Lilli Thompson from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Lena-Luisa Maier from the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt Germany, talked to experts about the future of legal practice post-pandemic.
With a second wave of coronavirus infections gripping parts of Victoria and NSW, lawyers and legal staff are preparing for remote working as the “new normal”, according to industry experts.
“Whilst there are downsides to not being able to meet in person, the road to recovery would likely be to capitalise on the opportunities arising out of COVID-19,” said Andy Kuoch, paralegal for the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV).
According to Associate Professor Bronwyn Olliffe, from the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney, the pandemic will have a long term impact on the way lawyers practice their profession.
“There are some big indications that some law firms will be open to requests to work remotely [in the future].,” she said.
“Big changes have occurred in a very short space of time.”
The Law Institute of Victoria has seen a steady uptake in video conferencing tools.
“The LIV has seen increased participation through Zoom meetings as well as increased engagement from the profession,” Mr Kuoch said.
In Germany, remote working is also an effective way for law firms to decrease their cost base by reducing their real estate footprint.
Telephone and video conferences as well as the prompt allocation of telephone appointments for client meetings have been introduced in accordance with social distancing requirements.
“It is to be expected that the good experiences that were made during the months with the home office will be used in the future, especially the technical skills that were learned,” said Holger Johannes, partner at Meyerhuber Lawyers Partnership in Bavaria, Germany.
“We as a law firm can now switch from one option to another at any time without any loss of professionalism.”
As lawyers and legal staff continue to work from home, concerns regarding health and safety are increasingly flagged by the those in the profession.
“In some firms, there has been an increased focus on wellbeing within the firm and also a consideration of what in required in a culture of working remotely,” Associate Professor Ollife said.
Some lawyers are finding working from home is a positive experience and are operating on a business as usual basis.
Rohit Duggal is a junior solicitor in Sydney: “I certainly miss the collegiality of the office but I’ve experienced no detriment to my productivity. In fact, in some ways it’s improved.”
Health and safety polices have been evaluated to account for experiences of isolation and the effect of excessive workloads given there is no divide between professional and family life.
One-on-one check-ins and virtual coffees are some initiatives introduced by law firms to support employees.