Legal Work Has Plummeted And Lawyers Are Stressed

By Aebra Coe
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Law360 (May 4, 2020, 5:22 PM EDT) -- The number of new legal matters has fallen significantly during the first four months of 2020 compared to the previous year as the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic, and many lawyers are now anxious about the success of their practices, research released Monday shows.

The number of new legal matters that have been opened since the beginning of the year is down 30% when compared to the same time period last year, according to the report by practice management software company Clio.

Clio aggregated anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals who use its software, and surveyed 485 U.S. legal professionals directly between April 3 and April 9.

Of those surveyed, 56% said they have seen a significant decrease in people reaching out to them for legal help, and 59% said they are significantly less busy at work, according to the report.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting shortage of work has lawyers worried and anxious, the report also found.

A little more than two-thirds of the survey respondents said they are "much more worried" about the success of their law practice than they were before the pandemic hit, and 57% said they are worried about making a living over the next few months.

Forty-four percent of the legal professionals surveyed said they are more concerned about their financial future than they are about their health, compared to just 24% of the general population who responded to the same question in a separate survey by Clio of just over 1,000 consumers.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a full three-fourths of legal professionals said they are experiencing more stress and anxiety than they were before the pandemic, compared to 65% of the general population.

But despite those figures, some respondents reported a less dire outlook on their careers.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents, 23%, said they did not see a decline in the number of people reaching out to them about new matters, and 14% reported seeing an increase in people seeking their help.

The survey of consumers revealed that many are continuing to have the same legal issues as before, but are holding off on getting them addressed until after the pandemic subsides. Half of respondents said that if they had a legal issue they would delay reaching out for legal help until after the pandemic has subsided, and 22% said they were under the impression lawyers are not open for business right now.

"We've seen no indication that the need for legal services has subsided during the pandemic, but for many people, dealing with them right now isn't top of mind," Clio CEO Jack Newton said. "Law firms concerned about cash flow should be focused on understanding what barriers currently exist for clients, and be sure they are prepared to adapt their services to current and future needs of clients."

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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