How the pandemic has changed legal practice in America

How the pandemic has changed legal practice in America

With more and more people getting vaccinated in the United States, a lot of COVID-19 restrictions have already been lifted. Everywhere, there are signs that things are starting to return to normal — baseball stadiums are now packed with fans, trade shows and live music events are resuming, and airlines are filling middle seats again.

However, the same thing can't be said about our courtrooms. Legal practice in America isn’t likely to go back to how it was pre-pandemic. Here are the different ways the pandemic has left a lasting impact on attorneys, law firms, and the entire legal industry.

More labor-related lawsuits, disputes, and claims

During the coronavirus crisis, millions of Americans lost their jobs because their employers either had to close shop or lay off people in order to stay afloat. These countless unemployed will need legal assistance to assert their rights and get their due, such as severance pay or other employee benefits provided by their former employer. They may also need help in claiming unemployment benefits.

Since the workplace has drastically changed during the pandemic, labor law is expected to expand to include cases such as disputes over the employer’s duty of creating safe office environments and providing more work from home (WFH) tools.

High demand for legal protection for businesses

Companies will require legal services to resolve disputes that arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as breach of contracts between creditors and debtors, trustees and beneficiaries, and shareholders and business partners.

Increasing need for legal assistance related to domestic violence and divorce

At the height of the pandemic, many US states issued stay-at-home orders. These orders forced a lot of families to stay under the same roof for a prolonged period of time, putting a strain on their relationships. This has led to many incidents of domestic violence and suits for divorce.

Related reading: What US law firms can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic

New ways of closing of real estate deals

After reaching an agreement, the buyer, seller, and real estate agent traditionally meet at an attorney’s office to sign closing documents. However, since law offices were closed in accordance with social distancing restrictions, some closings were held in parking lots and porches with only limited attendees — brokers were no longer included. Sellers also pre-signed the documents to hasten in-person meetings, making the process safer for all parties involved.

Other law firms opted to close deals by mail. The seller's attorney mailed documents to the purchaser's attorney, and the purchaser's attorney mailed checks to the seller's attorney. While this practice was rare prior to the pandemic, it is expected to become the norm in the post-COVID world since it’s more convenient for clients, brokers, and lawyers. While remote closing requires additional processes, it lets all parties spend less time traveling.

Increasing demand for tech tools and skills

Law firms leveraged technology to successfully navigate the “new normal” working environment. They utilized Zoom to represent their clients during virtual court hearings, shared files via cloud storage services (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive) and collaborated on documents using cloud-based productivity suites (e.g., Microsoft 365, Google Workspace).

In post-pandemic America, the legal industry will rely more heavily on technology. The courts have become so proficient with video conferencing that they may use it for smaller cases or other standard appearances that don’t involve litigation. This means the legal tech industry will experience a boom and attorneys will be expected to be capable of working with multiple IT solutions.

WFH arrangements and streamlined workflows

At the start of the pandemic, lawyers and paralegals scrambled to make remote work setups possible, but they were eventually able to adapt. In fact, many companies that adopted remote work setups during the lockdowns saw an increase in productivity. This is why many law firms will likely continue to allow WFH arrangements or explore hybrid work models.

Outsourcing some tasks, especially those that require plenty of legwork, will make such work setups possible. A good example of this is the tedious task of obtaining documents. Partnering with a reliable record retrieval provider like Record Retrieval Solutions (RRS) will allow firms like yours to request and receive medical records and radiology images via an online portal. This secure and convenient method will enable you to focus on more important tasks and settle cases faster.

Interested in how RRS can help your law firm thrive in the post-pandemic world? Get in touch with us today!