Did COVID affect your law firm business

The survey closed on the 31st May 2022. We have three lucky winners of the Nespesso Coffee machines and we realise again that attorneys hate surveys 😉

The three lucky winners are:

  • Michelle van Zyl of Louw & Coetzee in Cape Town
  • Metta Boswell of Barry Botha and Breytenbach Incorporated in Port Shepstone
  • Jacques Haynes of Bailey Haynes Incorporated in Cape Town.

Congratulations, your Nespresso machines are on their way to you.

Our survey was completed by 308 attorneys and paralegals from South African law firms, over a period of 10 weeks. It was promoted on Tech4Law website and emailed to our 15000 subscribers a number of times (apologies if we overdid the request). I seem to forget how shocking the responses are each time we do a survey, and I vow to never do them again – but alas, the memory is short! 😉

Enough whining…there are many good indicators that came from the survey and in the following weeks, we will unbundle them and share what we find so that you can manage your law firm better.

Most Important Question in the Survey

What was the impact of COVID on your law firm?

  • Significantly Down – 12.75%
  • Noticeable Down – 32.75%
  • Slightly Down – 27.83%
  • No Change – 15.65%
  • Business is Better – 11.02%.

In hindsight – we should have phrased the question better – it should have read – “How was the nett profit of your law firm affected over the last couple of years since COVID joined?”. Because we all assumed the question was focused on revenue.

If we look at nett profit, we might see a more positive response to the question, as I imagine that staff left that were not replaced, law firms dumped office space, negotiated more affordable rentals, consolidated branches, jumped into the cloud and did not replace on-site servers etc. So, although we see that revenue dropped for most firms, maybe the result was not as bad as most made out in the survey. But let us stick to the facts of the survey.

Business is Better 11%

I would imagine that certain aspects of law performed better than others, and that those firms that specialised in these segments had more business coming their way. This is definitely a good indicator for us to research further and report on it. Everyone wants to know how to attract more and better business!

None – 16%

I know this sounds a little cliché – but no change to your law firm business in the last 2 years, is a positive thing, most businesses have taken a severe blow. As it is indicated above – 74% of firms are worse off. 

Worse off – 73%

The percentage of damage varies, but end message is that most law firms have been negatively affected by COVID. We need a deep dive on this segment to find out what happened, other than just COVID. For example, if they were better prepared for remote working, would the drop in revenue have been as bad?

Relationship of Office Only working environment vs Law Firm Health with COVID

We isolated the “Office Only” working environment and then looked at each of the “Law Firm Business Health with COVID”. 

What we see in the graph below (less or better) – from the law firms that boosted their business since COVID, only 19% have an “Office Only” environment.

Business performance Office Only Percentage

The “No Change” to “Significantly Down” all have a much higher number of firms with the “Office Only” working arrangement.

Maybe the freedom and flexibility of working remotely motivates the fee earners. 

Observations on law firm health over the last 2 years of COVID

  1. 73% of law firms are worse off than they were before COVID.
  2. Only 19% of law firms who have grown their business since COVID, operate in an Office Only working environment.


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