Technology has long been a part of how businesses across multiple industries operate. Even outside Silicon Valley and the tech sphere, the legal, medical, finance, and banking fields have all adapted innovative ways to continue to improve how they serve customers. However, tech’s role has never been more vital than during the peak of the global pandemic. When businesses were forced to shut their doors, send employees home, and consumers were confined to the four walls of their homes. With such a disconnect between companies and their consumers, technology helped bridge the gap for communication, sales transactions, management, and other vital business processes.
The legal field was by no means immune to the adverse side effects of the pandemic. Big firms and smaller practices alike took significant hits to their bottom lines. During lockdowns, new client acquisitions, court appearances, and ongoing cases were at a standstill. As the world transitions into the new normal, many see some creative ways legal firms have utilized to move forward. Adapting to everchanging client behaviors, systemic changes, and curtailed mobility have been essential to how legal practices have managed to survive the pandemic.
Due to the lockdowns, which kept people in their homes, one of the legal fields that saw a significant increase in cases was family law. Parents who shared joint custody of their children who lived in two homes were now having difficulty safely executing shared custody. Renters and property owners also encountered some challenges as some tenants lost their jobs and could not keep up with payments. The legalities and allowances granted by the government regarding this issue also had to be studied carefully with the help of legal professionals. Outside of personal cases, businesses also had increased concerns regarding the legalities of contact tracing, workforce health and safety protocols, and various other concerns regarding how to do business amid a pandemic. New working arrangements come new challenges in crafting contracts for people working outside the business premises. Business lawyers served to help them navigate the new business landscape safely.
Communication with clients and even between colleagues also significantly changed due to the pandemic. Most firms transitioned the majority of their workforce to remote working setups to prioritize their health and safety, choosing only to keep essential personnel in the office. Due to the scattered workforce, communication platforms like Skype, MS Teams, Slack, and even Zoom all became lifelines for corporate communication. However, these platforms weren’t only limited to internal communications and client meetings. Complex legal cases require thorough discussions to set client expectations properly; face-to-face meetings were impossible during the pandemic. Many big and small firms alike switched to teleconferencing with clients for crucial meetings they can’t afford to postpone.
Electronic signatures (e-signatures)
Legal documents and contracts that previously had physical print copies were now being reviewed electronically. Electronic signatures became essential for agreements that were legally binding between different parties. Traditionally, even if these said parties were separated by geographical distance, such documents would be mailed for physical signatures to be affixed. However, during the pandemic, even courier services were unable to conduct business as usual. Digital forms of these documents grew in popularity for better record-keeping purposes, environmental benefits, and convenience. Due to this newly minted implementation of this practice, electronic signatures are thoroughly checked for authenticity. Computer software compares them with previous signatures to verify their validity. Once fully authenticated, these signatures may also be considered legally binding.
Legal payments and retainers have often utilized checks or bank transfers as modes of payment. However, because of the limited mobility of clients and the surge of newer clients, firms have also started accepting many different forms of electronic payments. More and more firms have even begun accepting virtual currency or cryptocurrency as an acceptable mode of payment. While crypto has been around for a few years now, prominent firms taking this as a mode of payment further strengthen the foothold of digital currency, even in the legal landscape. Payments made through third-party e-wallets have also become a popular mode of payment for clients who couldn’t meet with legal counsel in person.
The legal landscape shows it can best adapt and meet client needs, even during such uncertain times. Moving further into this new way of life post-pandemic, firms have announced their dedication to continued growth and a commitment to better services. As the legal system started back up again, many firms have set up their business to see a hybrid of new and traditional practices in the field as everyone adjusts.