Q:

Will the changes to the delivery of legal services brought on by the lockdown become established working practices?

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Isabelle Gulliver
The Senate
23 Apr 2020

A: SenseCheck

  • 2 Yes
  • 3 Unclear
  • 0 No
SenseCheck complexity

Newest Answer Oldest Answer

  • 13 May 2020
  • Unclear

    Complex

    This issue is too new - watch this space.: I have to say unclear because I think that for older workers the habits run deep. For younger workers however, I think this is a permanent change.

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    Rachel Amos
    The Senate

  • Comment

  • 07 May 2020
  • Unclear

    Complex

    This issue is too new - watch this space.: Some yes, some no. Probably here to stay, in one degree or another, will be lawyer-focused changes:

    - Work Location Flexibility: Lawyers won't all start working from home, because for most people, home is where you go to get *away* from work. But nor are we all going to dutifully troop back to one big central office when this is all over. Likelier, firms will operate small satellite offices ringed around the urban core where the firm is headquartered, easier for lawyers and staff to access from home and less expensive to maintain, possibly devoted to practice or industry groups. The "head office" will be much smaller, housing senior management, a few holdover traditionalists, trainees and technical staff, and state-of-the-art meeting spaces.

    - Justice Administrivia Online: Nor will all court hearings be conducted by Zoom henceforth -- but for civil cases, you'll need a good reason to be in a courtroom in front of a judge. I like Peter Carayiannis's suggestion (https://twitter.com/pcarayiannis/status/1258…): "Effective immediately, all scheduling appearances, all pre-trial hearings and all settlement conferences are online only. Mandatory. All motions online except for obviously dispositive (eg summary judgment). Appeals in person at court’s discretion." The medium of the appearance will be proportionate to its importance complexity.

    User-focused changes are harder to predict, because most end users of legal and justice services haven't noticed much change yet, other than having their court dates pushed back. There's an argument to be made either way that the pandemic will accelerate regulatory reform (more providers allowed into the market as the traditional legal system breaks down) or stop it dead in its tracks (lawyers afraid of lost business will circle the wagons and block regulatory reform at all costs). Obviously, the more options for people to choose from for legal remedies, the more changes that will flow. But the jury is still out.

    The thing to remember is that it's way too early in this process to make definitive assessments about where the legal market and justice system will go from here. I keep having to remind people: This pandemic won't be "over" until about 5 billion people have developed immunity to COVID-19, either through infection-and-recovery (which should, but is not guaranteed to, provide lasting immunity to reinfection) or through a vaccine, and neither of these things is going to happen (short of a miracle or a horrific loss of human life) in the next two years, probably longer.

    Right now, trying to predict the ultimate impact of the pandemic on the law is like trying to predict the final score of the ballgame when it's 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning.

  • Comment

  • 06 May 2020
  • Yes

    Complex

    Given the future-looking nature of this question, it is impossible to provide a certain answer; it is however very likely that (at least some) current adaptations will become permanent working practices.

    Covid-19 forced a halt to the status quo, and therefore spurred innovation and changes in working practices. According Mark A. Cohen of Forbes, “there is little doubt COVID-19’s legacy will survive its cure.”

    There are financial incentives to remote working arrangements arrangements: “firms will operate with more prudent and flexible financial models.” Increasing levels of automation and data-backed solutions are likely to further reduce costs and cause shifts in the skillsets needed by legal professionals.

    In addition, legal professionals might see remote methods as allowing them to expand their clientele and provide greater coverage—“courts will finally become services, not places.” “If lawyers can better represent remote clients, and courts can serve even legal deserts remotely, there will at least be some silver lining to the legal crises arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    All of these changes and more are likely to have reciprocal effects with legal culture, spurring it towards greater modernization and digitalization.

    https://www.law.com/legaltechnews/2020/05/05…

    https://medium.com/@thelegaltechfund/coronav…

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcohen1/2020…

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    Liam Patell
    University of Oxford

  • Comment

  • 05 May 2020
  • Unclear

    Complex

    This issue is too new - watch this space.: It would be reasonable to suggest that aspects of remote working which have been made necessary by the onset of lockdown would continue to be in place for the long term. The pandemic is in a sense functioning as a pilot for new methods of providing legal services, such as the widespread use of video calls and electronic signatures, and should these prove successful then it is highly likely that they will remain in some capacity going forward, either to complement traditional legal services or to replace them outright.

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    Alex Westenberger
    The Senate

  • Comment

  • 04 May 2020
  • Yes

    Simple

    Or, at least, I really hope so. One small example - the way client seminars are given now is exclusively by webinar with the option of catching up after the event. It's been really frustrating working outside London and for years watching all sorts of events happening but not being able to attend, with the law firms being very complacent about using tech to allow people to join remotely.

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    Adrian Smith
    The Senate

  • Comment