The national lockdown due to COVID-19 has disrupted the way the legal sector operates. Considered non-essential services under the initial lockdown ruling, legal professionals have had to find ways to navigate their roles without leaving their homes. Embracing technology and virtual working has become a priority, moving the industry towards reliable legal technologies to meet research and practice needs.
“Shared working spaces, libraries and communal resources are hubs for spreading the virus and while implementing social distancing is possible within some workplaces, open plan offices and places where people require hard copy texts for case prep, will be more difficult to keep sanitised day in and day out,” says Greg Brown, Divisional Director: Legal Information and Compliance, LexisNexis South Africa. “The Government has also instructed that, where possible, those who are able to do so, should work remotely. As such we will see virtual working practices that have been implemented during lockdown become the norm for the conceivable future.”
While the traditional nature of the legal profession has faced many changes in the past few decades, never before has the industry needed to do a complete about-turn as has happened under the current COVID-19 pandemic. Working remotely, using online meeting platforms, online libraries and tools has replaced face-to-face consultations and meetings, court appearances and physical library research.
Facing a world besieged by COVID-19, legal professionals have had to make increasing use of all forms of technology, including legal tech with those that show resilience in this time of crisis, and in the months ahead, more likely to survive the operational and financial implications of COVID-19.
“Legal professionals share the same challenges as those in many other industries such as the emotional and mental shift to working from home, creating daily routines and keeping up with expected productivity and increased workloads,” says Nerissa Chetty, Lexis Library Product Owner: LexisNexis South Africa.
Chetty says having access to the most up-to-date current affairs and legal information; utilising easy and efficient communication tools with colleagues and clients alike; and adapting to virtual court proceedings form a part of the top technological requirements by the legal professionals across the board. Technology, particularly the advancements in the Legal Tech industry, will be key to this new legal landscape with information being required at a quicker rate, in formats that are easier to digest and share digitally, as well as access to webinars and online training that may not have been the first choice in the past.
“The future holds much uncertainty and adapting to virtual working practices, having access to accurate interpretation of the Law, regulatory and policy amendments, will be essential in helping the legal industry assist their clients negotiate issues faced on the labour, leasing, contractual and other fronts as a result of the pandemic,” Brown says.
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