General Counsel – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
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?
Given the prominent role that Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has played in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, particularly in trying to put together a global programme aimed at ensuring equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccines, my team has been busier than ever working on novel legal issues. As a result, we have had to reallocate resources to address urgent problems, and have been more rigorous in deciding on the work that is outsourced vs. handled internally vs. postponed. More than ever before, we have had to be adaptable, comfortable with risk and business focused.
As for the positives that have emerged out of lockdown, we have been working remotely since mid-March and have managed to work quite efficiently, while also maintaining connection as a team through daily 30-minutes check-ins via Microsoft Teams. On the other hand, the negatives of remote working are that it is harder to establish relationships and build camaraderie, particularly with colleagues from other teams. Moreover, not having a physical distinction between where one works and where one spends his/her free time can actually make it more difficult to unplug and stop focusing on work. In that context, some colleagues have observed that they do not feel they are working from home, but rather that they are sleeping at work!
2. Will you and your firm continue to use flexible and agile working in the future? Will you reduce the size of your physical office space?
We already work in open plan, so I cannot see us further reducing the size of our physical office space. Having recognised the efficiencies of remote working, however, we have revised our remote working policy to allow everyone to work remotely a couple of days a week in the post-Covid world, of course always dependent on particular business needs.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
The pandemic and associated lockdown have highlighted the importance of technology in the legal profession. As an organisation, Gavi has invested in cloud solutions and collaboration tools over the last few years, so the transition to remote working has been quite smooth. We have conducted all our meetings and discussions via Microsoft Teams and WebEx. Wet ink signatures have been replaced with electronic signatures and we have all enjoyed working collaboratively on documents using SharePoint and OneDrive.
Of course, this has also meant that we have had to become more conversant in various cybersecurity measures, given that we are operating in a much riskier environment.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
As the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of technology adoption in all industries, including the legal, it is very possible that this trend will lead to lasting changes in how we practice law even after the pandemic subsides. I hope we will all be able to look past the crisis and move our organisations from the “react” phase of dealing with the lockdown and plan tech initiatives to innovate into what will become the “new normal” of how we all work. Similarly, in the world of e-signatures, document sharing and online collaboration tools, it may not make much sense to go back to physically sending documents back and forth or spending half a day on physical deal signings.
I think this experience has also highlighted a greater need for continuous upskilling of modern lawyers wishing to remain competitive in a post-pandemic world. Finally, it also represents a tremendous opportunity for the providers of legal tech solutions, who should remain mindful of the massive pressures to control cost and augment efficiencies that both in-house legal departments and law firms face.
5. Has your firm changed its remuneration structure during the crisis?
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years time.
I believe we will see much greater automation of standard repetitive work and manual decision-making processes through AI-based tools. We will also see an increase in alternative busines structures and such professions as legal knowledge engineer, legal process analyst and legal management consultant. Finally, in ten years, I think law firms will think more like businesses, offering greater value for money and flexible payment setups (e.g., flat fee packages).