A Relativity Fest Panel today provided their top takeaways of the impact of Covid on the legal profession. Here’s the Panel’s top ten and my top three.
Relativity Fest 2021 kicked off today. Like last year, this year’s version is a completely virtual. (Will we ever have a live conference again?). Relativity provides secure, end-to-end legal & compliance software to analyze data for e-discovery, litigation, investigations, and other uses. It’s a giant in the industry. Relativity Fest is its annual conference designed to educate and connect with customers and others in the field.
On opening day, a group of who’s who in ediscovery and real thought leaders in the legal ecosystem offered their views of the impact Covid has had on the legal profession, among other things. Not surprisingly, given the strength of the panelists, their views were pretty much spot on. The panelists:
- James Francis IV
- Andrew Peck
- Jared Coseglia
- David Horrigan
- Ari Kaplan
- Debbie Reynolds
- Maribel Riveria
- Ines Rubio
- Zach Warren
And here are the ten takeaways the Panel identified:
- There is an increased use of technology by lawyers in general as a result of the pandemic.
- Since the Pandemic, the speed of hiring has increased exponentially. Hiring and interviewing are now conducted more and more virtually. It’s no longer necessary to try to juggle various schedules of those with hiring decision making for live interviews. Entities who don’t adapt to the new hiring nimbleness will be severely disadvantaged in the great talent hunt that’s going on.
- There is a struggle between individual goals and desires regarding work and organizational goals and desires. We see this in the clash between individuals who want more remote work and firms and employers that pine for a full return to the office.
- Business and law firms are looking for talent “all over.” The geographic location of that talent is no longer relevant. This phenomenon offers hiring entities a greater talent pool.
- People are working more than they did pre-Pandemic, and the elimination of commute time has been replaced by longer working hours. Firms and indivicuals are grappling with how best to shut down before significant burn out.
- There is a tremendous increase in people looking for different jobs. The priorities of many people have simply changed because of Covid.
- Working teams now better understand the need for collaboration tools and technology.
- There is more flexibility in how people get work done now due to remote work. People work at times more convenient to them, for example.
- There is an acceleration of tech adoption by legal professionals generally. Perhaps out of necessity, lawyers have become more technologically self-sufficient than before. Firms and in-house departments can better assess what technology is actually being used and what works. This ability makes for better tech decisions overall.
- Courts have used Zoom and other video conference tools and like them. But the big question is whether the waiver provided by the CARES Act for the use of video conferencing in federal courts will continue. If not, then the days of Zoom legal proceedings in federal court will unfortunately be over.
All of these are perceptive. But here’s my top three. Where and when we do work post-Pandemic is of lesser and lesser importance. (This was true pre-pandemic but most didn’t realize it). The realization that there is little need of being in an office to do work can be seen in a recent Washington Post article somewhat tongue in cheek entitled Workers Are Putting On Pants To Return To The Office. The thrust of the article is that workers are returning to the office only to find themselves on Zoom video conferences all day. Ironically, people are going to the office to do exactly what they do at home.
Second, unquestionably lawyers are more comfortable with tech. They are doing more and can do more than they ever thought. This ability and comfort may fundementally change legal technological inertia once and for all.
And finally and perhaps most significant is the great talent hunt and migration that’s going on now, which I have previously discussed here and here. For the first time in my professional life, there is more demand for good lawyers than supply, and as Andrew Maloney recently pointed out, compensation is no longer the magic bullet. This demand supply imbalance could force drastic changes in the working environment for talent.
More remote work, more reliance on technology and more power to individual lawyers and less ability of employers to dictate working conditions. The times are a’changin.