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The Legal Talent Shortage: Is Ediscovery Software the Answer?

by Kanika Priyadarshi

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According to Citi Private Bank’s annual advisory report, during the first nine months of 2021, the number of time attorneys billed was up more than 8% at America’s 50 largest law firms. In contrast, a relatively small group of lawyers whose numbers grew just 0.7% during the same period billed that significant amount of time. As a result, the demand for legal services has outpaced the supply of lawyers, creating an acute legal talent shortage.

Even though law firms have had a banner year in billable hours, the same cannot necessarily be said for attorneys and staff tasked with putting in the hours necessary to complete mountains of legal work that came their way. As a result, some chose to leave the legal industry entirely, while others jumped ship for a new firm. According to data compiled by Decipher Competitive Intelligence, associate moves between U.S. law firms increased 51% in 2021 over the prior four years. Nearly 14,000 associates had changed firms by mid-December, rising from 9,300 in 2020.

Big Law firms want quality candidates and have been steadily hiring more associates to replace those who moved on. However, due to the current legal talent shortage, firms have been paying higher salaries and offering signing bonuses that put them at odds with their financial ambitions. As a result, firms increasingly want fewer associates working longer hours. While this model might be good for profitability, it frequently leads to attorney burnout, which endangers Big Law’s most valuable commodity: capable individuals performing high-value legal services for clients.

Lighting the Way: 2021 Ediscovery Trends & Everlaw's 2022 Predictions
Learn how legal professionals use modern ediscovery technology in our 2021 year-in-review report.

A recent Reuters report found that the surge in client demand coupled with the lawyer shortage has created a red-hot hiring market for associate and partner talent, which will likely extend well into 2022. During a recent conversation with Anna Sanders, Senior Director at VOYlegal, a legal search and consulting company that helps law firms and corporations find top legal talent, she stated: “The market continues to be very hot for associates. These attorneys are demanding flexibility on many fronts, such as greater benefits, variable schedules, and fewer hours.” 

But, suppose associates put in fewer hours. In that case, they might enjoy their jobs more, perform at a higher level, and stay with a firm longer, but how will this ever-increasing workflow be completed as efficiently as possible — while maintaining quality?

More and more organizations find that the answer lies in a greater reliance on legal technology. According to Sanders, there is fierce competition among law firms adopting legal technology, and for good reason: lawyers, particularly younger ones, are demanding it. “If big law firms make it publicly known that they’re adopting a certain technology, other firms will follow suit,” she said.

The 2021 Wolters Kluwer Future Ready Lawyer survey report revealed that the legal sector views digital transformation and technology as critical to providing improved services, productivity, efficiency, and performance. Among the top trends cited by legal professionals surveyed as having the most significant impact on their organizations over the next few years are:

  • The increasing importance of legal technology.

  • Coping with the increased volume and complexity of information.

  • The ability to acquire and retain talent.

According to the report, legal organizations identifying as fully leveraging technology today continue to show a competitive edge.

Ediscovery providers, such as Everlaw, empower legal professionals with ever-increasing obligations to perform their work more efficiently to achieve favorable outcomes. Here are some of the ways Everlaw helps boost law firm’s litigation and ediscovery process, even amid a talent shortage:

  • Streamline workflows. Everlaw’s unified case-building platform boosts efficiency with fast uploads and processing, email search and batch coding in review, advanced analytics, and integrated trial preparation.

  • Deliver fast results. Law firms can meet deadlines efficiently with features that automate duplicative work, simplify complex legal duties, and facilitate secure collaboration across teams.

  • Build strong cases. With the Everlaw platform, law firms can collaborate to craft narratives, organize arguments logically, prepare and handle depositions, and manage litigation end-to-end with Storybuilder, the legal industry’s first free case and deposition prep toolkit.

  • Control costs. Everlaw provides free training and support that enable legal professionals to leverage predictable pricing and minimize spending on third-party vendors and expensive plug-ins.

  • Protect sensitive information. Everlaw is certified for security by 3rd party HIPAA Compliance Assessment, independent GDPR Compliance Readiness Assessment, SOC Type 2 Certification, and FedRAMP Authorized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The right ediscovery software can drastically impact a law firm’s ability to cope with the legal talent shortage, and in many cases, help improve processes while also lowering expenses.

Are you interested in finding out what lies ahead of the legal industry? Download a free copy of “Lighting the Way: 2021 Ediscovery Trends & Everlaw’s 2022 Predictions” and check out “2021 Ediscovery Trends: Collaboration and Security” to learn more!