Vice President (Legal Affairs) – Qatar Navigation QPSC (Milaha), Qatar
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?
As a starter, reliance on printouts has reduced so I am hopefully saving some trees. But on a serious note, in my opinion, there are two areas that impacted me the most as a lawyer during this pandemic; Adaptability and Wellness-Concern.
Adapting to remote working conditions was perhaps the biggest mindset challenge that I had to overcome. Following that, I also had to revise my approach, as a lawyer, towards risk management (both legal & commercial). Interestingly, business within energy & transportation space has become more susceptible to volatility, but as lawyers we are expected to address risk concerns in an increasingly flexible manner. Finding this balance and in that process revising my worldview on governance has been a huge learning curve during this pandemic.
Also, I have become much more cognizant of my work-life balance and a strong advocate of wellness of myself, my family, team and colleagues. I think this mindset is here to stay.
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?
So far there have been no changes to our physical office space but given the pandemic and lockdown, it has certainly ignited discussions. I think there is a genuine inclination towards agile and flexible working but that decision is not simple nor binary. For a Middle-East based organization like ours, which has considerable international operations and employees representing more than 40 countries, it will be a complex transition. As we speak, its still a hypothesis that flexible work model will yield greater productivity. If we decide to go down that path, we will first have to test it in a local environment and then deal with cross-border arrangements.
Unfortunately, regulatory landscape (both local and international) has also not really kept pace with this trend so it does create certain compatibility issues with policies, employment conditions and most importantly PE concerns from a taxation perspective when considering international arrangements. Having said that, I quite believe that organizations will have to deal with this trend creatively and not just wait for legislative reforms.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
Milaha as an organization has always been digitally savvy. As a matter of fact, we already had digital systems in place for approval, signatures etc and well before the pandemic, we had embarked on an ambitious digital transformation journey where we upgraded our systems and migrated our ERP systems to cloud. This turned out to be a blessing during the crisis and therefore adapting to remote working was quite seamless for us. So, we did not have to necessarily employ any particular legal tech. We were able to migrate physical documentation work on to cloud and that pretty much took care of everything. Till date most of us are working remotely and functioning like a well-oiled machine.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
Legal industry is long due for an overhaul. There has been some interesting tech development, but the adoption is lagging. So I think that the industry will play catch-up for the next 5 years and then we will start seeing some really interesting formats of both legal services delivery as well as legal services consumption.
But development and adoption of legal tech is not enough. There has to be change in the org design and fee structure of law firms and similarly for legal departments. With legal tech as enablers, legal departments will play a greater role in governance whereas law firms will have to structure themselves as an extended arm of the in-house community. For this to happen, law firms will have to reorganize themselves, legal department will have to re-evaluate their purpose/function and tech will represent the confluence of both.
5. Has your company changed its remuneration structure during the crisis?
No we haven’t.
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.
At large, transaction management will change as we know it and we will see an increase in document standardization which will lead to OTC legal documents across practice, levelling the playing field for cross-border transactions.
Its also my wishful thinking that a lot of lawyers would be coding their way out of law-school in the near future. This will help new generation lawyers to get more out of available tech and be able to innovate their daily work in a unique and personal way.