April 30 2020

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

Filipe Barata Pereira

In light of the COVID-19 situation, we start 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. The first question is: "Coronavirus will most probably change everyone’s life forever. What is your prescription for legal professionals to adapt to the new reality?" Here is the prescription of Legal Influencer Filipe Pereira.

* * *

Other than suggesting to reinforce the teams that currently focus on litigation, labour and employment issues such as layoffs, shutdowns and remote-working, and data & privacy issues due to the increase of online operations and a correspondent increase of cyberattacks, the only way to adapt to this new reality will be accepting the differences from the recent past and moving on as well as adjusting behaviours and attitude towards market expectations.

COVID-19 is reinforcing some of the topics that have been discussed in the last couple of years. All the conversation concerning sustainability was rarely supported by a genuine belief that sustainability was truly required, as long as numbers kept adding up. The current situation does put sustainability in perspective (social, economic and environmental) when it comes to citizens and businesses.

The response of all businesses for adapting to this new online reality has really been outstanding. Legal professionals therefore need to protect their clients and their organizations, which requires strong leadership from administration. Not only it requires strong leaders, but also proper planning. In order to do so, from a business continuity perspective, as well as for reputation and compliance purposes, crisis or risk management teams are also required to map the current situation, identify scenarios, activate contingency plans and mantain regular clear communications with all stakeholders.

While the move to online environments has been quick, the more seasoned legal professionals -although more knowledgeable and experienced while dealing with some of the trickiest legal challenges- may still struggle using some of the latest digital tools, given the limited to none experience with them. Having that in mind, besides online training workshops and increased IT support, the bigger organizations should arrange for less senior staff with online experience to serve as mentors and support the transition. Knowledge is an asset, particularly when dealing with justice.

Other than this, legal professionals need to ensure resource accessibility, proper conditions to operate remotely and to take both physical and mental health seriously. Law firms can play an important role in supporting clients and business partners as they adapt to changes in the market and legal professionals need to be able to identify and explore Win-Win solutions by evaluating new programs and products that can support access to justice, at the same time that institutions, small businesses, start-ups and citizens emerge from this crisis.

When things settle to this "new normal", some of the tools and resources being used and developed now will be kept and there will be new ways of interacting with clients and with judicial processes. Travel restrictions will no longer be a show stopper for legal processes and they can easily be resolved with virtual channels.

“It's not a faith in technology. It's faith in people.” Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple

Article author:
Filipe Barata Pereira

Leave a comment: