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Law firms also change in the functioning and structuring as most firms do. And it’s quite easier to neglect the change when the profits are up and running. Any amount of change in the industry then hardly matters. But such a change if coincides with a downturn and recession it’s hard to ignore and keep up the pace. Almost every recession has coincided with some significant change in the profession.
As we proceed to get our arms around the challenges of the basic functionality and financial viability of these unprecedented times, it’s never too early to begin to talk about the implications of COVID-19 on the legal institutes.
The impact can be traced out as both micro and macro. While the sort term or micro effects of the pandemic has been sudden and not so good on most law firms, it also paved the way to bring the best out of the individual attorneys and the legal practitioners to find new ways of getting connected with the people and keep the ball rolling to keep earnings alive.
Macro impacts, however, can be many and become a bit harder to predict with certainty. But some widely differentiated and potentially permanent inflection points may be possible to see, all of which might be affecting the legal industry.
Few macro impacts discussed as below-
Digital Transformation –
Remote work and distance learning have just been the tip of the iceberg. The pandemic turbocharged the virtual workforce and remote learning. There have had been a widespread industry deployment of underutilized technological tools, an urgency to alter status-quo, a must-do, adaptive mindset, and rapid adjustment to new operating procedures. Online courses that were long resisted by law schools are now appeasing tenured faculty, hiring more faculty, staff, and more fund raisers.
Online courts are the future of Justice. Few to some courts were already LIVE, in total with all information available online, and by year-end last year most courts were under the digital data grid. Judges (human) and not artificial intelligence will be the ones who would be deciding and giving the verdicts remotely. Though not in a physical room but via online argument. There are going to extended courts, self-help, a virtual form of the traditional court function whereby the parties provide a range of tools to promote understanding of rights and obligations.
Law Firms and Inhouse departments will be transformed –
Competition for talent and clients/customers will intensify in the post-Corona world. Elite legal expertise will be a premium and customers will decide the results. There will be more intense competition and an urge for the survival of the fittest will be seen in the industry. There will be more collaboration across the firms, corporate departments, and other providers. Going digital which once was a faraway concept for top management teams, will no longer hold good. The legal function will no longer be divided into law firms, corporate departments, and other supply chain providers. It will operate as a seamless integrated team drawn from multiple sources.
Legal Functions Will Change –
The transformation in the functionality of the legal industry and the legal function like many businesses is also evident. We will see a change in how the need for this business might enable legal obligations and exposures, and strategically align technology, systems, and processes to take care of simple things like finding and analyzing legal contracts quickly and efficiently. Rather than relying on the human capital for internal and external lawyers, the legal services will function on a strategically developed operating model for delivering their services. The functions will also heavily depend on the outsourced resources and solutions for many of their internal and external work, hence getting a pool of different businesses working together for the legal practitioners and their firms.
At the core, if a firm can develop and sustain this change, we could project a simplified and efficient business function that’ll help to support and drive customer engagement experience and the ability to drive revenue to the firm.
Economic Downturns –
It’s well natural to expect an economic downturn post COVID, but, the restructuring areas of practice and litigation will continue to do well despite this fact. However, what happens more due to a slowdown n is not a direct hit, rather seen variably. Some of them could be a decline in transactional practices, market difficulties, regulatory responses, stimulus programs, changes in employment, and other stressors that provide potential demand for legal services.
The impact is going to drastic on solo to small law firms if they are making less money and/or their costs are going up. It could be the case that a recession impacts if the clients are spending less on legal services, given the fact that the legal practitioners are putting pressure on fees.
If things are going bad, law firms may think of restructuring their departments, cutting down on costs, laying off staff, freezing wages, etc.
Bigger law firms, however, may not be impacted much with this, especially the ones who have an international presence or have set up in various states within a country.
What Can Lawyers do to keep up the pace?
For the actual practice of law, there is technology to let the business go on without too much disruption. Law firms have no choice but to accept the reality and embrace the technology that’s assisting the work to go on. That said, most law firms are turning towards, Cloud-based technology to get assistance for their work and their trusted tech pros take the necessary steps to keep their data secure.
One thing that can as well-considered is by accelerating a trend that was already underway.
We may emerge from the current crisis with an altogether transformed work environment that will permanently change how a legal framework is performed and delivered.
Law firms have so much to learn from other industries and the way they advancing post-COVID. Law is not solely about lawyers and clients anymore and the digital transformation, accelerated by COVID will transform it just as it has its customers. In a matter of weeks during the pandemic, legal education and service delivery rose its head and went on with great zeal and efforts too. The pandemic is levying tremendous pressure on courts too to act quickly and give away decisions quickest. There are still some senior legal professionals who are in the thought about these changes being temporary and that soon things may return to their old ways. But technology and new delivery are far more advanced than they were earlier and the potential of technology and its ability to support new models, processes, and paradigms are already on display. For all those who will upskill and adopt the new learning ways will find opportunity. Just as others who think and hope things will return to their old norms will become redundant.
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