Lawyers Gone Virtual

After Covid-19 hit the globe, many businesses took their work online. And seeing that this new digital method was much more efficient than the previous on-ground one, they have decided to keep it that way. This greatly influenced lawyers, as they started incorporating many efficient digital tools in their work. This change moved the law sector to a whole new level, greatly increasing its efficiency in productivity and management. Most agree that this change is of great advantage. Wolters Kluwer, the general manager of the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), stated his opinion about the matter, saying that all lawyers should be taking advantage of this great opportunity. He said that the whole legal industry must become ‘in-house’.

Lawyers are now taking advantage of digital technology for a number of tasks, including management of data proliferation and using robots for multiple tasking. These tasks would include writing and managing contracts, drafting documents, tracking regulatory changes, interrogating e-discovery material, and so on. Basically, lawyers now can assign repetitive tasks to robots, while they focus on creative tasks.

Some lawyers, after intending to review documents in analog form, discovered that they cannot easily access the already-stored data they have. So they found the pandemic a great opportunity to move this storage method to the digital world. Now, they can store and integrate huge amounts of work effortlessly. Cloud-based platforms are becoming more and more common among lawyers to store the information they have, and effectively transfer their info from one party to another.

Organizations have moved their conference rooms to digital platforms as well. Conferences started happening online, and signatures were done on e-signature platforms. Furthermore, there is no need to spend time, money, and energy on commuting anymore. Similarly, thousands of printed documents are being replaced with virtual ones, helping with the minimization of paper and ink consumption.

These might seem like small or ordinary steps that have changed in the legal sector. But this is so only if we look at things from a narrow point of view. Frank Marsalisi, a St. Petersburg car accident lawyer, was asked about his opinion on the matter. He expressed his optimism about the change that this movement will bring to the future of lawyers. Looking at the matter from a longer-term perspective, he believed that the legal profession will divide into 2. On one side, we will see lawyers who understand coding and on the other side, there will be lawyers who don’t understand coding. He added that the thought processes behind coding were very similar to the ones used in legal drafting. This meant that the lawyers who do understand coding will significantly benefit by refining their legal skills. 

Moreover, one cannot help but notice the big number of law firms that are already suffering the economical consequences of the pandemic. But realistically, the effects of the virus did not influence the different practice areas equally. Estate lawyers, for example, are expected to have more work. June Castellano, the co-chair of the NYSBA Emergency Task Force for Solo Practitioners, and a practitioner in Rochester says that many people are running to write their wills now, especially those who are involved in the work in the health department.

Patricia Salkin, provost for the graduate and professional divisions at Touro College, confirms this saying that the rise in the number of deaths after the pandemic has made many people rush to manage the status of their estates and write their wills. 

The effects of this change don’t stop there. It expands to include many state systems as well. Courts turned to digital platforms to hold their courts there. In March 2020, the New York Unified Court System began using virtual courts to handle essential and emergency matters. That system has been gradually expanded since then and additionally includes some non-essential matters as well.

This phenomenon became even more adopted as to include the U.S. Supreme Court, which in turn announced the need to hear arguments by teleconference. 

One other advantage that law firms took advantage of was making digital tools into products they can sell. Sam Spivack, managing director of Bryter, says that his team had already adopted this strategy.

Moving law firms to digital platforms also resulted in less and less need for secretaries. Lawyers could now handle their admin tasks easily by themselves. This changed the way law firms operate. The increased efficiency of 1 secretary per firm resulted in having some firms refer to a pooled model where multiple lawyers could be serviced by less admin staff.

Richard Punt at Thomson Reuters argued that new legal practitioners learned the processes of the field by observing their senior colleagues. During the pandemic, however, since there was no physical space for these colleagues to gather together, this type of training ceased. Virtual tools were then used to help teams come together through a digital platform, discuss projects and perform legal drafting processes. Leaders of these teams found this way better for supervision and review and consequently providing partners with understanding about their team’s productivity. 

Lawyers have made a significant improvement in incorporating digital technology into their work. This has reflected heavily on their productivity and efficiency. Time will tell how this would progress further and the effect it would take on the whole legal sector.

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash