Partner: Head of Banking & Finance – Wolf Theiss, Poland
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?
Covid-19 turned out to be a great motivator to use IT tools in a smarter way. We suddenly discovered videocalls, which had been available for years, but we hardly ever used. And now, just when we needed to take care of our team’s morale – while they spent so much time working from home – we found how useful videocalls are. We were able to see each other online and chat about the things we would normally discuss in the office over a morning coffee. It’s not the same as face to face meeting, of course, but at least we still remember our faces.
What I do miss a lot is the opportunity to meet clients and peers informally. In May last year I organised “The Tea-time with Wine On-line” conferences which gave our clients a venue in which to chat about the trends on the market, new challenges and opportunities and so on. We sent a bottle of wine to each participant and enjoyed something that would, yes, usually be around a table, wine tasting on a personal level, but which was still enjoyable.
But what works with the clients you know doesn’t always work with new clients – or at least it’s more difficult. However, IT technology comes up again with some answers. As much as I am relying on the network I’ve developed during pre-Covid era, many of my clients and peers follow and share our social media posts, so the number of my virtual followers is gradually increasing. I am not a great fan of webinars, but if they are well prepared they can also be a great tool for gaining new clients.
The positive side of lockdown is the opportunity to make better use of the place you live in, to be closer to the family and have more time to spend together. If you can organise it well, “work from home” can be turned into “work from anywhere” and if the internet connection is good enough you can work literally from the beach or a mountain resort. If you organise your day properly, you can combine your duties with your hobbies. And if you don’t, well, you can be frustrated working on the beach instead of enjoying the sea.
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?
We learned that working from anywhere is a valuable alternative to working in the office, that is true, but working in the office is undeniably more productive and helps to build the team and to develop the corporate culture. There is also something which the Romans called “genius loci”, the spirit of the place. I believe that in the future we will be able to allow our people to work from anywhere to a greater extent, especially if they prove to be able to bring a valuable work product in return. However, in the long run each of us will need to know that we still have our office, which is, after all, our second home. So Wolf Theiss in Warsaw has decided to increase our physical office space. As we have an appetite to continue to grow, we decided to move into a new building called Central Point. I am pleased to see how engaged our team has been in designing the place which will emphasise the very values of our organisation.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
Wolf Theiss understands the importance of legal tech and we keep our eyes open for any innovations that might arise. We have a special legal tech team which can transform legal and business ideas into solutions. We use our WT Space platform that enable seamless communication and management of transactions, as well as using automated documents and software that allows us to manage hundreds of similar agreements.
One real change that appeared was the use of electronic signatures. Initially, limited numbers of market players used them and then only a few accepted them, although by law they were as acceptable as wet ink signatures. But after a year or so electronic signatures became accepted and are now widely used. There has also been a huge change in the Polish courts, where a number of court sessions are conducted on-line.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
I believe there will be a great change, in that many repetitive activities will be taken over by machines which, suitably programmed, could perform the task better than a human being. As in most industries, certain categories of work will no longer be profitable. There is no doubt about this – there is already a trend towards condensing the amount of information passed to the client, and I believe that in the future this trend will accelerate. I also believe that legal marketing will be much more data-based. That said, of course, machines cannot replace human judgement and intuition – as a wise man once said: “A man can sell himself, a machine can’t”!
5. Has your firm changed its remuneration structure during the crisis? Will the firm consider using a “commission only” or hybrid remuneration model in future?
No, Wolf Theiss has not changed its remuneration system during this time. However, there are ongoing discussions within the firm about how to find the best way to remunerate our team members taking into account the financial results of their work, their contribution to client acquisition and retention, creating valuable relations with their team members and their overall contribution to the firm and its processes. We are seeking a model that will be fair, promote collaboration and innovation.
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.
Every lawyer will have to learn programming skills. It will be as natural as sending an email now. The winners will be among those who will be able to change legal problems into computer algorithms to collect and filter appropriate data and still have the courage and ambition to use their judgement and intuition to solve these legal problems.