Partner (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) – Keystone Law Middle East, Dubai
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?
Having worked for telcos and tech companies since 2002, I have been fortunate enough to have benefited from a progressive working culture that promoted remote working to improve productivity and achieve a sustainable work-life balance.
I think that the Covid-19 pandemic will be forever remembered as the single greatest catalyst to have forced organisations to accept remote working as a permanent feature of corporate life. As a technology lawyer, I feel a bittersweet sense of pride at how ubiquitous video conferencing software and ever-increasing broadband speeds have helped the world to cope with an unprecedented global event against a backdrop of an unprecedented loss of life, mass unemployment, lowered per capita incomes, increased stress and financial uncertainty.
I think we have all needed to show humility and to support first-time home-workers with the challenges they have faced. To this end, aside from being a lawyer, my focus has been on helping friends, family, business colleagues and associates whom I have connected with online to cope with pandemic-related stress and to assist them with balancing their work-life commitments.
2. Will you and your firm/company continue to use flexible and agile working in future? Will you reduce the size of your physical office space?
Remote working has enabled challenger law firms to retain agility and deliver flexible legal solutions for their clients. Keystone Law and its global subsidiaries operate a unique model allowing lawyers to work from wherever they choose, whether at home, the firm’s office locations or even in-house with clients, all whilst still providing an optimum service.
The pandemic (and its aftermath) has forced corporations to re-evaluate their commercial real estate portfolio. I personally think the ‘new normal’ will see corporations adopting semi-permanent remote working policies and re-designing office and meeting spaces to offer hotdesks, virtual collaboration meeting rooms, augmented-reality enabled conferencing facilities and product showcases.
At Keystone Law, we assist clients to re-evaluate their commercial real estate portfolios and move towards that ‘new normal’ where remote working is used alongside fixed or flexible offices. Remote working brings with it huge benefits but also key risks – namely monitoring the resilience and defences of cloud computing platforms which are used to host enterprise platforms, data protection compliance, employment laws, HSE issues stemming from home working and the use of outsourced co-working spaces, corporation tax liabilities and the growing trend of detecting and managing ‘stealth expats’.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
We have adopted, and continue to use legal technology. Keystone Law uses its own proprietary legal technology platform and intranet backbone called ‘Keyed-In’. It enables our lawyers to be ‘lawyers’. It utilises a ‘compliance by design’ methodology to integrate a systematic approach to regulatory compliance whilst automating administrative functions.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
I personally think that as lawyers, we need to look back a few years to see how FinTech and RegTech disrupted and revolutionised the financial services industry. The legal profession features all of the hallmarks of an industry that is ripe for disruption – to this end, lawyers need to actively engage with, and listen to clients and legal technology vendors in order to have any say regarding how legal technology will shape the legal profession.
One of the missing links I think that is hampering the adoption of legal technology is the lack of readily available, robust, hard-hitting financial data concerning the cost-savings and operational efficiencies that legal tech has delivered. Venture capitalists, private equity firms and corporations (and their CFOs) require business data to justify investments into legal technology firms and platforms.
The data exists – having spoken to several GCs about their use of technology, they all point to success stories about how they managed to cut processing times and improve productivity by utilising enterprise cloud platforms and online tools. Whilst those tools are not strictly defined as ‘legal technology’, the data indicates that mainstream legal technology can, and will achieve similar cost savings. Research groups and legal technology vendors need to collect and publish that data to stimulate the industry and improve opportunities for investment.
5. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years time.
I think that the influx of tech-savvy lawyers entering the legal profession (and associated functions) will lead to a wholesale change in how legal services are delivered. Incoming lawyers (most of whom started engaging with smartphones as children) are going to turn today’s legal engagement model on its head. I personally think that sourcing external legal services will become as easy as browsing through a social media feed.
Clients will be able to select their lawyer (or firm) based upon online trusted, verified reviews. Software will be used to automatically generate fee quotes without the need for a lawyer to produce an extensive spreadsheet. Legal services will be automated as much as is possible, and clients will be able to seamlessly pay for legal services online.