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How COVID has Affected the Legal Industry

Six of the biggest changes hitting the legal sector for clients and employees.

One of the most unique things about COVID-19 is how it’s changed the entire world. Not just one industry, one population, one country — the pandemic has changed the way people work, learn, and live on a global scale. 

When you think of the effects of COVID in those terms, it makes the reality of the pandemic changing the legal industry a lot easier to understand. Because even though the legal sector is notorious for being slow to evolve and innovate, it has made small strides in responding to the changing needs of society since the financial crisis of 2008.

And it looks like those small strides are becoming big leaps as COVID has forced the legal system to adjust to a world in crisis, and many think that those adjustments are for the better. 

Here are six of the top changes legal experts and leaders have seen in the industry since COVID began that they believe are here to stay.

1. Video and telecommunication

One element of society that has changed for pretty much everyone is the emergence of remote work. Video and telecommunication platforms like Zoom have thrived because they’ve made it easy for companies to effectively meet from wherever and whenever, even for companies hesitant to make the change to remote work. 

Legal teams have reported implementing video and telecommunication options for firm meetings, client meetings, training, and remote litigations. 

Scott A. Forman, a Miami-based Littler shareholder, states his belief that remote work is here to stay for the legal sector by saying, “I anticipate that folks who were resistant to remote meetings and feeling that everything needed to be in person, including depositions, that that resistance will dissipate as time goes on and people get used to this new normal.”

2. Real-time collaboration and communication 

With so many teams working remotely, we’ve had to find ways to hold important meetings and make big decisions together and in real-time. That’s where tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack have come into play. 

You can’t have remote meetings with colleagues and clients without the ability to collaborate, communicate, and share, store, and organize documents at times where matters are urgent and it’s going to take all of your team working together to find the best solutions.

3. The shift to the cloud

You can’t talk about document sharing and remote collaboration without talking about easy access and security. For many, those ideas have become synonymous with “the cloud.” 

Many law firms have held tight to on-site servers because they feel safe and comfortable having confidential information locked behind closed doors. But the cloud has more than proven that it’s secure enough for some of the largest corporations in the world. 

Not only is the cloud secure, but the big appeal is that it makes documents easy to sign and access for as many team members as you like.

“I think this painful experience will push a lot of people to ask, ‘Why aren’t we in the cloud?” says Michael Moradzadeh, founding partner and CEO of Rimon Law. “The argument that it is not secure is just outdated at this point.”

4. Accessibility to justice

A big topic of discussion throughout the pandemic has been accessibility. We first started hearing about it in terms of different populations having different levels of access to the vaccines. And it seems the same populations who struggle to get the healthcare they need are the same groups who have traditionally struggled to gain proper access to the legal system. 

At-risk populations may not have reliable transportation or phone communication, and transient populations often can’t be reached by mail. This can mean legal proceedings are stalled, and justice is not quite served. 

But giving clients the opportunity to complete e-filings and have meetings via telecommunication removes barriers to justice and makes the law accessible to all. 

5. Live streaming court proceedings

Law has always had the mentality that justice is best served face-to-face, and while there will always be truth to that, the future is now! During the pandemic, most courts have actually live-streamed court proceedings. 

According to Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice, Bridget Mary McCormack, the pandemic sparked Michigan to work quickly to expand an online dispute resolution service for some civil disputes and small claims matters statewide. 

6. Certain areas of law have taken center stage

With so many workplaces changing, it comes as no surprise that companies and their employees will be looking for guidance in employment law. We can expect to see a rise in cases related to workplace disputes as people are navigating work-from-home policies and safe work environments in the midst of pandemics and vaccine questions. 

Other legal needs people will have in the coming months are legal tech as disputes arise over delayed or canceled contracts, and mental health law and family law will most likely be needed more after a year that has put a spotlight on the importance of a healthy home life. 

If you have questions about how your law firm can adjust to current and post-COVID times through document management and workflow automation, feel free to reach out to us today.