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Aug 13, 2020

The Legal Industry and COVID-19 Challenges

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, economics, law

Malak Trabelsi Loeb

13-08-2020

Covid-19 did not only cause a health crisis around the world; It led to severe economic, social, and political challenges in various countries.

In response to the World Health Organization recommendations, governments imposed various precautionary measures in the course of managing its risks. Measures varied from mere social distancing to total lockdown and isolation in quarantine centers.

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Public services were hindered in some states, and private institutions have closed their doors, while jobs were remotely performed. However, the luxury of remote working could not be enjoyed by everyone around the globe due to technological restraints. That much likely applied to law practitioners who limited their practice to a single jurisdiction, which lacked the technological infrastructure and a technological-based judicial system. Thus, the situation has compelled legal practitioners in those jurisdictions, to innovate and find solutions to circumvent the faced challenges and face the post-COVID uncertainty. It has also compelled practitioners in the most advanced jurisdictions to overcome post-COVID repercussions and plan for a long-term sustainable practice amid the rise of Artificial Intelligence, which would undermine the human presence in this industry.

Legal practitioners faced hurdles to cope with the new situation as public services in most jurisdictions were hindered during the quarantine time. However, access to justice was not interrupted in jurisdictions with advanced digitized judicial systems and technologies’ based public infrastructures.

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Taking the UAE as an example, legal practitioners did not face the same challenges. The UAE’s leadership that managed the public health risk with rational public policies succeeded in mitigating the pandemic spread and minimized its negative impact on the socioeconomic spheres. Consequently, the first ranked country in the Arabic world to succeed in the management of the pandemic, and 18th globally, according to a study made by the British research center “Deep Knowledge Group,” maintained the continuity of public services. Notably, the access to justice was upheld, and legal professionals remotely worked, as they conducted their activities via Information Communication technologies (ICT), whereby court hearings could be held virtually via the judicial system’s platforms.

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Unlikely, others whose practice was limited to a single jurisdiction that lacked technological support faced severe hurdles. Such a struggle was evidenced during the discussions held with colleagues practicing in North African and Middle Eastern jurisdictions at the Tunisian Lawyers’ Association Virtual Conference 21–22 May 2020. During the Conference, law practitioners from various jurisdictions discussed their harsh reality and severe damages caused by the pandemic on the socioeconomic dimensions across their jurisdictions in general and their professional dimension in particular. They stressed the need to find practical solutions to mitigate these damages and to join efforts to develop a modernized legal industry across their jurisdictions. Some speakers who experienced a total loss of income expressed their disenchantment about the primitive judicial systems within their jurisdictions. Nonetheless, all participants agreed that the starting point toward improving their situation is to innovate and propose unconventional solutions to overcome the pandemic damage and plan the way forward. They emphasized the need to focus on developing Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR) to minimize their dependency on the old-fashioned judicial systems and demand their reform and digitization.

However, the pandemic was not the precursor of many legal practitioners’ skepticism about many old-fashioned judicial systems. Technological progress and globalization have disrupted the global legal industry.

The latter was challenged since before the pandemic outbreak, as it has witnessed an unprecedented rate of change for the last several years.

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Taking a stance to analyze the legal industry’s development globally, it could be stated that it has been witnessing a business model shift. ICT has unlocked new dimensions for the legal practitioners, enabling their practice to expand from a single-jurisdictional practice to a multi-jurisdictional practice. Disruptive technologies and globalization have increased the cross-border transactions and transformed the conventional legal market into a globalized market. ICT enabled the legal practitioner to overcome many of the legal requirements imposed by the national authorities on foreign lawyers, as they could offer direct legal assistance to cross-border clients or through local collaboration in the foreign jurisdiction.

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The legal professional had to face challenging changes within the industry. He had to circumvent the increased competition and sophisticated legal issues through innovating unconventional solutions.

Thus, traditional skills, based on legal knowledge, negotiation, problem-solving, analytics, management, and communication have to combine non-traditional skills based on innovation, system thinking, people’s skills, cross-collaboration, complex problems’ solving, multidisciplinary knowledge, technologies and data, leadership and time management, to face the challenges as mentioned earlier.

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It could be stated that to keep pace with the disruptive global legal industry’s development, the law practitioner must master a non-conventional legal practice by gaining in-depth knowledge of emerging disruptive technologies and managing their implications on laws and policies in various jurisdictions in light of the international laws governing their related activities. Even though it is not always easy to start learning new disciplines while having full-time employment and other commitments, it is a bittersweet challenge that could bring new opportunities and position the legal practitioner on a new level, with access to new disciplines. Thanks to ICT, it is never late for any professional to acquire knowledge through online classes and training to unlock new dawns for his carrier. Legal practitioners shall circumvent their judicial systems dependency from one hand, and they have to be creative and innovative on the other hand.

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To face the technological development in light of the rising Artificial Intelligence’s threats, the legal practitioner shall not merely adapt to the new legal industry’s reality, but to lead his way through an uncertain future. Such an approach, from personal experience, has proven its efficiency during the Covid-19 turbulent times to come to terms that exponential thinking, innovation, and a multidisciplinary knowledge are essential to circumventing both the Covid-19 challenging situation and the legal industry metamorphosis amid crises.

The year 2020 will not only be associated with the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak and its socioeconomic and political challenges; it will mark a turning point in the history of humanity’s evolution. The pandemic has challenged our lives as it altered the way we interact, the way we work, and the way we think. Covid-19 did not only unmask the challenges the global civilization has been witnessing due to the technological revolution but also the need to embrace those technologies. It has also called exponential thinkers to find disruptive solutions to circumvent the current and future challenges while excelling their way through toward the future. Since laws are the common denominator among all human activities, law practitioners should lead the way forward in this change through having a futuristic insight, while grasping the technological development from a multidisciplinary approach.

Photos Credit: Pixabay (The use of the above photos conforms with Pixabay terms & conditions and falls under the scope of “fair use” doctrine).

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