Bloomberg Law
June 29, 2022, 3:25 PM

ANALYSIS: Pandemic Affects How Legal Industry Valuates Its Tech

Stephanie Pacheco
Stephanie Pacheco
Legal Analyst

The Covid-19 pandemic has required the legal industry to quickly adapt to an unprecedented wave of changes. Legal technology continues to play an imperative role in this reshuffling, and despite some initial hesitancy by law firms and legal departments, legal tech is proving to be a valuable resource in allowing the legal field to remain operational. As the pandemic continues to unfold, priorities for legal professionals keep shifting—which influences how organizations are measuring the value of the legal tech they use.

Bloomberg Law’s most recent legal technology surveys—conducted in 2020, 2021, and 2022—highlight key trends in how law firms and legal departments have been measuring and determining the value of legal tech through the pandemic.

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The Frequent Fliers in the Top Five

Over the last three years, Bloomberg Law has surveyed legal professionals on various aspects of their legal technology use. One question asked each year is how organizations measure or determine the value of the legal tech they use, and there are a few considerations that consistently wind up at the top of the list.

Tech Is Time, And Time Is Money

The time that attorneys spend on tasks has remained a top consideration in determining the value of legal technology over the last three years.

In 2020 and 2021, more than half of the respondents indicated that legal tech’s ability to reduce attorney time spent on routine tasks was something they considered when gauging value. Although only 22% of respondents in 2022 considered the time it took attorneys to complete tasks as a measurement for the value, it was still the fourth most reported consideration for the year, out of 20 listed options.

Since time is the prime billing element for attorneys, considerations that focus on optimizing attorney time can and should be expected to remain prominent in determining the value of legal technology. If legal tech is not maximizing the amount of time attorneys have in a day or allowing them to spend that time on more complex matters, is it really worth the expense? Likely not.

Feedback Matters—But Not Enough

Also consistent through each year of the survey has been respondents’ use of feedback from internal attorneys and staff as a tool to measure the value of legal technology.

Feedback was the second most considered factor in 2020 (47%), third in 2021 (33%), and second again in 2022 (35%). Interestingly, it hasn’t come in as the top consideration when valuing legal tech. Obtaining observations and opinions from those using the technology is vital in determining if the technology is in fact valuable. Without hearing from those using the resources daily, measuring the value of legal tech would be impossible, as one wouldn’t know whether the technology is actually working and having its desired effect.

Although feedback is a necessary resource when it comes to assessing the value of legal tech, legal departments should ensure the intel they are receiving is trustworthy. Legal professionals have reported, for the past three years, a lack of tech-savvy among users as their top barrier to using legal tech in their organization. Prioritizing and investing more time in training can ensure that the feedback received is genuine and not the result of user error.

Covid and the Influx of Capricious Considerations

Time and feedback have remained resilient as top considerations when measuring the value of legal tech in the Covid era. But the surveys also provided insight on some less consistent factors that can be explained by the three-year timeline of the pandemic.

Less Consideration for Remote Work

More than half of the 2021 survey respondents considered the ability of legal tech to allow for remote work opportunities as a priority in measuring the value of legal tech used by their organization. But by 2022, attorney time spent working remotely wasn’t even a top 10 consideration, revealing a drastic one-year decrease (from 56% to 14%) in respondents using this to measure the value of their legal tech.

A drop this significant raises some questions: Is the diminishing wave of return-to-office requirements the reason why remote work capabilities are so rarely considered when valuing legal tech? Or have legal professionals simply mastered working from home to the point that the need to measure no longer exists? With many organizations still finalizing their work environments, the answer is likely both. Allowing for remote work is no longer a viable tool for measuring the value of legal technology because it’s a bare minimum requirement for hybrid and permanently remote organizations and a now-unnecessary feature for those back in the office full time.

Attorney Well-Being Takes a Back Seat

Whether or not legal technology improves the well-being of attorneys was a top consideration for respondents in 2021 (26%) when gauging the value of legal technology. This was an expected increase from the year prior (17%), as a societal push to prioritize well-being and self-care gained momentum through the year. But in the 2022 survey, attorney well-being was considered a minimal factor, with only 15% of legal professionals indicating they measure it to determine the value of their legal technology.

Although conditions brought on by the pandemic continue to improve each day, now is not the time to stop using well-being as a value gauge for legal tech. Legal technology is intended to reduce workloads and optimize time, which in turn can aid the well-being of attorneys. With overall attorney burnout increasing and well-being declining, organizations should increase their appraisals of whether the tech they use in practice is working to counteract those statistics.

Heightened Concerns for Cost

Cost of legal technology took the forefront in 2022, with 45% of respondents citing it as something their organization measures to determine the value of the legal tech they are using. One out of five respondents also reported that the return on investment, or ROI, of the legal technology is used to valuate that tech.

The focal point for many organizations now may be less on the spread of the pandemic—thanks to the efforts of the medical and scientific communities—and more on the economic impacts of the pandemic as they continue to unfold, so it makes sense that cost is a major consideration in 2022, as opposed to remote work and attorney well-being.

More Measurement of Legal Tech Value

One additional piece of information was revealed by the survey results: Metrics appear to be more important to law firms and legal departments now. In the early months of the pandemic (2020), more than one in five respondents (21%) reported that their organization did not measure the value of legal technology. In 2021, only 17% of respondents indicated their organization was not engaging in this practice. Most recently (2022), only 9% of respondents reported that their organization used none of the 20 listed factors when measuring the value of legal technology.

A decrease this clear provides a refreshing perspective on these trends: Perhaps law firms and legal departments have started to embrace the fact that technology isn’t going anywhere in this profession, so valuation metrics are necessary to ensure that they are optimizing the legal tech they continue to implement.

Bloomberg Law Subscribers can find related content on our In Focus: Legal Technology, Surveys, Reports & Data Analysis, Legal Operations, In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being, and In Focus: Lawyer Development resources.

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