29th January 2021

What 2021 looks like for legal content writing

Anna Fozzard

We’re already a month in to 2021, and many of the challenges brought about by 2020 remain for law firms across the UK. With the beginning of the country’s life outside the EU, the continued economic and social fallout of COVID-19 and the ongoing disruption caused by technology, the industry is in flux. During times of change and uncertainty, precise and effective legal content writing is more important than ever.

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in how law firms are run thanks to digitalisation, changing working patterns and changing regulatory frameworks. 2021 is going to be a crucial year for law firms. And great legal content writing will be at the heart of it.

Here are a few factors to look out for:

Brexit

The UK government announced on Christmas Eve 2020 that it had reached an agreement with the EU on post-Brexit trade. While the announcement ended one chapter in a story that has come to define British politics in the four years since the referendum, many in the legal industry have expressed concerns about the deal. In January, British law firms need to adhere to the individual 27 member states’ rules for third parties. This not only adds complexity but will have an impact on everything from data transfers and IP rights to court jurisdiction and VAT invoicing. Websites will need to be updated, and service pages given a spruce to ensure they are accurate. Clients who may be affected will be looking for clarity and strategy, rather than technical evaluations of the new deal.

COVID-19

According to research by Clio, many lawyers have seen their casework mostly recover since the initial lockdown in March 2020. For many, however, monthly billings are still below 2019 levels. This could be due to several factors, particularly uncertainty among clients about whether to pursue legal matters in the current climate and continued disruption to the court system. This makes maximising the opportunities that are out there even more important. This includes nurturing clients currently holding off so that you are ready to go when they are ready and actively pursuing new opportunities. Well-targeted marketing campaigns and content that is useful or interesting to clients who are not currently active will help make sure you are the first law firm they think of when the time comes.

Alternative billing models

Law firms have mainly said goodbye to hour-by-hour billing models. Charging flat, fixed, capped, or blended fees are now more common for most progressive law firms. It’s often preferred by clients and can make it easier to manage your cash flow and profit margins. If you’ve adopted this newer form of billing and haven’t yet shouted about it, then do so – it will communicate that you’re a fair and straightforward firm with payment processes to match. Articles and marketing collateral explaining the various billing methods you use should do the trick, so get them in your legal content writing calendar now.

Technology

The pandemic has accelerated many of the trends that we saw with regards to technology usage. Last year, seemingly, everything went online instantly, and customers are likely to maintain many of the adaptations they have adopted. These changes will continue to shape their expectations of what level of service law firms should provide. 2021 is likely to be just as full of video calls and remote working as 2020; the main difference will be that firms will be expected to have ironed out all the kinks and put the right systems in place.

According to the Clio research, client portals provide law firms with a significant advantage in casework and revenue. This amounted to an average of 17% more work and an estimated £17,822 per lawyer in 2020. Technology is increasingly allowing law firms to meet their clients where they are and fit in around their lives. It has also been an essential part of ensuring business continuity throughout 2020 and will likely continue to be for at least the first half of 2021.

New players

Financial services is still an essential market for law firms. For the top 50 law firms, 43% of their workload over the past few years was in financial services. With such a high percentage, it’s little surprise that accounting firms like KPMG are taking advantage and offering their own brand of legal services. More key players mean more competition, so law firms need to stand out for more than just their heritage or desirable address.

Other new entrants are taking a more creative approach to stand out. It’s a smart move, given the rise of technology offering a straightforward answer. An imaginative digital legal content writing content strategy could help law firms looking to move away from the traditional approach and demonstrate their transition from old school to new.

Remote working

With most of the legal industry shifting to remote working in 2020, there has been an invigorated focus on offering a positive working environment. Many legal practices offer part-time hours, flexi-time and temporary leave, which improves the work/life balance for lots of lawyers. A significant portion of clients will likely want to keep video calls as an option post-pandemic. Working from home will continue to become a regular feature of life for lawyers. We’re seeing lots more online content focusing on helping lawyers’ wellbeing, which also supports the move towards a more human, less formal (but still professional) approach.

Level-up your legal content writing

Clear, consistent, and concise legal content writing is critical in the face of change. It’s reassuring for clients and can help establish you as a forward-thinking, emotionally connected firm. With over three decades of experience writing content for legal firms, we’re here to help elevate your communications.