Norman Wisely

Norman Wisely

Office Managing Partner – CMS, Scotland

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?

I’ve certainly had to become more proficient at IT, from setting up monitor, mouse and keyboard (etc.) at home, to forcing myself to use MS Teams and similar for calls and client presentations/seminars.  In many ways I’m more efficient as a client-facing lawyer, with fewer internal meetings taking up significant time, albeit, internal and external conference calls can be more frequent and harder in many ways, requiring more concentration. The positives are definitely spending more time with family, being present at mealtimes, and wasting less time on travel, both the office commute and inter-office and client travel (I was averaging being in London or elsewhere every fortnight). The negatives centre on not spending as much face-to-face time with colleagues and clients – collaboration and delegation, and human interaction as a whole is much easier in person in my experience.

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?

Yes, in terms of flexible working where we’ve generally been ahead of the market – many worked flexibly for various reasons prior to COVID and will continue to do so and I think we’ll see an increase in flexibility.  We have no current plans to reduce office space.

3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?

Our IT at CMS has been terrific, to have a workforce of 1000s of lawyers switch to remote access in a short space of time and for an extended period is incredible.  Our use of “Teams” for calls and seminars and switch to e-signing and remote completions on legal transactions has been a huge step-forward in terms of modernising approach generally and we won’t look back in that regard

4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years? 

I think flexibility of physical location and e-signing of documents in particular will streamline the industry further.  The change in legal working culture due to COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the development of legal tech, as a key enabler of efficient and effective remote working. With resources more valuable than ever within the present climate, firms are using technology to slash the time it takes to undertake basic processes – and we are going to see an increase in the use of artificial intelligence in the legal sector within even just the next 5 years. Just as use of the Internet, email, and other technological developments have become commonplace in our day to day legal work, the same will become true of AI. With AI developments allowing technology to handle monotonous and lengthy review tasks, lawyers will be free to focus on their client-facing role and more complex projects. In the future, we can expect a higher level of tech-savviness amongst lawyers, as well as increasing use of more advanced software in areas such as automated contract review, legal research or automated self-serve tools for more simpler client legal enquiries.

5. Has your firm changed its remuneration structure during the crisis? Will the firm consider using a “Keystone” fee-sharing or hybrid remuneration model in future?

No, again no current plans to do either.

6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.

See above. Also the most notable difference will be the transition to a flexible model for legal offices. With a majority of lawyers finding that working from home had positively affected their overall well-being, it seems unlikely that law firms will return to a five day, fully office-based, working week for all. Through working from home over lockdown, legal professionals have enjoyed the upsides of remote working, which have included a greater ease in finding time to fit in exercise and to carry out personal tasks, cutting out travel times spent commuting to and from the office, as well to client meetings, and being able to work at the times when they are at their most productive, as opposed to at set times. A fully remote model, however, comes with its own challenges: greater difficulty in managing teams, less personal visibility, and loss of social interaction and daily structure are just some of the grievances expressed by lawyers in adapting to working from home. Lawyers will have a far greater degree of flexibility than they were given in times pre-COVID-19, with a high level of autonomy in determining their own work patterns.

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