COVID-19 forcing legal profession to innovate 

COVID-19 is causing the legal profession, alongside countless other business sectors, to deliver services in markedly alternative ways. 

These forced changes to business structures and systems are highly likely to continue well past the end of this pandemic.  It is a well-known quote that “you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes." This principle applies so aptly to the current circumstances that businesses find themselves in.  While many businesses have sadly been forced to close, others have the opportunity to make changes to ensure they are able to continue.

COVID-19 has forced many to adopt innovative new practices that have not previously been contemplated. The law especially is so steeped in history and tradition that embracing new ways of doing things does not come easy. However, many lawyers have successfully implemented technological infrastructure to enable them to engage with clients and provide advice through completely different means, observing physical distancing guidelines. 

Services like preparing and witnessing a will, previously routinely done by seeing the client in person on multiple occasions, are being completed over Skype or FaceTime appointments.  Endless other appointments and meetings are now being conducted via ZOOM or conference phone calls, that still permit expert advice to be provided, but in a more time-efficient way for all involved. Why did more businesses not utilise these readily available technologies earlier?  Probably due primarily to habit and our innate desire for personal interaction with others. 

All courts and tribunals in South Australia are also adopting significant changes to how they function so that individual matters before them can largely continue to be progressed. Hopefully these alterations also ensure there are not prolonged delays for people that have matters before the courts.

Many lawyers are currently experiencing unprecedented demand for their advice. This is especially occurring in areas such as workplace law, wills and estates, and business related issues.

Understandably, people are highly anxious about the security of their job and wages and accordingly are seeking advice. Equally, business owners are inquiring about their responsibilities to their work force and what, if any, steps they can take in the face of reduced income.  

Many court appearances – other than trials and sentencing hearings - are in fact relatively formulaic affairs, and may not necessarily require parties to attend in person. Who knows, we could see trials conducted via video conference in the future. This all sounds like a Hollywood movie but could become reality!