The coronavirus pandemic is hitting the legal industry hard. High-stakes trials are getting delayed and commercial work is quickly drying up. Large firms are struggling to cope with the economic consequences in various ways. Some large firms are cutting jobs, reducing work hours, and slowing down new hiring of associates.
However, there are some law firms that are seeing a surge in cases and clients. For instance, family law firms in Miami are seeing more cases, as more couples are trying to file for divorce or encounter custody issues. A lot of families are affected by the lockdown and quarantine restrictions, and gay divorce lawyers in Miami have seen a spike in the number of cases. People find it difficult to cope with the new restrictions and find out that they cannot get along with their long-term partners. For many, the only viable solution is divorce.
Similarly, lawyers specialized in restructuring have seen a huge surge in activity, with many new cases becoming important during this difficult period. Large clients in the corporate world are struggling to reduce costs and handle the economic downturn and they need professional legal help. The same goes for lawyers specialized in employment and workplace safety law. Virtually all companies try to solve the legal issues caused by the ongoing pandemic.
What's more, family law firms in Miami have seen a shift in how they work. They do handle more cases, but most firms handle them differently. Remote work is becoming the norm, especially in larger firms, where many employees can work from home. This forces some firms to rethink or reinvent their office space, the summer programs, and make them find new ways of accommodating remote work. This means better communication, better digitization of documents, and better procedures.
The impact of the coronavirus on the legal industry
The economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic have hit lawyers by reducing their incomes. Although there are exceptions, as described above, for employment and gay divorce lawyers in Miami, the legal industry was hit hard. Let's take a closer look at the data:
ALM Media, the publisher, and editorial manager of law.com have done a survey between April 1st to April 23rd to study how the law industry was affected by the pandemic. The focus was on the economic impact – the revenue, the income, the number of cases handled, and what is happening to their clients during the pandemic. The survey was successful, receiving answers from 292 lawyers from all over the country, including Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas. The results are drastic all over the country.
Law firms have taken a massive hit, with multiple clients canceling new filings or terminating representation during the pandemic. The cuts are massive – a loss of income was reported by 59 percent of lawyers. 129 respondents have reported a drastic drop in their earnings, losing 30 percent or even more. One-quarter of the lawyers were hit especially hard by the pandemic, reporting losses of 50 to 100 percent.
Some attorneys report massive losses. This is especially true for criminal law attorneys, who have seen average losses of about 80 percent during this period. More than half of criminal lawyers who responded to the survey reported losses of 100 percent. Family law firms in Miami and gay divorce lawyers in Miami were also affected, but the losses were lower, hovering around 20 percent.
Criminal lawyers were hit especially hard, as police make fewer arrests. Federal agents are also less active and stopped convening grand juries in some jurisdictions. To supplement the lost income, criminal law attorneys are looking into civil law to get more clients. The financial effect is starting to become visible and the future doesn't look very bright for many lawyers.
Other attorneys seem to weather the coronavirus pandemic better than others. These include lawyers focused on debt counseling, tax, and contract attorneys. About 50 percent of consumer and commercial debt lawyers reported that their income stayed the same during this period. 41 percent reported a slight decrease, while 9 percent reported a slight increase. Contract attorneys are in a similar situation – 48 percent said their income is stable, 40 percent reported a decrease and 12 percent reported an increase in income.
Motor vehicle and personal injury attorneys were hit particularly hard during this period. As more and more people are staying at home, this means fewer cars on the road. Fewer cars mean fewer accidents and fewer lawsuits. The results show that 58 percent of the motor vehicle lawyers have seen a massive drop in their income during the last few months. The future is not looking great for these lawyers – 71 percent of the respondents are expecting a future income decrease.
Business and corporate lawyers are also hit by the pandemic. Many acquisitions, mergers, and investments are canceled or delayed, in many cases indefinitely. Large corporations struggle financially and postpone legal matters. Litigators are also affected, as courts are closed across the country and trial delays are the norm. In order to supplement their income, some business and corporate attorneys work on bankruptcy and restructuring cases, which saw a massive increase. This trend is expected to continue throughout the year, particularly if the pandemic doesn't stop.
The survey also shows that lawyers are pessimistic about the future. As the economic downturn continues, job losses are expected to rise, even more, the number of cases will go down in the future. 51 percent of lawyers already said their income is down, and almost 65 percent expect a decrease in workload throughout the year. The new cases volume has also dropped significantly – 69% of cases have been stopped or delayed. What's more, 45 percent of lawyers expect to get fewer calls from prospective clients, especially because of the numerous court closures caused by the pandemic. The impact of the pandemic on the legal industry is expected to last for a few years, according to many respondents.
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