Returning to Normalcy? Lawyer and Legal Ops Professionals’ Predictions for 2021
The idea of making predictions for 2021 may at first appear strange. What did we learn in 2020, after all, except that we are not masters of nature, that the world has a way of surprising us with disastrous diseases, raging wildfires, and murder hornets?
We have learned that we cannot precisely predict the future. But we have also learned that we can strive to be masters of ourselves. One thing is for certain in 2021: The world will go on, unexpected events will occur, and we will do the best we can to handle what comes our way.
Our prediction for 2021? That legal departments and Legal Operations teams will pull together business plans that emphasize flexibility and continuity; that teams will look towards technologies that enable them to thrive in the new world we live in and make room for the changes, unexpected or otherwise, that we nonetheless expect 2021 to bring.
For 2021, we partnered with Law.com and ALM Media to survey Legal Operations leaders and lawyers, in search of their predictions and best guesses for what they think is most likely to happen in 2021. We found a wide range of answers, but by looking at them together, it gives us a snapshot of what they feel the new year might bring.
Note: Go here to review the survey in its entirety!
Some of what they expect?
An increase in technologies that make remote work possible
Many of our respondents from the legal and Legal Operations communities agreed that people would continue working remotely in 2021, and that this would result in an increased demand for mobile technologies that make working from home easy and secure. Some of the implications? Litigations will take a turn for the virtual and processes that have long involved the courts will become online and streamlined; employers will emphasize secure software that promotes “professional cohesion within firms to substitute for daily in-person contact,”as one put it, and “wet-signing” will no longer be an option.
Deeper insights into external spend
Our participants noted that data analytics and artificial intelligence are likely to dive deeper insights into external spend. Coupled with the expectation that budgets for external spend will decrease, we expect data to drive thrifty decisions and for in-house counsel to take on a larger role.
Increase in government regulations
2021 will be a year of regulations: new regulations, updated regulations, regulations that keep your General Counsel up all night. Companies will need to make sure they are on top of it and have a plan in place to meet new requirements. There is an expectation that more companies will invest in SAAS tools in “RegTech” and that companies will make an effort to develop and adopt automated regulatory compliance.
A change to the office landscape
Office space was on the minds of many participants: some noted “reductions in leased space” while others focused on the likely emergence of “office clubs,” or co-working spaces where you pay a small fee per month. With increased telecommuting, our eyes are peeled to see how this affects 2021’s unfortunate toll on women in the workforce.
Data security is prioritized
We are going to be reading a lot about data security in 2021: we’ll either be reading about the push to ensure data is secure, or we will learn about the massive fall-out that will attend data security failures. Our respondents vow to make data security a bigger priority in 2021, given that remote work opens up a weak spot for hackers and the usual risks.
A year of litigation
Many of our respondents wrote in that 2021 would see a spike in litigation. Some focused on litigation regarding COVID-19, others saw “employment litigation” as a challenge on the horizon. One thing unites all of them: that legal teams will be kept busy, and to keep their workload manageable, they will continue to rely on automated workflows and AI process automation for an “extra set of eyes” on their work.