The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will dominate the agenda for all businesses in April 2020 and the months ahead. Separately, in-house lawyers should also take note of a raft of employment law changes that take effect this month.
In the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, organisations globally are now living the reality of what their business looks like when the majority of its workforce is remote.
For those of us who work remotely on a regular basis, we know that it’s not as easy as it may seem. The distractions are plentiful, it can be harder to feel motivated, human connection is dramatically reduced – and all of this has an impact on how effective we can be.
These are unprecedented times. As the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic unfolds, we find ourselves in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar and changing daily. Many legal professionals are working from home, teams are disconnected and whole offices are closing as we follow government guidelines to fight COVID-19. As well as the physical threat, many people are also experiencing high levels of concern and anxiety about their own health and the health of family members.
When humans are faced with a threat, it is a natural and biological response for the brain to generate a fight or flight response so that we can be prepared to run or defend ourselves against danger. This response can save your life in some situations but chronic levels of uncertainty and stress, which some individuals may be experiencing now, can be long-lasting and damaging (see Practice note, Mental health, stress and wellbeing in the legal profession: an introduction).
On 26 March 2020, a reception in the Great Hall of the Royal Courts of Justice will mark the 125th anniversary of the Commercial Court. It will also mark the launch of the 2020 Commercial Litigators’ Forum (CLF) Directory of Service Providers, a centralised database of service providers to the law, which will be a key means of raising funds for the new National Pro Bono Centre opening this year.
We invite and encourage providers of services of all types to the leading law firms and to litigation and arbitration to consider what they can contribute by becoming a sponsor of the Directory: all income raised will go to support the new National Pro Bono Centre and its essential work.
Out of the blue your CEO asks you a question about some latest trend in the legal world, which they have heard about from a fellow CEO over a gin and tonic. The CEO didn’t quite catch all the details, but it sounded like “that thing” could save a lot of money and allow lawyers to concentrate on doing more strategic work. So, if LawTech was “that thing”, how do you explain to your CEO in two minutes what it is and what you are doing about it?
Ask any lawyer who has practised for 20 years or more what has fundamentally changed in the delivery of legal services since they were a trainee and they will likely tell you very little. Of course, there has been the advent of email, which has increased the volume and speed of work, but the basic relationship between lawyer and client, the way in which work is instructed, carried out and charged for, and the role of the in-house lawyer, has remained consistent.
However, the explosion of legal technologies and the growing role of alternative legal services providers (ALSPs) is changing the way that legal services are delivered, which has particular benefits for in-house teams. Recent research by Konexo, Eversheds Sutherland’s newly re-branded alternative legal and compliance service provider, found that 63% of in-house teams are facing increased overall pressure, compared to 12 months ago, and 62% are experiencing greater pressure to reduce operational costs than 12 months ago. This is the classic conundrum of needing to do more with less.
It is relatively easy to maintain crucial connections when you are a regular in the office and able to attend industry events. However, things change when you go away on maternity, paternity, sabbatical or study leave, or are absent for a long period for any other reason. We often feel that our network dissipates before our eyes the moment we step out of the office and stop attending events, and as the anxiety of not wanting to impose descends, it is natural to pull away from business connections.
Re-establishing your network on your return to work is not a “nice-to-have”, but a “must-have”, on both a professional and a personal level, and it is not difficult to do if you approach the task in a structured way and prepare the ground before you put on your out-of-office.