The new normal: how law firms & corporate legal departments are adapting to the new world

Businessman using tablet at night time
The new normal: how law firms & corporate legal departments are adapting to the new world

Habits like remote working are here to stay – but the biggest change could be in attitudes to innovation now we have learned what is possible with new development tools.

Almost since the crisis broke, experts have been making predictions about the ‘new normal’ – how the coronavirus pandemic will make lasting changes to the way we work. Back in March, Mark Cohen of Legal Mosaic listed a set of consequences from remote working to online courts to the transformation of legal education.

He is absolutely right – the virus has forced the legal industry to adapt to digital solutions, it has been thrust into the digital age. But the new normal will mean much more than doing our work from different locations. It will involve a change in the way successful law firms and corporate legal departments think about innovation.

Over the past few weeks we have seen lawyers implement in days changes that previously might have taken years, or been blocked entirely, thanks to the legal industry’s sense of professional caution and institutional structures which tend to resist change.

This ‘can do’ attitude is here to stay.

Let’s look at one example of how a top-tier law firm introduced a new product which enables a radical shift in working practices in the face of the coronavirus crisis. To cater for clients hospitalized or in quarantine because of the pandemic, BCLP’s U.S. Private Client Group and Global Innovation Team quickly created an online, easy-to-use solution which allows people planning their estates to quickly find the up-to-date basic signing requirements for their particular jurisdiction. This is complicated because rules requiring wet-ink signatures and witnesses to be physically present vary widely from state to state in the U.S..

Rapid development from idea – to prototype – to product was of course made possible by Neota Logic’s no-code platform. It also required a change of thinking at the firm: for a start, top-flight professionals don’t usually offer ‘bare minimum’ advice (Private Client Partner Stephanie Moll stresses that, as soon as it becomes possible, clients should follow up with their estate planning attorney to see if they should re-execute any of their documents in a manner over and above these basic requirements).

But perhaps more interestingly, the idea that it is possible for law firms and corporate legal departments to come up with new products in days or weeks is here to stay. Ideas are springing up everywhere: automating the previously very manual process of drawing up an NDA, for example. This is not just about enabling ‘business as usual’ during the crisis: carrying out the process online gives the professional in charge oversight of the workflow – is the document still sitting on the counterpart’s app? – and hence creates efficiencies. And, of course, these solutions are available 24/7; once we have gotten used to that, it will not go away.

This kind of automation is no longer a thought for the future, it is here and now. The legal industry has already gone through the process of research, we know what tools are out there; now is the time to pick and choose.

The crisis has forced us to embrace technology, but it has also taught us to be more open about new ways of doing things in general. This habit of innovation will be the real new normal.

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