Looking Ahead: How is the Legal Industry Evolving?

By January 27, 2023

According to Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine Founders Alan Kluger and Abbey Kaplan, some of the biggest changes that the legal industry has seen revolve around new legal technology and remote court proceedings, which they expect to continue in 2023. Given the current volatile state of the economy, Kluger and Kaplan also anticipate new business opportunities and growth in key practice areas, including in commercial and real estate litigation.

In the following Q&A, Kluger and Kaplan discuss how the legal industry is evolving and the business of law and litigation trends that they anticipate in the year ahead:

What kind of technology trends are you seeing in the industry?

Kluger: Over the past year, we have seen many new companies create legal technology for court processes and admin-related tasks, with the idea that this technology should provide more efficiency for lawyers. We don’t need to hire more people to do it, and it allows our IT staff to be able to better support our clients’ needs and litigation much more efficiently. As a result, we’re looking at some phenomenal products out there.

For example, before the pandemic, if you wanted to serve subpoenas in another state, you would have to get on the phone with a secretary and find out the serve process in that place. It was a really old school way of doing it. Now, there’s new companies that help make the process much simpler. You go to their website and tell them you want to serve someone, provide an address, and the whole process is done electronically.

I also use to be a paper guy. I had to have everything printed and put in binders, but today, I carry five flash drives with me instead. Everything is done electronically, except when you have to be in court. I just had a five-day trial where we displayed everything electronically and everyone had their own screens. I think people have become accustomed to that and it makes it more fun to try a case that way.

Do you think court proceedings will continue remotely?

Kluger: Yes, I think that most judges understand that appearances for short motion calendars can be done remotely on Zoom and they appreciate it. Before, if I had a hearing in Palm Beach County, I would drive there and be in court for 20 minutes then turn right around. Now, I’m sitting in my office on my laptop, and I have three hearings before noon – one in Miami, Palm Beach, and New York City – and I can stay in the same place. It’s much more efficient.

Kaplan: Most of the judges that I’ve spoken to in both the state and federal court systems are even conducting evidentiary hearings, sanction motions, or attorney fee awards remotely. The judges would much prefer doing it that way because eye contact isn’t necessary – it’s not the same as being in front of a jury. So, my prediction is that those remote proceedings are here to stay.

Additionally, over the past year, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of alternative dispute resolutions taking place virtually. We thought that this would stop once the courts opened, but it hasn’t. In fact, virtual mediations avoid the harm that can come with angry adversaries sitting in the same room, provide more flexibility with scheduling, and allow parties to multitask far better than before. I believe that resolving matters through alternative dispute resolution over Zoom will remain a trend as a result of the efficiency that we have seen.

As more law firms transition to a remote or hybrid work environment, what changes have you seen on the mentorship front, especially with younger associates?

Kaplan: Since 2020, it’s been an easy transition to continue mentoring remotely. The mentoring process is no longer face-to-face on a daily basis, but younger lawyers seem to be getting more mentoring and coaching experiences notwithstanding the fact that we were separated for so long. Zoom and other video platforms have helped them learn with hands-on experience, even while working from home a few days a week.

What has been the biggest impact on Miami’s legal market as more Big Law firms open offices in South Florida?

Kluger: When Big Law firms start to build offices here, they hire litigation firms, file more lawsuits here, etc. – and the pandemic has just accelerated that. As one of the premium litigation shops in South Florida, we get looked at in almost every case, so we have seen a lot more work coming out of Big Law firms expanding here.

Kaplan: Also, with more Big Law announcing layoffs, and Kluger Kaplan looking to grow, we hope that the pool of potential hires is expanding. Kluger Kaplan recently hired two new lawyers and we are looking to hire more in the coming months. We anticipate being up to 40 lawyers by the end of 2024.

Looking ahead, which practice areas do you expect to see an uptick in this year?

Kluger: We see that when there is an economic downturn, people are more likely to seek alternative dispute resolution or immediate litigation. Right now, the economy is being shaken up a bit and some of the marginal players are being tested, which history has been an indicator of increased big case litigation. There are real estate developers that are paying five to six percent interest on the same loan, but they’re starting to face problems with interest rates rising and a downturn in the economy. When they start to have problems, they end up in litigation.

Kaplan: I think there’s going to be an uptick in partnership disputes too. During an economic downturn, people stop making the money they thought they were going to make, and they always want to blame someone else. This is what happened in ‘08, which could happen again where equity partners are going to fight and lead to more business litigation.