Partner – Fischer Behar Chen Well Orion & Co, Israel
The views expressed herein are solely of Adv. Sitton and do not purport to reflect the views of FBC, its management or partners.
1. How has the Covid-19 crisis affected the way you work as a lawyer? What are the key positives and negatives that have emerged out of lockdown?
The ongoing global outbreak and spread of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, is a dramatic event of global proportions, with far-reaching implications in a wide range of areas. The spread of coronavirus directly affects capital markets, global supply chains, commercial contracts, labor relations, worldwide transportation, large-scale events and conferences, and many other aspects of commerce and business, domestic and international.
FBC attorneys, other legal professionals and staff are continuing to work with our clients on day-to-day matters, as well as matters arising in connection with the coronavirus outbreak. Our secure systems are set to continue to enable us to deliver high-quality and timely service to our clients (including remotely, as needed). We remain available to communicate via email, phone, teleconference, videoconference, text messaging and other means.
Israel was under a first lockdown during the beginning of the outbreak and is currently emerging from a second lockdown. During each of the lockdowns, restrictions were imposed on public gatherings, social events, and travel, as well as on opening and operating businesses, with exceptions for ‘essential’ businesses, which could operate under strict guidelines. Banks, pharmacies, supermarkets and groceries, as well as law offices, were determined to be among essential businesses which were allowed to operate during lockdowns.
The main affects on the way lawyers work in Israel (and, likely, globally) during the coronavirus crisis is that there is less direct personal interaction, with clients, with colleagues, and with opposing parties, as well as in court where sessions are held under strict protective measures. While clients generally continue operating with business as usual, many are facing legal matters and are demanding advise in areas of employment law, new regulatory regimes, and insolvency law, due to newly arising COVID-19 related circumstances. The situation enhances efficiencies and use of technologies, while, on the other hand, it complicates certain aspects such as face-to-face negotiation sessions and ‘kicking the tires’ due diligence processes.
2. Will you and your company continue to use flexible and agile working in future? Will you reduce the size of your physical office space?
FBC is considered a leader among Israeli law firms in promoting and supporting work-life balance of its employees. Even prior to the coronavirus crisis, lawyers were encouraged to adopt flexible working hours and to occasionally telecommute.
In the beginning of 2021, the Firm is scheduled to relocate to its new offices in Tel-Aviv. Such offices were designed to accommodate flexible working, as well as a 21st century state of the art working environment with expanded public areas and smaller individual offices. With the move, the Firm will continue to apply legal and other technologies while ‘going paperless.’
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
Israel is known as ‘Startup Nation’ and FBC is at the forefront of innovation towards improvement of client service as it is the first (and, to our knowledge, the only) law firm in Israel with an in-house legal knowledge expert. The Firm was also the host of the Israel chapter of Global Legal Hackathon in 2018 and 2019.
The Firm employs various ‘off the shelf’ legal tech products as well as independently developed platforms that enhance our client interface and ‘behind the scenes’ capabilities. Naturally, the most important and most used technologies are the online meeting and conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which enable us to conduct ‘face to face’ meetings as well as hold webinars and team meetings.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise and is likely to change how legal work is done. AI platforms (such as ROSS Intelligence) are already being used by lawyers in conducting legal research, document review, and legal due diligence. Some are looking to develop ‘intelligent contracts’ that can be created based on a variable set of information. AI and other technologies are likely to take a more dominant role in the legal industry, initially alongside and at the aid of lawyers, and eventually may be taking over tasks currently performed by lawyers, and perhaps also by judges …
5. Has your company changed its remuneration structure during the crisis? Will the firm consider using a “Keystone” or hybrid remuneration model in future?
FBC has kept its remuneration structure during the coronavirus crisis.
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.
Citing Professor Richard Susskind: AI will flourish and replace ‘old ways of working.’