May 11 2020

Prescription for legal professionals: Work during and after COVID-19 (Part two)

Anders Spile and Josh Lee Kok Thong

In light of the COVID-19 situation, we have started a new format of publications named “Prescription for legal professionals”. We ask the contributors to the Legal Influencer Hub to express an opinion upon certain questions or hot topics in a brief and comprehensive way. In this second Prescription, we ask again: "coronavirus will most probably change everyone’s life forever. What is your prescription for legal professionals to adapt to the new reality?" Here are the prescriptions of Legal Influencers Anders Spile and Josh Lee Kok Thong.

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Anders Spile’s prescription
I believe law firms everywhere have started to realize that the way they have previously been doing business is outdated, and that this is not a temporary thing, but rather a sneak peek at the future. The digital transformation is new for law firms, but a lot of companies have been operating under a "remote first" concept for many years.
The legal profession is about the exchange of knowledge, and there is no better medium to achieve this than the Internet. What we will see is, I think, that the legal profession will become increasingly specialized, and this is due to the fact, that law firms are no longer restricted to only use the resources they have on their payroll. Lawyers are now able to assist clients in complicated matters from anywhere in the world. This means that the lawyer as an individual will become more specialized, as he or she will be leveraged on projects globally.
I believe the legal profession have just started to see the results of digitization, and we are now feeling the value of it. I hope that many of the changes we are experiencing now will stick after the pandemic is over, and we will see a new way of delivering legal services.

Josh Lee Kok Thong’s prescription
Only three things in the world are certain: Death, taxes, and disruption. The last was added this century.
This century alone has seen at least 4 history-altering disruptions. 9/11, SARS, the Great Recession, and COVID.
What this means is that disruption is increasingly a fact of life. As waves of this magnitude hit the physical world, one solution has shone through: digitization and the adoption of technology.
This crisis has shown the criticality of technology and digitization in our industries. Far from being a good-to-haves in good times, these are must-haves. If this crisis had hit us in 1990s, far more businesses and law firms would have collapsed. But thanks to technology and digitization efforts over the last two decades, we have all been able to shift to a virtual mode of working in a matter of weeks, and weathered the storm relatively well.
This makes a few things clear.
Firstly, your legal technologists are not back-end staff. They are front-liners. Appreciate and prioritise them.
Secondly, take this crisis as an opportunity to truly shift to a virtual mode of working. The world is not going to be the same now that the Pandora’s box of digital transformation has been opened. It would be a mistake to revert to the old physical ways of working, when clients have seen what can be done digitally and quickly.
Thirdly, boost your cyber security facilities. Going digital without the right cyber defences is like moving into a new home without installing any locks on the front door.
Finally, and most importantly, put in long term plans to ensure that your legal professionals are physically and mentally well prepared for a digital age. Change requires the right mindset and without it, your best efforts may come to nought. Take care of their mental well-being. It’s time to change the (historically poor) cultures of the legal profession. The winners in the new reality are those who can treat their staff as the cornerstone in everything they do, not as resource units to be expended.
So, keep calm and digitize. Take care and stay safe.

Article author:
Anders Spile
Article author:
Josh Lee Kok Thong

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