With the summer holidays for many Australian legal professionals coming to an end in recent weeks, workflows are starting to creep back to normal levels. 2015 was certainly a busy year for many and by all expectations, this year is going to more of the same.
The Australian legal industry is a key part of the national economy which makes employee engagement, productivity and other factors vital. If legal professionals can apply their skills, knowledge and abilities in the right environment, there is no doubt that firms, clients and wider society benefits as a result.
With this in mind, what are the likely workload trends for Australian lawyers in 2016 and how can technology play a key role in this?
A rise in recruitment
With stress and workloads a consistent issue in the legal community, it is positive to report that many employers are planning on increasing head counts in 2016. According to the Hudson Report: Forward Focus 2016, 51 per cent of legal employers are keen to hire new talent – reducing burnout among their current teams.
The legal industry topped this report, ahead of other industries such as human resources (37 per cent) and financial services (36 per cent).
Hudson's Australia and New Zealand Executive General Manager Dean Davidson, explained that this means that the legal industry is growing and looking to improve employee relations.
"Some of this hiring will be the result of pent-up demand, as many organisations have tried to make do with less for as long as possible," he said.
"While the main reason companies are adding headcount is to grow [50 per cent] , almost a third [30 per cent] are addressing an increased workload."
Of course, with the number of Australian legal firms growing over recent times, lawyers have much more scope to choose where they work. As such, partners must think harder about ways to retain key members of their workforce.
With more lawyers employed, this can only be a positive change for the industry in 2016.
A rise in various areas of practice
While demand for legal services is growing across the board, there are certainly areas of practice increasing faster than others. As such, workloads for some professionals may increase in 2016, but for others demand may decrease.
Taking statistics from The Solicitors of New South Wales in 2015, the report indicates rising or falling trends against a 2004 PC survey result. According to the figures, services in commercial law (31.2 per cent), wills and estates (20.4 per cent), family law (15.8 per cent), industrial relations law (8.9 per cent), administrative law (5.3 per cent) and immigration law (2.5 per cent) are all rising.
Conversely, areas such as personal injury, corporations law, small business law, banking/finance and advocacy have declined in recent years. It is important that these statistics only apply to NSW legal firms, but they do present an interesting perspective on where the industry in heading moving forward.
A rise in cyber security issues
The legal industry is not immune to cyber security threats that continue to rock almost every other sector. In fact, this was illustrated in the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Foundation's ACC Foundation: The State of Cybersecurity Report.
This insight revealed that 47 per cent of in-house counsel had experienced some form of data breach over either 2014 or 2015. In fact, the main cause of these incidents was blamed on preventable internal factors.
ACC Vice President and Managing Director Tanya Khan explained this in more detail.
"The report shows that thirty-six percent of in-house counsel within Australia have experienced a data breach at either their current or former company," she said.
"Unfortunately, no sector or region is immune. The findings indicate that general counsel expect cyber security risk to only increase in the upcoming year."
Any form of cyber breach can impact negatively on the workload of lawyers. Consequences include loss of client information, case notes or a lack of access to important data. As such, legal businesses are urged to work harder on securing their systems or adopting innovative solutions.
"With such high incident rates it is important for organisations to engage their legal department early, as doing so can ensure the team plays an active role in cyber security strategy, risk assessment and prevention," Ms Khan continued.
A rise in productivity software
If your legal firm is looking for an innovative technology to improve workloads and decrease stress in 2016, there is no getting past Dragon Legal 13. This is the latest in speech recognition software allows professionals to use their voice to both control their computers and create powerful legal documents.
This piece of software has a 99 per cent accuracy record and supports a massive vocabulary of legal terms to save time when producing important paperwork. Start 2016 on the right note with technology that can save time, money and ensure your team can complete tasks up to the highest standard.
For more information on the legal industry and how our technology can assist your firm, contact our expert team today.