New 2023 Midsize Law Firm Priorities Report: Highlights for Law Firms

Trends and Highlights from the 2023 Midsize Law Firm Priorities Report

Today, Actionstep released the results of the new 2023 Midsize Law Firm Priorities Report. For this inaugural edition of the report, we surveyed professionals (both legal and administrative staff) from midsize law firms around the United States to find out their priorities, challenges, goals, and opportunities heading into 2023.

You can check out the deep dive into the data in the full report here, but several key trendsemerged throughout all our findings and analysis. Read on to learn these highlights and how they can inform your law firm’s strategy this year.

1. Revenue is top of mind.

Planning for 2023 brings new challenges for midsize law firms in the US, with rising inflation rates and the threat of a recession. Law firms need to make many important business decisions, but this research finds that there is a clear top priority for 2023: revenue. Nearly half (47%) of respondents named “growing revenue or identifying new revenue streams as their top business priority this year.

The last few years have brought a new level of unpredictability to businesses, so the focus on revenue and managing business costs makes sense. Law firms have also been affected by the Great Resignation, and many have been forced to operate their business with inadequate employee staffing, as we can see in the #3 priority, recruiting and retaining talent.

2. Legal professionals enjoy solving problems, dislike time-consuming admin tasks.

When we asked what law firm professionals specifically liked most about their work, over half (55%) reported that they like knowing that they are helping people solve problems. On the list of things that law firm employees dislike, admin tasks top the list, with 38% of professionals reporting that they dislike admin work that takes time away from more skilled work.

How can you help your team focus on what they enjoy most about their work? Start by thinking about processes where automation could help reduce repetitive admin tasks. Additionally, stay up to date with your team’s feedback and needs. If your tools and processes aren’t keeping up with your employees’ needs, it’s time to replace or update them.

3. 72% of legal professionals report stress, burnout, or being overwhelmed.

While almost all legal professionals reported that they enjoy aspects of their work, stress is still an issue. Almost three-quarters (72%) of legal professionals report that they have experienced stress, felt burnout, or been overwhelmed by work in the past year.

The specific causes of stress among law firm employees vary, but legal professionals in our study cite understaffing or lack of resources (44%) as the top factor contributing to their stress at work in the past year, followed closely by demand or pressure from clients (42%).

4. Remote work options can help alleviate stress.

It’s clear that stress continues to be a major concern for law firms. One very interesting finding from our data suggests remote work may have a positive impact on stress levels. This survey included employees who never worked from home to some who only worked from home, and everything in between. Overall, about half worked remotely more than a quarter of the time, and this group of employees was far less likely to report experiencing stress, burnout, or being overwhelmed in the past year (64% vs. 82%) than reported by employees who rarely work remotely.

Does your law firm support remote or hybrid work options for employees? It appears that it could be a solution for reducing stress, but it’s important to set your team up for success. Start by making sure goals, roles, and tasks are clearly defined. Second, make sure your staff has the cloud-based tools they need to collaborate effectively no matter where they are.

5. 92% of law firm professionals are feeling the squeeze from understaffing and under-resourcing.

Issues with being understaffed or lacking resources have been particularly difficult for midsize law firms to address during recent tight labor markets. Hiring new employees isn’t always an option, and getting new staff up-to-speed with a firm’s systems and processes can take a long time, leaving other staff to pick up the slack and take on extra work.

Midsize law firm professionals have felt the effects. The majority (92%) say their firm has been affected by a lack of staff or resources in the past year, which aligns with our findings on stress. Almost two-thirds report they have needed individuals to cover multiple roles, and a similar number report that errors or tasks have fallen through the cracks.

How can firms deal with this extra pressure? The problem is complex, but technology can help law firms do more with less. Check out our article “How Legaltech Can Help Law Firms Navigate the Current Labor Shortage” to learn more.

6. Legal staff and administrative support roles respond differently.

Legal staff (lawyers and paralegals) and administrative support roles (practice managers, administrators, IT, finance, operations, and other support functions) are both crucial at a law firm, but they require different skills, and, understandably, they have different needs at work. To gain better insight into these distinctions, the report highlights questions where we saw the most differentiation.

One question that showed interesting dissonance between the two groups was “What factors contributed to your stress in the past year?” See the results here:

Legal staff are much more likely to say they are affected by understaffing or lack of resources and demand or pressure from clients than administrative support roles. Conversely, administrative roles are more likely to say they are stressed by team or firm culture issues, not having clear processes in place to follow, and a lack of support from leadership. Ultimately, these insights can help your firm ensure you’re appropriately addressing the needs of legal and administrative support staff—rather than taking a “one size fits all” approach.

7. Technology is helping law firms adapt to challenges.

Law firms must have an effective way to communicate, store, and share confidential information with clients, and inadequate technology can have a huge impact on the client experience. This graph shows how respondents perceive tech’s importance to specific aspects of their work:

It’s clear that tech has an impact on almost every facet of legal work, from profitability to client satisfaction. Your law firm’s ability to grow is critical to your long-term success, and as our research revealed, technology is a key piece of that puzzle. As the legal industry continues to change and find a new equilibrium, technology should enable you to innovate and create the business model you want. The full report outlines in greater detail the ways firms are using and investing in technology, including the tools they utilize most and features they value most.

Get the Full Report

These are just a few of the insights and findings from the new report. To see all the data in depth, download your free copy of the report here

Additionally, you can watch our free webinar covering key takeaways here

Written by Actionstep