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How will COVID-19 impact the legal sector? A conversation with Luminance’s Chairman

16 April 2020 | Luminance

For legal professionals, as with employees of all industries, current thinking around business strategy and planning is dominated by the impact of COVID-19. Remote working, travel restrictions and the wider economic slowdown have all posed challenges to the way lawyers traditionally operate. Lawyers are being called upon to handle urgent and vital projects relating to the effect of COVID-19 without compromising the quality of the review. Over the coming weeks, members of Luminance’s Advisory Board share their perspectives on the impact of Coronavirus within the legal sector and how firms across the world are responding.

Accelerated adaptation

For Robert Webb QC, Luminance’s Chairman and former General Counsel of British Airways and Rolls-Royce, COVID-19 looks set to be as decisive an event as we have seen occur over the last century, and in relation to the legal industry in particular, will no doubt act as a “catalyst” for change. “Just as the immense contribution of women to Britain’s success in the first world war expedited the long running campaign for the right to vote, COVID-19 may hasten the adoption of technology in the legal industry.” In a sector that has traditionally been cautious about adopting new tools, the sudden explosion of practices such as remote working has accelerated trends that might have otherwise taken years to take effect. In Robert’s view, whatever lawyers’ previous attitude to remote working may have been, “they will now have to buy into the revolution.”

While many organisations had already been aware of the increasing necessity of tools that facilitated efficient, secure and collaborative remote working, these have rapidly become an urgent priority. Fortunately, unlike in previous eras “the partner in the big firm, the one-man band, the employed lawyer, the barrister and the trainee can all now access the whole corpus of legal knowledge which systems of law have to offer without breaking the rules on social distancing.” Luminance can provide lawyers with robust project management tools that allow lawyers to effectively collaborate across tasks, whether they are in the office or working remotely. Features such as automatic workflow distribution and document allocation ensure no duplication of work, whilst progress reports and findings are immediately available within the Luminance dashboard to ensure a thorough review that gets completed on time. In fact, in the last few weeks a Senior Associate at a Global Top 50 law firms was able to achieve an 80% time saving on project management through using Luminance. Further, Luminance is both language and jurisdiction agnostic, allowing it to be used seamlessly on international projects. Whether it is a colleague or an outsourced lawyer with specialist expertise, Luminance enhances communications across organisations, offices and countries, allowing lawyers to quickly overcome the challenges of remote working.

Permanent advances

In Robert’s assessment, the outbreak of COVID-19 means that “we are on the verge of intense legal activity, whether through the operation of force majeure clauses, ambitious takeovers or manic short selling.” Indeed, at Luminance, we have seen many of our customers working on significant reviews as their clients seek to understand their contractual rights and obligations, aiming to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Handling this volume of legal activity while simultaneously adjusting to ongoing disruption poses a great challenge for lawyers. In Robert’s view it can be done only through utilising developments in technology – in particular, the potential of machine learning to greatly increase the efficiency of reviews without sacrificing confidence in the results. Further, the value of these tools is not simply for the duration of the current crisis. “The time for artificial intelligence in the law is now here, accelerated by the current virus. COVID-19 will pass but the growth of artificial intelligence will be a part of its permanent legacy.”

In Robert’s words, “changes in society sometimes evolve gradually, sometimes, even if they would have occurred eventually, they are catapulted forward by unexpected events.” COVID-19 looks set to have a transformational effect on the legal sector and success may depend on having the tools which allow lawyers to utilise their talents, regardless of the situation.