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This is the third year for Clio, a leading cloud-based legal practice management software firm, to publish its annual Legal Trends Report; the 2018 version was just released on Friday. The first two years of reporting focused on what goes on inside a law firm; this year’s report takes a look at what consumers consider before and after they hire an attorney.

Clio gathers data from its platform of nearly 70,000 legal professionals. That data is aggregated and made anonymous. In addition to that hard data, Clio surveyed 2,000 legal professionals (both users and non-users of its products) as well as 1,340 consumers who had either hired an attorney or dealt with a legal issue themselves in the past two years.

Inside the law firm

What is probably one of the most interesting things about the Legal Trends Report are its contradictions, which speaks to the lack of strategic business planning.

For example, 84% of legal professionals say that the #1 success factor for their law firm is revenue growth. However, when it comes to the two things that would contribute the most to growing the firm’s revenue — find new clients and billing more hours — these were at the bottom of their list:

What drives revenue growth is client work, whether you bill by the hour or offer alternative fee arrangements like flat fee billing. The billing data from 70,000 legal professionals on the Clio platform shows just how much attorneys are struggling to dedicate their time to billable work:

So what are legal professionals spending their time on? Primarily administrative tasks and business development, for both lawyers and non-lawyers:

This data clearly shows the critical importance of efficiency to growing law firm revenue. Inefficiency is not something you “work your way out of” — it compounds daily, monthly, and yearly to erode revenue.

The average attorney already works more hours than he or she wants to — an average of 50 hours per week. It is clear that finding ways to streamline non-revenue generating tasks can make attorneys more productive and the firm more profitable.

In my next post, I’ll reveal what the Legal Trends Report discovered about understanding the wants and needs of the legal consumer.