In the past few months, the legal system has adjusted fairly well to the rapid shift to a virtual law practice.
The legal system has been relatively slow in embracing change. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, legal professionals are now re-evaluating and reassessing the best ways to work.
Historically, the legal landscape was evolving through either the ruling of Apex courts or the legislative changes. The COVID times though have forced the legal minds to completely tilt the thinking methodology while drafting the clauses. Concepts like hypothetical scenarios are just a term now and any kind of situation may crop up in the future. The concepts like force majeure, liability limitation, indemnification, business continuity, material adverse effect are few noteworthy aspects that are likely to undergo significant drafting changes based on the nature of contracts.
Law practice and use of technology
The practice of law has evolved over the years with the advancement of technology. The use of e-mails, document management systems, cloud-management systems and e-discovery have made practicing law more accessible and large caseloads and voluminous documents easier to manage. Nevertheless, during this COVID-19 era, the legal landscape needs to immediately adapt to a full-fledged virtual system.
In the past few months, the legal system has adjusted fairly well to the rapid shift to a virtual law practice. They have relied upon cloud-based technology to try to maintain productivity in the safety of lawyers’ respective homes. It is important to keep in mind that even though the practice may be adjusting, the ethical obligations remain the same. With the increased use of technology, maintaining confidentiality and practising with competence is more important now than ever.
Technology can also help resolve the global access to justice in circumstances where physical appearance is just not feasible. It is now possible to deliver justice via ‘Online judging’ decide cases. The urgency of modernization is unprecedented. Courts around the world have ground to a halt and demand for accessible, efficient, and widespread administration of justice is the need of the hour.
How will the transition happen?
The transition here will be an ongoing process. To start with, a thorough review of the documents is commenced to assess the quantum of implications on various clauses pursuant to COVID. The drafting of revised standardized languages is also in progress. Depending on the stakes involved, the respective counterparties are expected to approach for modification of existing documents. Any document executions going forward shall warrant new inclusion in the documents, which shall become the subject matter of negotiation. Further, a lot will also depend on the judicial pronouncement as may happen for settling COVID-related disputes.
The contours of the post-COVID legal world are taking shape. There are challenges and opportunities. Those who upskill and adopt a learning-for-life mindset will find opportunity. Digital transformation, accelerated by Covid-19, will transform law practice just as it has its customers.
Embrace the challenge.
The author, Vijay Dhingra, is Director and Head - Legal and Compliance at Home Credit India. The views expressed are personal