Part One of a two-part series on COVID-19 and the Personal Injury Industry.
It’s no secret that the global pandemic, now entering a second year, has challenged nearly every industry in numerous ways. While the legal industry is certainly no exception to the rule, personal injury law firms face unique challenges. Fortunately, solutions to these immediate challenges will not only enable your firm and team to survive (and even thrive) in these trying times; they will also build a foundation enabling exponential growth of your practice.
Many law firms were utterly unprepared for the challenges presented by lockdown orders, office building closures, and orders limiting office capacity. Before the pandemic, the legal profession was not known for readily embracing technology or allowing staff to work remotely. In fact, numerous firms had no technology or processes in place, with many still relying on self-hosted, onsite case management systems, and paper. When lockdown orders came through, these firms could not continue operating and had to scramble to get some systems in place just to keep the doors open, further compounding issues.
Thanks to lockdowns, shop/building closures, and capacity limits, people’s movement have been drastically reduced. With fewer cars, buses, cyclists, and pedestrians on the road, as well as fewer workers in offices and customers in shops, the demand for personal injury lawyers – in addition to no-fault, workers’ compensation, and medical malpractice attorneys – has plummeted. However, the number of personal injury firms has remained roughly the same, meaning competition for clients is even more fierce than usual. Many firms are forced to take whatever cases they can secure, including cases they may typically turn away or refer out. Firm finances, always challenging for lawyers operating on contingency models or fees fixed by statute, are under more stress than ever.
Firm staff is feeling the strain too. The legal profession was already listed as one of the most stressful professions in the world, with most firms and teams overworked and understaffed even in normal times. Then came COVID-19. For those who were able to continue working, most are now working from home in less than ideal conditions, alongside spouses and roommates in similar situations. Attorneys and paralegals are trying to draft legal documents, call clients and opposing counsel, conduct depositions virtually or attend hearings by Zoom from small, shared spaces with no privacy. Those that are parents are now, simultaneously, busy legal professionals, full-time teachers, and child care providers. The situation is even worse for firms that have been forced to lay off workers in order to survive.
Help is limited, and many people are struggling. Individuals have very few outlets for stress, which continues to compound. Reports of mental health issues, such as depression, have skyrocketed. At the same time, work-life balance, work product quality, and client/customer service have dropped significantly – compounding the already insane competition level for clients. It’s no wonder then that law firms are having a hard time staying afloat.
Nonetheless, COVID-19 need not be a death knell for personal injury firms. Innovative firms that, before the pandemic, embraced concepts like remote working or legal outsourcing services (a.k.a. remote paralegal services or legal process outsourcing) and introduced project management concepts from the business world, such as keeping an eye on efficiency, have had a far easier time over the last year. They ran streamlined and efficient operations before lockdowns came, enabling them to continue operations as normally as possible in the pandemic environment.
Fortunately, it’s not too late for firms to innovate and adapt by taking advantage of the numerous benefits of legal outsourcing services, which we will cover in part two of this series. Doing so will not only ensure your survival through the pandemic but also allow for explosive growth once the pandemic is over.