Be it the 19th century or the 21st century, the requirement of physical interaction in the corporate or the legal world has never reduced. Even after the unparallel development in the tech systems of the world, lawyers and other professional prefer in-person meeting to discuss even the smallest detail of a transaction.
However, the time has come where the whole legal community needs to adopt new practice like work from home, e-conferencing and an agile working system programmed to protect itself from the problems created by crises, like that of COVID-19 pandemic.
Impact of Coronavirus on law firms
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, its time for law firms to adopt technology and move towards a virtual law firm. However, there are various barrier to have a developed system in such law firms. Some of them are:-
1. Security:- The advent of technology also invites threats to the security and privacy of data, many of which are confidential. Thus, it is highly advisable for law firms that they start reviewing their security systems to ensure the safety of data. Using software and tools with end-to-end encryption is one of the very basic things to keep in mind while switching over and moving towards a remote-working programme.
If the return filed or taxable income is Rs 5 lakh, then their tax liability will be nil because we will be giving a rebate of the total tax which is due on Rs 5 lakh of taxable income.”
2. Accountability:- Law firms need to make sure that setting up a virtual law firm doesn’t cost them a lack of accountability. For this, they must keep a proper track of employees’ work, which again brings up the requirement of some kind of software and tools
3. Miscellaneous issues
a. Lawyers who work from home need to make sure they have proper and ample internet data and a good network speed because almost every task needs to be synchronized with the servers of the firm. For this, the employees can check their bandwidth network and speed online with online internet speed testing software like Ookla.
b. Proper home office setup is also required for lawyers to be able to work properly at home, as they may be required to do video-conferencing meetings from time to time.
There are many other issues which haven’t been discussed yet and need proper study so as to clear the ambiguity present in the legal system. Some of these issues which are faced by companies and law firms are based on the following questions:-
1) Giving more validity to Electronic Digital Signatures:-Since people across the world have begun to adopt the practice of work from home, there needs to be more recognition given to e-signatures, for instance, giving them cross-border validity so that people or organisations from two different countries don’t face problems in entering Into transaction amid the quarantine laws and lockdown imposed in their countries.
2) Issues in the Insurance Sector: – The losses faced by companies during this time are often covered by some of the other insurance policies. However, disputes may arise regarding the applicability and relevancy of such risk and losses covering insurance policy.
3) Uncertainty of the legal implications: – Even if we discuss and plan out many strategies and analyse its effect on the law firms, we need to understand the fact that the impact of COVID-19 is uncertain. No plan is tried and tested. There are critical questions which law firms are finding answers to, like for instance, how long will it take for them to get back at their earlier pace? When will the courts and the judicial system be back on the tracks?
Thus, to have a successful virtual law firm, there are a lot of software applications and tools available. Firms need to assess their needs and determine which technology to invest in. Bottom line is that the end result would be efficiency and effectiveness in the working of the law firm.
Impact on Litigation Area
It is the most affected area of legal practice during this time. For a hearing to take place, the witnesses, judges, lawyers and court staff are required to be physically present. Hearings tend to be postponed because of unavailability of one or more such people. This impedes the working of the court and also the work of firms to work for their clients. Due to the global outbreak of novel coronavirus, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to postpone the hearing until further notice, and hearing on urgent matters will be done in Court. Many other jurisdictions including that of India’s have decided to close the courts until and further notice.
Effect of Corona on the Recruitment Prospectus
When we talk about the financial difficulties faced by global law firms and various other impacts of this pandemic, we should also need to look upon how the lawyers, paralegals and any other legal professional are affected due to the chaos occurring within the firm. Although law firms are currently coy about their plan of action with regards to any hiring freeze, it can easily be predicted that the sooner or later, law firms will start considering pay cuts of partners and even associates. The most vulnerable are the underperforming attorneys and the lawyers who are close to their retirement age.
Impact on Law Students
But due to the devastating impact caused by the spread of the novel virus, everyone has been quarantined in their homes. It has also resulted in a sudden increase in the usage of technology in an attempt to bridge the gap. The work-from-home programme has gained popularity across the world. Even universities have started to provide online lectures to their students. Online Platforms and even Law firms are providing opportunities to law students at this point so that their education is not affected because of the nationwide shutdown. However, there are many law students confused about how they can make the most of this lockdown and what are the strategies they may implement, in order to develop their skills and gain knowledge while being quarantined at home. Law students are suggested to use this time effectively and efficiently. This can be done in many ways. Some of it could be to do remote internships, writing research papers, improving your networking via LinkedIn, etc.
In the end, you must remember not to sit idle. It is a time which if used effectively and in the best possible manner, will boost your legal career to a whole new level. Maintaining a decent work-personal life balance is something which becomes difficult for those who enter the world of the legal profession. They don’t get to spend time with their families and live a relaxed lifestyle. This is an opportunity you should also use to spend time with your family, and focus on your lifestyle too. Also, don’t be afraid to start something new, or explore a new opportunity. In the end, remember one thing: “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still”- Chinese Proverb