Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Member Law Firms of Interlegal have experienced substantial changes in the conditions and ways of rendering legal services to clients, and in working conditions.
This article is the first of a set of reports of Members of Interlegal in which the member firms share their experience and solutions to overcome the changing working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
It is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic had a great impact on all segments of economy and society. Starting with the everyday of people lives to the multinational firms, humanity had to adapt to this new situation, that mankind might has never faced before. Some professions have even disappeared, and the rest had to follow the changes and face the challenges that the pandemic demanded.
Thus, the legal profession could not avoid it either. In this article, we attempted to make a non-exhaustive summary of the main challenges and changes that the pandemic brought to the advocacy.
In our point of view, the most striking change has come from the fact that people were reluctant to leave their homes and be in personal contact with others. Thus, firstly, one of the many changes that our office experienced is that the option of remote working become common. Home office (as it is commonly called), has substantially changed the labour market.
On the side of the employees working from home appears – as a demand or a determining cause – when choosing between workplaces. We experience in recruiting; it became also an important demand of applicants applying for jobs in our office.
Changing Workforce Dynamics
Employers – as our clients – request to set out provisions concerning remote working in the labour contracts.
Lawyers themselves are working remotely and consultations between colleagues are done by electronic channels frequently.
The number of personal face to face meetings decreased significantly, and the meetings held by means of electronic communications (such as Teams, Skype, Zoom and so on) become frequent.
This new attitude has changed the interaction between colleagues, attorney, and client. Team cohesion has suffered because of lack of personal contacts.
Court hearings held electronically leaving limited personal impact in legal debate and witnessing and presenting the case in front of the judge(s).
A unique change in our legal practice in fulfilling our obligation, when countersigning legal documents to identify signing parties by electronic means and recording those identification processes. This daily practice also had implications on legal practice of GDPR.
The practice of identification of parties through Teams, Skype, Zoom is a “Long Covid” result of our practice, honestly speaking it is a convenient and comfortable method to identify parties and hopefully this achievement will not fade out with the hoped-for fading out of Covid.
Consequences of the Pandemic for the Legal Profession
During Covid-19 pandemic people’s livelihoods and economic stability changed and as a result of this, during and after the pandemic clients become more conscious of their expenses – and trying to minimise the amount allocated to legal fees.
As we experienced, clients attempt to avoid consulting a lawyer as much as was possible. Larger corporations tried to draft their own contracts and companies and individuals tried to avoid legal disputes.
Parties of legal transactions acted more carefully than before and have requested to set out provisions to be applied in exceptional circumstances.
Lawyers had to face challenges in interpreting the legislation of rapid changes in times of emergency. Hungarian law allowed the government to govern by decree, a significantly faster procedure to implement legislation requesting legal professionals ought to follow the rapid changes.
Author: dr. Nógrádi Péter
Firm: Nogradi Law Office