Ever since Covid-19 took over the world and our lives, it has brought a lot of changes. The biggest change has been how we work, and what’s the ‘new normal. We are living in a digital age where technology is helping people navigate everyday life and work. Living with technology is not a choice anymore, it is a way of life.
Like other industries, this paradigm shift has impacted the legal industry as well. Courts are organizing virtual hearings, lawyers and clients meeting are now all online, and all work is cooped up in our gadgets.
If you think about it, technology has been a boon. It has reduced travel costs, a party’s legal costs, and even our carbon footprint. The adoption of technology can lead to efficient courtroom management as there will be no waiting for the appearances, lesser use of electricity and resources, and even lesser movement of vehicles leading to less traffic and pollution. Having said that, this can lead to data privacy issues and other cybercrimes.
Currently, most of us are working from home. One side of the coin is, that it allows employees to work from their hometowns, with their loved ones, and have a better work-life balance. On the flip side, it can be a little discouraging for mental health and productivity. Mainly because when people work in the office, they have social interaction which uplifts their mood as well as there is a clear demarcation between work life and home life.
With a lot of questions in mind about dealing with the impact of Covid on the legal fraternity, MikeLegal was in conversation with Mr. Safir Anand, Senior Partner and Head of Department (Trademarks, Contractual and Commercial IP), Anand and Anand.
What are the challenges that the legal fraternity is facing due to the Covid situation?
“The variety of challenges will range from issues on contracts and their interpretation under Force Majeure and doctrine of frustration to financial issues and business priorities to counterfeiting, internet, and intermediary liabilities, privacy, data protection. The ability to transact and negotiate and conclude deals, hearings across several forums in India where even if digital is deployed, many contesting parties will plead lack of infrastructure and digital access and hence fair ability to defend and represent. There will be issues with jobs too. Internship formats may change. Covid is an unprecedented event and will bring both adversities and to some extent opportunity.”
What are the major changes that you expect in the working of a law firm in pre-lockdown and post-lockdown times?
“Social distancing may continue for many months and that is not the way we have done business. More things will shift to digital formats. Client briefings, arbitration, negotiations, documentation, submissions and even arguments. While time efficiency may increase due to the lack of human interaction, travel time, etc but the legal world will become more competitive in cost and there will be the highest transparency. There will be issues of data protection and privacy which each organization will bear with as also of technology up-gradation due to higher bandwidth.”
Were there any challenges that your team faced when it started working from home?
“Anand and Anand was anyways migrating today digital secured environment. From journals to case law to knowledge management. So while it took a behavioral change centric around human adjustment, technology was better prepared.”
Will your offices open as soon as things settle down or you will be offering work from home to your employees as a common practice?
“We have opened our office per notification with 33 percent permitted staff. However current attendance is low. We intend to migrate largely back to the office when things normalize. There could be few exceptions.”
Do you find any positive in the changes in the working of organizations due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
“Time efficiency. Transparency. Cost-cutting.”
This is certain that law firms and companies need to incorporate the rearrangement of common methods to match up with their competitors. Law firms which had already invested in the adoption of technology were able to make the transition without any lag in work schedule and deliverables.
In India, since the lockdown, people have been trying to fit in the new normal. During the Lockdown 4.0, a lot of conditions have changed, people can now get back to their routine, move on roads, go to the office…but the question is- When roughly more than 5,000 cases are increasing every day that too when everyone is avoiding traveling, what will happen if the lockdown and conditions to work are lifted?
Moreover, with the Lockdown 4.0 in place, most of the courts have either started hearing more cases online via video conferencing or reduced their scheduled summer breaks. Although as pointed out by Mr. Anand, not everyone has the infrastructure and resources to use the technology. However, the sooner the Courts and Bars adopt technology the better it will be.
The government has realized that Covid-19 will stay with us for long and people need to start working. Hence, it is essential to understand the importance of health and the severity of the virus. It spreads through physical contact; thus, it is better to avoid any such contact with people and embrace technology. For all those who can work without going to the office, must make this choice. Naturalizing technology will lead to time efficiency, cost-cutting, reduced carbon footprints but it may also lead to privacy issues.
Author credit: Kritika Gandhi with views from Mr. Safir Anand, Senior Partner, Anand and Anand
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