Productivity Climbs to Record Numbers as Lawyers Work and Bill More

Legal professionals are 75% more productive than in 2016 while billing more hours.

Productivity Climbs to Record Numbers as Lawyers Work and Bill More

According to Clio’s 2023 Legal Trends Report, the legal industry is witnessing a transformative change, with lawyers working and billing more. This report, now in its eighth year, provides an in-depth examination into the state of legal practice.

In nearly a decade of tracking trends across the legal sector, Clio reports record productivity this year. More legal professionals are leveraging technology to significantly impact their performance. On average, lawyers are billing more hours for every case they take on. Over the same period of time, the number of hours billed to clients was up by an average of 28% compared to 2019, and average collected revenue was up by 31%. This means that every hour of legal work has become more valuable to firms overall.

“What are you doing when you are not billing? Forty-eight percent is on administrative tasks, like generating and sending billing, handling collections, and maintaining office technology. Another third is spent on business development,” said Joshua Lenon Lawyer in Residence and Data Protection Officer at Clio.

Challenges Ahead

Despite these positive trends, law firms face a confluence of factors that look to make 2023 a challenging year. Global trends in inflation and rising interest rates could result in increased expenditures and potential slowdowns throughout the year. Inflation rates have reached their highest levels in decades, putting firms in the tough position of trying to do more with less.

The Power of Levers

The 2023 Legal Trends Report also explores the power of levers—mechanisms that can amplify firms’ efforts. When used strategically in the practice of law, certain business levers can transform a firm’s operations to make them incredibly more efficient and productive. 

One such lever gaining traction in the legal industry is generative artificial intelligence (AI), which has the potential to reimagine so many facets of everyday business operations.

Solo Lawyers at the Forefront

Solo lawyers remain at the forefront of innovation in providing legal services, with high legal technology adoption rates and built-in agency to shift their services to meet the needs of the public.

Law Firm Rates in 2023

Law firm rates are a strong driver of profitability. For most of the past decade, growth in hourly rates for attorney time has been one of the key drivers of subsequent growth in law firm profitability. 

In fact, 2023 has seen record-setting growth in attorney rates, surpassing even the days of the seller’s market for legal services that existed prior to the credit crisis of the late 2000s.

The Impact of Inflation

The Clio Legal Trends Report analyzed lawyer and non-lawyer rates throughout the U.S., showing that rates charged by law firms have increased at a slower pace relative to the consumer price index. In other words, inflation is outpacing rate increases.

The legal industry is evolving rapidly. With advancements in technology and new systems, law firms find themselves at the cusp of rapid change. The key to navigating this change lies in leveraging technology and strategic business levers. As we move forward into 2024 and beyond, these trends will continue to significantly reshape the landscape of the legal industry.

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