By Jose Calvo • October 27, 2020•Issues, Other Issues
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every industry. The legal sector is no different. However, with all of the negative aspects of the virus there are many benefits to the changing digital landscape. Some are optimistic and others are frightened about the changes. One thing is for sure, the legal practices are evolving, offering opportunities for innovation. According to a new study from LexisNexis, 64 percent of independent law firms are confident that they will survive the crisis. While many lawyers are worried about the industry, it is an opportunity for law firms to employ to new technologies and provide safe legal practices to the public.
Changes to Legal Practices
With the pandemic making in-person hearings more dangerous, many court proceedings have gone online to avoid the spread of the virus. The measures surrounding COVID-19 have forced lawyers to speed up the transition to more technological landscape. This is positive in many ways since a lot of these changes were long overdue. Now lawyers are having their clients sign documents electronically and holding virtual court hearings that don’t have to be held in person. According to McGinley Solicitors, many of the proceedings before of the pandemic were going to be changed anyways—the virus is an opportunity to embrace legal innovations.
Opportunities to Innovate
With the changes there are a lot of innovations being presented. 71 percent of firms see COVID-19 as a unique opportunity for innovation. There has been extensive research to explore the operational response that has led to new ways of working, including the well-being of the people. By exploring the commercial implications of businesses, they need to learn how to plan and survive the pandemic. At the beginning of lockdowns, law firms were able to move 75 percent of their staff home to avoid spreading the virus within weeks. The transition has been smooth, despite that around a third of respondents claimed that they didn’t have a laptop prior to lockdowns.
It isn’t just working from home that has been affected by the pandemic. Lawyers are taking depositions, sending and receiving documents, as well as attending virtual hearings. Much of the daily work can be done virtually or digitally, with many opportunities to make the work more efficient and effective. For example, 80 percent of London’s High Court hearings are taking place over the internet. Even before the pandemic, courts in Singapore allowed lawyers to make applications with a video. There are plenty of ways that the legal sector is changing the way it does business around the world, for better or worse.
Challenges in the Pandemic
It isn’t only positives when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also some drawbacks. One point of contention is that holding an entire trial online makes evidence even more sensitive than it already it is. Many people think that it is crucial for a judge to observe witnesses and evidence in the courtroom, which could have an impact on the decisions of the court.
Another problem that is popping up with court proceedings in the pandemic is that older people will have a more difficult time converting to the technological present. Older solicitors are more likely to struggle with technology compared to younger people, which has made it difficult for older lawyers and firms.
61 percent of people over the age of 45 experience difficulties adapting to new technologies when they’re working from home. This is compared to 34 percent of under 45. 26 percent of respondents to a new study from LexisNexis said that mental health and well-being to be a significant problem at work. This is compared to 90 percent in 2019. Almost half of people responded that they have seen a greater focus on mental health during COVID-19. While younger people feel more isolated, half of them wanted to retain some form of working from home after the pandemic.
There are significant challenges ahead, with many opportunities to innovate not just the legal sector but the whole world. COVID-19 is changing a lot of things, but the changes aren’t all drawbacks. Law and other fields are being forced to progress and alter the way they do things. We need to innovate everything to determine what we need to change and how we can become a better, more efficient world.