What does the Dye & Durham Canadian Pulse Report mean for legal professionals?

Legal professionals across the country don’t just turn to Dye & Durham for the industry-leading practice management solutions that help them run their firms – they rely on us for the mission-critical information they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Providing information that can help them serve their customers with accuracy and efficiency is at the core of what we do.

That’s why we’ve launched the Dye & Durham Canadian Pulse Report – a new data-rich report designed to uncover trends and insights into the economy, technology, and the property market, three key areas that impact our customers and the customers that they serve. Each quarter, we’ll speak with 1,000+ Canadians from all corners of the country to hear directly about how timely developments in these three areas are impacting their lives, and what those sentiments may mean for the legal professionals that we support.

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Q3 2023 Report Highlights

Most Canadians have felt pinched by the current high-interest rate environment and have seen their purchasing power throttled over the past year. This has had a downstream impact on everything, from housing and retail to legal services, over the past 12 months. Specific highlights in our three areas of focus for Q3 include:

Economy: Concerns of a possible recession

Many Canadians are concerned about the state of the economy, with more than half anticipating that the country will enter a recession in the coming year and almost a third believing that Canada is already in a recession. Inflation has played a considerable role in this, as most Canadians say they’ve had to spend more on necessities like groceries, gas, and insurance while decreasing the amount they are able to put towards things like savings and charitable donations.

Technology: Growing comfort levels with AI

87% of Canadians say they’ve experimented with using generative AI tools like ChatGPT for business, personal, or both reasons. However, frequent adoption is significantly lower, with less than 10% saying they use AI weekly. While Canadians are beginning to get familiar with AI, some concern remains about skilled providers incorporating AI into their services. 60% of Canadians say that the idea of lawyers or notaries using AI to support or conduct their services makes them uncomfortable – second only to doctors and medical professionals (63 %). Even so, a better understanding of usage and benefits would significantly increase comfort levels as more than a quarter (27%) say they would be more comfortable if their lawyer/notary could guarantee that using AI would lead to better outcomes or greater accuracy. Nearly as many say they’d be more comfortable if it significantly reduced costs (26%) or was used to improve the performance of the legal professional without replacing them outright (25%).

Real Estate: Positive signs for brighter days ahead

High interest rates have significantly impacted the Canadian real estate market over the past year, but this could change in the next 12 months. While many continue to wait until purchase prices, interest rates or both drop, 10% of respondents say they expect to sell their primary residence and purchase a new one in the next year – double the number that said they did so in the past twelve months. Nearly twice as many respondents plan to purchase their first home next year (8%), compared to 4% in the past 12 months. Additionally, more people are planning to buy an investment or income property or a secondary or vacation property (8%) compared to the past year (5%).

 

Seven Key Insights for Legal Professionals

 

 

As rates begin to hold – and eventually decline – there should be a significant upswing in real estate transactions, business originations and other areas. Law firms can take strategic practice management steps to weather the current climate and position themselves for growth. Some of such strategies include:

  1. Take stock: Use this period to take stock of your business and conduct a thorough financial analysis. Understand your current assets, liabilities, cash flow, overhead costs, and client payment patterns. Gaining an accurate picture of your business position helps you make informed decisions in the now and plan adequately for the future.
  2. Optimize spending and maximize efficiency: Carefully manage overhead costs by identifying areas where you can cut costs without compromising the quality of your legal services. Evaluate office space needs, renegotiate leases, and consider remote work options to reduce expenses. Conduct an audit of the various technologies you use each day and see if consolidating with a few vendors and bundling services can help to lower monthly license costs.
  3. Diversify your practice: A slow real estate market can adversely impact law firms whose major mainstay is property law. Consider diversifying your practice to include areas of law that may be more ‘recession-proof’, such as wills and estate services, and tax law.
  4. Invest in Technology: Canadian legal professionals continue to realize the enormous potential for technology to provide cost, efficiency, and accuracy benefits to the legal industry. Assess your solutions regularly and utilize them to their maximum potential. If you are yet to do so, invest in legal technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This may include practice management software, document automation, and video conferencing tools for virtual consultations. Dye & Durham’s Unity® Global platform gives legal professionals everything they need to manage their practices, including client onboarding, conveyancing workflows, firm and trust accounting, due diligence searches, wills, cloud-based legal document storage and more – all from a single destination.
  5. Keep your clients happy: Clients are the heart of any business. Focus on retaining existing clients by providing exceptional service and value. Consider doing the following:
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    • Flexible Payment Plans: Offer flexible payment plans to clients facing financial difficulties. Doing this can help maintain cash flow while assisting clients in distress, thereby increasing customer loyalty.
    • Clear Communication: The modern-day consumer values transparency in their dealings. Communicating regularly to address legal needs and concerns reduces friction and strengthens client relationships.
    • Client Education: Our survey revealed that a better understanding of the usage and benefits of new technology like AI would significantly increase Canadians’ comfort levels with skilled providers incorporating AI into their services. Educating your clients on how you deploy AI in your firm and how it will improve the services they receive is crucial and beneficial.
  6. Continuing Legal Education: Speaking of education, encourage your teams to invest in continuous professional development. Expanding your firm’s expertise can open up new opportunities that can lead to new revenue.
  7. Monitor Legislation and Regulatory Changes: Stay informed about changes in laws and regulations related to your practice areas, as these may be affected by economic downturns. Take advantage of industry publications like the Dye & Durham Docket to stay abreast of happenings in the legal industry worldwide.

Navigating a slow economy can be challenging for businesses, including law firms. However, by positioning properly and adopting meaningful strategies, legal professionals can survive and ultimately thrive on the other side.

 

About the Survey
Conducted quarterly, the Dye & Durham Canadian Pulse Report is designed to uncover trends and insights into Canadian sentiment surrounding three key areas: the economy, technology, and the property market. The findings of the report are the result of a survey conducted by Dye & Durham from August 16-18, 2023, among a nationally representative sample of n=1,001 who are members of the online Angus Reid Forum, balanced and weighted on age, gender, region and education. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The survey was offered in both English and French.

Read the full report here.

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