Founding Partner – JA Legal (Barristers-at-Law, Advocates and Legal Consultants), Pakistan
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?
One positive effect that COVID-19 has brought for me as an individual lawyer, as well as for my firm, is that it has allowed us to connect with potential clients, exiting clients and team members remotely. Over these months we have had meetings at odd hours, and in different time zones as well. Overall, I have become more tech savvy and continue to make use of the flexibility and accessibility that this online medium brings.
The negative effect was that potential clients were hesitant to engage immediately due to the uncertain economic climate.
The clients who we were already working for also desisted from litigating proactively, either by not filing cases or not agitating legal action, because they realized that courts were not on active duty and also that businesses were down. Many of them had cash-flow hiccups of their own and so often, our payments were delayed.
Another thing – many of our clients had rent disputes and these too could not be attended to during that period due to the leverage provided by the government on rental properties.
One other negative consequence of COVID-19 was the fact that many of my fellow lawyers lost their jobs and/or their paychecks. Most law firms, even the big ones, were majorly downsizing. But in a way, this had the positive impact that it allowed law firms to reassess their structures and to realise whether they had over-employed people or if they needed such large teams. Hopefully, this has added to increased efficiency.
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?
It is really useful to conduct business over the internet, and COVID has taught us that. However, we still require our physical office because having a physical presence no doubt has a lasting impact on our clients, in their conviction on us, and in the way our meetings are conducted. Also, we don’t get the benefit of body language during client meetings which lead to a loss of a meaningful connection. Working from home can also break up the seriousness required when handling a client meeting, which is why an in-person meeting is best. I also found that online communication and method of work can sometimes lead to difficulty in supervising associates and other office staff.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
I have used Zoom (Premium) and other online platforms. In the direness of the staunch COVID Lockdown, these online platforms were a godsend.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
I can’t say whether or not the legal industry will follow suit, but there is a great need of advancement of technology for all businesses associated with law. The need of the time is that law firms have software’s that automatically update clients with a click. Even established law firms would need to streamline their SOPS, since we have all realized how important client dealing is. Without our clients, we have no work.
At Themis School of Law, we had to shift gears to teach law online. This was a struggle for student and instructor alike, but to keep afloat we had to learn new tricks.
5. Has your company changed its remuneration structure during the crisis?
The places I am currently associated with have not changed our structures, fiscally or otherwise. At Themis School of Law, we held on to all our employees on our original understandings. Similarly, with JA Legal, my team experienced no change. We continue with fee-sharing/hybrid remuneration. A law firm I was associated with, however, did downsize, and made severe cutbacks.
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.
The case management system in Pakistan is going to be more in advanced in terms of technology.