Office Managing Partner – DWF, Qatar
1. How has the Covid-19 crisis affected the way you work as a lawyer?
Covid-19 has revealed many truths about inefficiencies in the way lawyers work. The practice of law has always been steeped in tradition and so many of the old ways of working have lingered even though technology has presented opportunities to enhance the way lawyers work. Covid-19 has forced lawyers to pay attention to technological advancements that could benefit/enhance the way lawyers work. What that has meant is that rather than “experiment” with new ways of working (at risk of the experiment being unsuccessful), lawyers were forced to adapt and in the end, the results of that adaption has been reflected in the bottom line. We have travelled less and worked more (less travel time between office/home), we have been more accessible to clients (as the work day has in most instances been extended as we work from home), we have spent less on business development activities, we have restructured as a means of being prudent, we have invested in technology to enhance vigilance on measuring/capturing/analysing data etc., and technology has allowed us to deliver the same level of service while making those adjustments that have resulted in better economic performance and more flexibility to be more competitive with fees (to the benefit of clients). In this regard it has been a win-win. Of course, I recognize that this story isn’t the same for every firm, but to the extent a firm has a relatively diversified practice portfolio and a certain level of agility in its ability to adapt (they were well placed to see this picture emerge). If they were not, I suspect the picture may be different. Productivity, for the most part, has increased and costs/overheads have been reduced. This is a significant benefit for the business. Working from home, however, has meant that the lines between personal lives/space and professional lives/space have been blurred. Additionally, it has become more difficult to replicate the feeling of comradery and being part of a team while working remotely over extended periods.
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?
DWF has always embraced agile working. The business has never been tied to the idea that it is necessary to do work from an office. I think prior to COVID, working remotely, although accepted and commonly practiced in many of our offices around the world, was still the exception. Whether this “new normal” of the majority/entirety of our people working from home over extended periods now translates into reducing real estate requirements is something that is actively being looked at. Requiring most of our people to work remotely and reducing real estate requirements is certainly attractive. There are, however, some downsides that we need to look at carefully before making a long term decision on that. I suspect that what will emerge is that we will continue to embrace agile working (because that has always been part of the business’ DNA) and once agile working becomes the rule and not the exception, then that will allow us to make decisions on space requirements.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
Of course we quickly adapted to the remote environment because we are set up that way anyway. Our IT infrastructure was designed to fully support agile working and so many of the tech platforms that enhanced the way we worked during this period were or were becoming part of the day to day experience within the business anyway. I don’t think there is anything that I would say was unsuccessful. Within the firm, I think, from a legal tech perspective, things went well.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
I think legal tech will have a significant impact on the industry. It will change the ways in which we communicate, it will increase connectivity, it will allow us to be better at analysing data and afford us the opportunity to become more efficient and more cost effective. It will increase the demand for legal outsourcing (paralegal’s stock will significantly rise) and so much more. Law firms have generally been resistant to change (in large part because they are usually run by older white men who’ve done things a particular way for decades) but those firms who see the changes coming and position themselves to adapt or be a part of that change, will, in my view, thrive, those who resist the change will struggle.
5. Has your firm changed its remuneration structure during the crisis? Will the firm consider using a “Keystone” or hybrid remuneration model in future?
The business has not changed its remuneration structure as a result of the crisis. As with any business there is always, I imagine, a desire to further optimise. So I suspect that reviewing the comp model is something that happens every so often. I am not, however, aware of any plan (at the moment) to modify the business’ comp structure.
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years time.
The hourly rate fee model will be obsolete.