Partner: Head of Corporate (London) & Technology – Shoosmiths, England
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?
Managing a team and completing transactions from a remote environment across the last 12 months has come with its challenges, in particular supervisory/regulatory challenges but also transactional challenges of closing deals virtually. There have been more hours in the day to work on transactions as a team as commuting times have been cut and we have learnt how to use video conferencing effectively (although this was challenging a year ago). We have had to deal with new funding initiatives and structures introduced (for example the future fund) which has involved an education process both for ourselves and our clients.
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?
Yes we will continue to use flexible and agile working and indeed already had that in place well before the pandemic (for example our large manchester office has been “agile” for some years) we tend to move around a fair bit in the workplace now using “neighbourhoods” and other work areas to work more effectively – we are soon to move into much larger offices in London as we continue to hire more people.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
We have been developing legal tech solutions for a number of years now. MATTERS+ (a matter, contract and knowledge management solution for In House legal teams) and Resource Solutions https://www.shoosmiths.co.uk/expertise/connected-services/resource-solutions are established offerings developed in response to what we were hearing from our GC clients – that there were plenty of solutions geared towards complex litigation, but a lack of resources to help them with their non-contentious workload. The crisis has definitely accelerated the adoption of legal tech and prompted us to bring forward the launch of Cia (Contract intelligent analysis) and Live working – we are seeing a real appetite from clients to adopt new ways of working and ‘build back better’. Our successful, on-going New How initiative, launched in early May 2020, focusses on lessons learned and ensuring post-pandemic we all live and work ‘smarter, faster, better’.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
Everyone assumes the greatest impact will be around efficiency and productivity, but there is so much more to consider. Yes, we will become more effective and efficient and no doubt required response times will diminish and speedier communication will be expected as the norm (see my response to Q5) but conversely the real impact of LegalTech may well lie in freeing up time to use more wisely. Lawyers can use this time to get to know clients and their businesses more thoroughly – to really understand their issues to be able to innovate solutions around the advice we give. We’ve already seen how, through our ‘New How’ and ‘Shared and Halved’ initiatives, LegalTech can intensify the client relationship, collaborating, listening and sharing ideas, even when the advice sought wasn’t necessarily legal.
5. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes over the last year has been speed of communication. Clients now more than ever seem to expect/require advice/response almost instantaneously and we have seen a shift to instant messaging for communications (ie less email more slack/whatsapp/other platforms). This brings regulatory and compliance issues to the forefront as we learn to adapt to use different communication methods with our clients. I think there is a good chance that lawyers may not be using work email to communicate with clients in 10 years.