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Law firm billing volume down in May, but new matters up – report

Caroline Spiezio  

Caroline Spiezio  

(Reuters) - The average U.S. law firm billed 27% less in May 2020 than in May 2019, the sector’s biggest year-over-year decrease in volume of work since the coronavirus pandemic in March sparked shutdowns nationwide, according to a report released Wednesday by legal tech company Clio.

But May and early June brought signs of recovery, too, according to the report. As of the first week of June, Clio said it saw a sharp spike in the creation of new matters, up more than 10% from the week before, the largest increase the company had seen since early March.
”I wouldn’t be surprised to see the new case creation in the coming months actually surpass pre-COVID-19 levels, as we see the dual effect of a backlog of cases starting to hit lawyers as well as all of the net new cases related to COVID-19,” Newton said.
Clio’s report draws on anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals who use its software for managing cases, client intake and billing, among other things, and from results of its surveys of hundreds of legal professionals in the U.S., it said.
The report found that the volume of law firm billing shrank not only in May but in April and March, too, though not by as much. In those earlier months, firms may have kept busy with matters that began before the pandemic, while May bore the brunt of a drop off in new matter creations in March, Newton said.
The easing of shutdowns could also help spur new cases, he said. In March, the pandemic led courts to shutter nationwide, drying up trial work. Some states, including New York, had temporarily halted the filing of new lawsuits.
New York lifted that measure statewide in May. By the first week of June, New York law firms saw a 34% increase in new matters from the week before, exceeding the national average, Clio said.

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