be? Do you agree with some of what I’ve talked about? Do you think there’s other trends that are coming up? I’d like to hear your take on it as well. So, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected]. I’d love to hear back because the next episode, I’ll share some of your all’s thoughts about it. So, all right guys, hang tight. We’ve got one more commercial break. So, don’t turn that dial. We’ll be back in one second.
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Christopher T. Anderson: This March, the Un-Billable Hour podcast will be launching a second episode each month called the Community Table. I’m the host, Christopher T. Anderson. I’m a lawyer and a law firm management consultant and each episode, I will gather virtually with other lawyers across the country to help answer their questions. These will be unscripted conversations that center around real issues lawyers are facing in their firms today. We’ll discuss best practices for marketing, for time management, client acquisition, hiring, firing and much more. Join our conversation each month on the Community Table part of the Un-Billable Hour podcast on the Legal Talk Network.
Carl Morrison: Well guys, it’s time for the favorite part of the show. It’s time for the listeners voice. It’s always the last of the show. But again, this is your opportunity to send me your comments, your questions or celebrations and I choose those to be read on air. And so, you can send me your listeners voice to [email protected]. That’s d-e-v-o-t-e-d, the number 2, l-a-w @gmail.com and I would love to hear from you guys. But I’ve got a question that came in to me recently. And this particular individual wrote, very short. It was not a big long email or anything. So, but basically, this individual said, how do I level up my career? They are a paralegal that’s been working for about 10 years and they’re looking for ways to level up to grow professionally. And so, they wrote to me asking how do I level up? How do I increase my career trajectory? And that’s a really great question because I get asked very similar questions all the time.
Recently, I asked up that question and asked about legal ops, but I’ve also been asked paralegals and I wanted to talk about how do you level up? And so, think about ways to set yourself apart. If you’re not certified and I’m a huge proponent of certification, so I’m going to make that disclaimer out there. But if you’re a paralegal and you’re not certified, get a certification. Get the CP through NALA or any of the other organizations. Get a paralegal certification. That will set you apart because it’s voluntary. It’s not required in order to work. There is an opportunity to make a little bit more money with a certification versus being non-certified. But that’s one way to level up your career. Look at joining a professional association, legal association, organization, and take on leadership roles. Take on additional tasks on a committee or something like that. Look at ways to learn more leadership styles because that will only serve you in your career.
Look at — even taking on additional education. Maybe you’ve got your associates and that’s it. Look at maybe getting your bachelor’s degree. Any way that you can demonstrate to your employer that you want to take on more job duties, tasks, the better. Go to your supervising attorney and say, hey, I’ve been doing civil litigation now for four or five years and I enjoy it and love it but I see these other partners working on doing employment law and I’d love to branch into it. Do you think that I could ask to maybe work on some of those cases? Attorneys buy in large when you step up and say I want to do XYZ. They’re going to let you do it. Don’t wait to be asked to do it. Step out. Step outside of your comfort zone. You make your career as successful as you want it to be. It’s not going to be given to you in a golden bucket. You’re just going to have to step out and do the work. And so, if you want to level up your career get out there and do more education, get a certification, take on more job responsibilities and you will fly high. The sky is the limit.
So, thank you so much to my listener that sent the email. I really appreciate it. And so, that’s all the time we have for today’s episode of Paralegal Voice. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you have any questions about today’s show, please email them to me at [email protected] and stay tuned for more information and upcoming podcasts for exciting paralegal trends, news and engaging and fun interviews from the leading paralegals and other leading legal professionals.
Thank you for listening to the Paralegal Voice produced by the Broadcast Professionals at Legal Talk Network. If you would like more information about today’s show, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Find Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or download Legal Talk Network’s free app in Google Play and iTunes. And reminding you that I’m here to enhance your passion and dedication to the paralegal profession and make your paralegal voice heard.
Male: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views or nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com