Counsel & Arbitrator – Syed Mahdi Chambers, 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?
The Covid-19 crisis has affected many fields and the way they used to function globally. One thing that the pandemic demanded of us was to go beyond our usual modes of practice and adopt the change coming our way. Luckily, our Chamber was fortunate enough to have sufficient means to fulfil the needs of the new normal. The most positive outcome I witnessed during lockdown was that we actually had plenty of work on our hands, since we preferred on switching from onsite meetings to meetings on Zoom and Skype, so did our Clients. By doing so, we were updated about all matters remotely and the safety protocols were also complied. We scheduled our meetings as per mutual convenience and our working hours expanded as we witnessed the shift of business from new clientele and instructions. We did what was necessary in that time frame and that has worked in our favour as the amount of instructions had doubled during lockdown. So much so, that there had been an increase in the number of Arbitration & Mediation (Dom/Intl) instructions from our clientele as a preferred means of dispute resolution. On the contrary, except for Urgent matters, Civil Courts in Pakistan were not much responsive in terms of adopting remote hearings, which created problems for the clients.
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?
Our Chambers’ is engaged in multiples instructions from domestic and international clients, therefore, we were already aware of hybrid working mode in that manner. Hence, even in the future when the situation calms down and Covid-19 is hopefully no longer a threat to mankind, we would still be functioning actively over online platforms and conducting online meetings. Given the continued number of instructions we are receiving, we infact tend to expand the size of our Chambers’ in order to cater the growing demand of remote arbitration and/or mediation hearings.
3. How have you employed legal tech during the crisis? What has been successful and what has been lacking?
As stated earlier, we have a successful track record of international clients prior to lockdown, so our Chambers’ was already familiar with online platforms. To be specific, we juggled our meetings amongst Zoom, Skype and MS Teams, which has been very useful.
4. How do you see the advancement of legal tech affecting the legal industry in the next 10 years?
Advancement in legal tech remains no more a cliche’, rather, something the legal fraternity is getting used to. There has been an ongoing debate globally to the extent that AI will replace lawyers or be be a value addition. I am convinced that the most advanced legal jurisdictions such as UK, USA, UAE, Singapore are continuously investing and adapting legal tech as a means to reduce the constraint of jurisdictional boundaries and expand their work. Likely, in the next 10 years, legal tech will be the key driver for international presence, to the extent that Litigation, Arbitration and Cross-Border Transactions will be controlled remotely, thereby, increasing the competition amongst lawyers and thus giving clients a larger pool to avail legal services. So much so, that the legal hiring shall also be extended globally, and we have witnessed firms/chambers/organisations hiring from the international pool on remote basis.
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 prominent changes have been made in the remuneration structure neither at our Chambers’. We were fortunate to work in such a manner even in times of crises.
6. Name one key thing that will be different in the legal profession in 10 years’ time.
The Clients will be more close to lawyers in terms of rapid communication and professionalism. Legal profession will no more be restricted to jurisdictional constraints.