It’s a rather strange, historically novel time for the global market, and right now, a lot of people are probably working from home. COVID–19 has introduced a challenge to the market that most did not see coming (albeit with perhaps some forewarning from the likes of Hollywood cinema).
The market has seen periods of decline before, and I’m sure most will remember the huge impact that the global financial crisis had on the legal sector. Thankfully, this crisis is relatively time-dependent and does not stem from a systemic fault in the economy. Thus, it is likely that the effects will not be as profound as earlier times, and recovery is likely to be substantially faster, having learnt important lessons from previous mistakes.
However, this strange period of social distancing and self-isolation will bring a couple of pertinent questions to light – is the legal sector ready to work from home, and how will the virus impact legal tech?
Impact And Response
The legal tech sector relies upon the purchase and continued use of their software to generate revenue. The commercial legal sector relies on thousands of medium to large businesses needing their services. If that need drops, so too does the legal tech sector.
The good news is that while there may be a drop in some areas, the slack will be picked up by the new needs created by the downturn, and they should even each other out. It is likely that we will see a large increase in some practice areas, such as debt restructuring and bankruptcy ligation, with a correlating drop in other areas. For the legal tech sector, the real issue will be winning new clients, as sales activity will likely drop during the uncertainty.
Working From Home
So, can the legal sector work from home and still function? Is the office still necessary? In fact, was it ever really necessary? This time may prove valuable as a global test, measuring how efficient people are working from home, and too how much they enjoy it. However, from a purely logistical perspective, the legal sector is close to the point where working from home is an easy transition, and for many, is more like ‘working from home… more often’.
However, there are a few issues that may surface. For instance, the law depends on professional secrecy and data security as paramount. This hurdle has been overcome already, but with such mass scale remote work, the maintenance of secure working will be an important test. Specifically, if something goes wrong and the IT team is also working from home, visits may need to be made to the office to keep things up and running.
For those who have documents and documents not yet in digital form, a further data security issue is created as it is not ideal to have a house full of sensitive documentation. However, a good system of e-filing pre-Coronavirus will have protected many firms from this.
Lastly, and this one applies to any profession which requires deep concentration, the home office might not be an ideal professional environment – particularly with school closures. We are only human, and we cannot control all environmental factors to ensure the best job is done. This will be perhaps the greatest test, but at least it is an issue of personal circumstance and not a systemic one.
Route1 hopes that you are safe and well during this troubled time. It’s a unique moment in history where we have to take measures that most would not have seen coming. The good news is that, even if there is a decline in the market, it will be short and sharp. Due to the nature of the legal profession, we will continue to see growth in certain areas periodically, followed by a return to business as usual.