Embracing Change: COVID-19’s Ongoing Impact

Right Discovery Staff Writer

Just over four years ago, on March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global pandemic. This had unprecedented impacts on nearly all forms of human interaction, whether that be in the workforce, academic settings, or in one’s personal life. Looking back, we can clearly say that the virus brought about significant changes to the legal industry that have had lasting impacts on not only our personal lives but our work lives.

The legal industry, like all others, had to adapt to a remote work structure during the pandemic, which meant that key elements of our profession, such as court proceedings, had to find new methods to continue during isolation. Transitioning to remote work, which for an industry that requires daily collaboration and critical meetings with clients and other stakeholders, was no simple task. With the adaptation and adoption of new technological methods and procedures to conduct business this way, the industry is now more connected and efficient than ever before. The court systems too, have had to undergo a similar transformation with the advent of virtual hearings and trials, to ensure court proceedings to continue. In this post-pandemic world, teams conversing from various parts of the world have become a norm, and the court system has far fewer pain points than it once did.

Along with the integration of video conferencing technologies and the increased utilization of legal tech platforms into the daily workflow for law firms, other digital tools came into the picture during the pandemic that are now everlasting norms in our profession. In the legal vertical, carts filled with boxes of papers and files had been the norm for generations, but with physical access to documents stripped in the eyes of a public health crisis, the industry was forced to accelerate its digital transformation efforts. Our sector invested in cloud-based solutions and eDiscovery software as situational remedies during quarantine, but these tools have now become permanent fixtures in our workflow, streamlining processes and taking efficiency to new heights.

Faced with new hurdles during the pandemic, the industry continued with an extreme degree of resilience and focus on business. It is critical that our business not pause, so firms and our partner entities rose to the occasion with robust plans to continue operations, protocols for crisis management, and remote working policies to ensure that clients’ needs would still be met with the same degree of professionalism as before. These efforts to maintain business also led to the development of new revenue streams, which has been the catalyst for a surge of entrepreneurship and innovation in the sector.

As a result of the pandemic there was a surge in demand for legal expertise in specific practice areas such as employment law, labor disputes, and contract negotiations. Given the increase in remote work, the workforce was faced with even more challenges – an influx of even more communication deployed by more channels, what used to be a quick drive-by five-minute discussion required a formal meeting invite at 15-minute increments, compounded with having to adapt to new technology and balancing virtual education for those with school children at home. Ultimately, reflecting on this four years later, we all persevered.

Other areas of practice such as healthcare regulations, bankruptcy and data privacy were brought to the forefront due to the coronavirus. Such is the case when vaccines became available, some entities required proof of vaccination and concern was raised that it was a violation of data privacy and on the flipside, there were concerns around healthcare regulations – such as the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) ability to collect and share certain data. Some businesses faced hardships and financial strains leading to the need to seek legal advice on bankruptcy and commercial and real estate law as it pertained to liabilities of business owners.  Attorneys who specialized in these domains have been instrumental in addressing challenges that have shaped the framework of our post-pandemic world.

The onset of COVID-19 as an industry, like many others, found ourselves ill-prepared for the impact of a global pandemic, however by embracing new technologies and devising solutions, it has paved the way for our industry to be more resilient and adaptable than ever. Despite having gone through one of our greatest trials, it is important to acknowledge the progress that came out of it.