“Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change,” said Milton Friedman. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one could have been forgiven for being technologically challenged but now no longer. The lesson we have learned in the past six months is that technologically-ready organizations managed to adapt faster to the new reality as compared to their digitally less savvy counterparts. However, these relatively digitally-fit companies too, are continuing to face a steep learning curve due to the endless march of technology. They are continuing to face the need to constantly tweak their business models in step with the changing times.
No organization, no matter which industry it belongs to, has escaped from the clutches of the contagion and the legal-regulatory sphere is no exception to the norm. Historically, the sector has been slow to the adoption of technology but the disease has brought home the realization that it is no longer possible to ignore technology and digitalization. The past few months have witnessed virtual hearings replace courtroom proceedings and law firms and in-house legal teams turn to tools such as multi-party conferencing platforms, parallel chat rooms and virtual whiteboards.
However, this is just the beginning and more is yet to come as the legal profession looks at further optimizing service delivery at reduced costs through newer tools thrown up by the digital revolution. Clearly, this is a time for change and companies and brands that have hitherto been strangers to digitalization must get onto the technology bandwagon sooner than later so as to be able to survive, let alone make a mark for themselves.
The reality though is that the response to COVID-19 has been a bit of a mixed bag with some companies managing to tide over change while others faltering in their tracks. Still others have been unable to meet even contractual obligations, giving rise to a number of corporate disputes, especially related to force majeure and changes in legal provisions. To an extent, riding the challenge has also been a function of crisis-preparedness and some corporates have taken the crisis head on with strategic thinking and execution while others have failed miserably in their attempts.
At this critical juncture, Legal Era Magazine is once again demonstrating its sense of responsibility and commitment to the legal fraternity by organizing the first-ever Virtual General Counsel Meet 2020. This virtual platform will bring together in-house legal teams and their GCs to discuss the way forward in these difficult times. The issues discussed include how in-house teams need to acquire new and diverse skills to meet the emerging challenges, how they must move from being sole providers of legal services to managing an ecosystem of legal service providers and so on.