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According to the LexisNexis Bellwether Report 2020, the impact of COVID-19 on the confidence levels of law firms has been minimal. Six months into the pandemic, 8 out of 10 firms questioned stated that they were either 'very' or 'quite' confident in their business outlook, which is slightly higher than at the outset of the first lockdown. However, confidence has taken a knock compared to 2019 when 91% of firms were confident in their outlook.
The first Bellwether report, conducted just a few weeks into the first lockdown, revealed that 37% of firms believed their practice was growing compared to 3-4 years ago. This figure had increased to 42% by the time of the second report which was conducted 6 months later. Although this is a marginal difference, it indicates that growth has recovered slightly during the turbulent year.
But despite a significant number of firms proclaiming confidence and growth in their business, a similarly significant number (42%) also believe that the impact of COVID-19 poses a critical threat to their practice, albeit one which can be mitigated with an effective response. 5% are even concerned that they might have to shut their doors for good as a result of the devastating blow of the pandemic to their firms, although this figure has halved since the first report was conducted.
There are also differences in perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 on the legal market as a whole, with 43% of firms expecting decreased demand in the short term compared to 24% who believe that there will actually be growth instead. One explanation for the radically different perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 may be that different areas of legal work are being affected in different ways, as evident from the following two quotes which were obtained as part of the research:
“We deal almost exclusively in family and children law our workload has grown exponentially over the period of the pandemic.”
“A large chunk of our business comes from property. While we are experiencing a post-lockdown boom at the moment, this is unlikely to last. If we return to a 2008 situation, we will have to make some difficult decisions.”
LexisNexis has published a blog looking at the impact of COVID-19 on some of the different practice areas.
At the time of the first report, 63% of firms said that the impact of COVID-19 was one of their three biggest challenges. This figure has now dropped to 49%, below attracting new business (52%) and just above continuing demands of compliance (48%). So although crisis management relating to the pandemic is still one of the top three concerns for law firms, it is more in line with other top worries. Just under half of firms cite political and economic uncertainty due to Brexit as a significant concern.
Click here for more information about the Bellwether Report 2020 (COVID-19: The next chapter) and to download the full report.
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Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"
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