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Midsize Law Firm Priorities - A Report with Answers and Opportunities

Early StephensMidsize law firms often operate in an environment with unique business challenges and conditions, including expectations to provide the same high standards of client service that larger firms provide, but with fewer resources and investment dollars. Interestingly enough, these -specific challenges, business priorities, and trends of midsize firms have, to date, not been widely captured in reports and surveys. Search for large firm reports and you can easily turn to ALM, ILTA, Bloomberg, or Thomson Reuters for intelligence, and the ABA Law Practice Division thoroughly analyses solo and small firms. With this information gap in mind, earlier this year, we at Actionstep produced the inaugural 2023 Midsize Law Firm Priorities Report (“Report”), determined to better understand the factors that matter most to midsize firms, including broader business priorities, resource challenges, stress factors and mental health, overall work satisfaction, and the use of technology.

Our survey included responses from more than 240 legal professionals who work at midsize law firms, including legal staff -- lawyers and paralegals -- as well as administrative support, including practice managers, firm administrators, IT, finance, operations, HR, and other support functions. 


While the comprehensive 25-page report presents an intriguing read, there are select findings that stood out and are worth discussing:

  • Revenue growth, cost management, and talent are top law firm priorities: 47% of respondents say growing revenue or identifying new revenue streams is the firm’s top business priority, followed by 35% who identified “managing the cost of doing business” and “recruiting and retaining talent” as a main focus.
  • Stress continues to plague law firms: 72% report feeling stress, burnout, or being overwhelmed in the past year, with understaffing topping the list of stress factors. 92% say that in the past year their firm has been impacted by staffing or resources issues. Legal professionals in the study cite understaffing or lack of resources (44%) as the top factor contributing to their stress at work in the past year, followed closely by demand or pressure from clients (42%).
  • Legal staff and administrative support roles have different stress ‘triggers’: Legal staff report more stress because of understaffing and client demands while admin roles are more likely to report stress from team or culture issues and lack of support from leadership. 
  • Technology can help law firms adapt: 91% agree great technology is critical for client satisfaction, while 97% report additional online workflow and collaboration capabilities would benefit their clients. 

Let’s dive in further on the role of technology. It’s clear that tech has an impact on almost every facet of legal work, from profitability to client satisfaction. This holds true independent of firm size or legal department structure. For midsize firms in particular, the ability to grow, with the assistance of the right legal tech, is critical to long-term success. 

Key report takeaways linked to “the role of technology” include:

  • Evaluate your tech ecosystem: 37% of surveyed law firm professionals reported that “entering data in multiple systems” is the non-billable task they spend the most time on. Along with lost time, disjointed systems can lead to lost or misinterpreted data, redundant work, and reliance on the wrong information. Choosing a primary cloud-based ecosystem as the center of operations and reducing or integrating disparate or siloed applications so data is shared across systems will create a more complete, easily accessible technology platform. As a tech user, evaluate existing systems for new productivity gains. Many firms underutilize the capabilities of their current systems and a renewed focus on application training and sharing best practices can go a long way in renewing user “tech enthusiasm.”
  • Automate the workflow: More than nine out of 10 survey respondents said their firm has been affected by a lack of staff or resources in the past year, so the ability to work more efficiently and collaboratively is paramount. Automation can help reduce time, workloads, and streamline workflows. Professional and admin staff can gain back time and work/life balance by automating tasks such as document creation, query routing, calendaring, invoicing, matter management, and more.
  • Support flexibility for teams and clients: Report data suggests remote work may have a positive impact on stress levels among law firm employees. When configuring a remote or hybrid law firm environment, make sure there’s alignment around goals, roles, and tasks, and that these are supported by cloud-based tools that enable collaboration and increase productivity when teams are not in the office. 

Initial Report feedback and engagement has reaffirmed our notion that a survey data gap for the midsize law firm market not only exists but warrants more review and analysis. We look forward to producing the next edition in 2024 where we can follow trends and changes over time and welcome any feedback or new data you’d like to see. Please feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

As Actionstep’s Global CEO, Early Stephens is focused on accelerating the cloud-based legal practice management company’s global go-to-market strategy, with an emphasis on the US market. Early has a strong track record as CEO of fast-growing private equity backed companies, most recently Infogix, a leading data intelligence platform for Fortune 1000 companies. Early’s leadership experience across sales, product, and corporate development positions him well as he leads Actionstep through the next phase of planned growth.

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