Like many other sectors within the global economy, the legal industry has been reshaped these past few months. With the outbreak of COVID19, the industry has had to fast-track it’s transition into the digital age. Lawyers have had to incorporate technology and new processes into their firms overnight, that would have otherwise taken months.
In this article, we discuss the specific areas of the legal industry that have been affected.
It is no surprise that the property market was impacted by the outbreak. With introduced social distancing rules, the norms like physical house inspections and public auctions were banned. This made buyers less confident with purchasing their dream home and property transactions were more than halved nationally. This has created a lot of uncertainty about the growth of the property market, as before the outbreak Australia was at an all-time high with NSW at the strongest annual growth since mid-2017.
With social distancing policies being loosened, we can hope that the property market will regain its momentum. This should regain buyer’s confidence and encourage more people to buy and sell.
Business transactions have traditionally taken place in person, however, with COVID19 pushing the transition into the technology age, we have realised the efficiencies that come with transacting through technology.
Real estate agents lost the ability to sway buyers/sellers with their in-person ‘charm’, so they quickly adapted to providing clients virtual house tours and online consultations. Whilst this might not have been as effective, it helped agents to continue ‘business as usual’ and still provides a quality service.
Lawyers and conveyancers have been readily transacting through virtual workspaces to keep their matters moving. Settlement providers have enabled them to settle online without the need to attend in person meetings. Furthermore, electronic signing and verification tools have been adopted quickly to ensure they can continue servicing new clients, along with retaining current ones.
With the lockdown in place, many businesses are experiencing temporary closure. The firms that have continued to operate have been the ones that were flexible to change. If practices are unable to change, it becomes difficult to adapt to circumstances such as COVID19. Many firms have had to consider restructuring their business, unfortunately resulting in staff reductions. The Australian Government introduced ‘job keeper’ payments, which have allowed small businesses to continue to operate by providing wage subsidies.
Its hard to find the positives in a situation like this, however with fewer businesses running there is less competition, resulting in businesses attracting clients they may not have before.
Future of law firms
With the transition from manual to digitalised, the idea of a paperless future has become more likely. Applications like electronic signing have become higher in demand, increasing the chance of the removal of paper handling altogether.
With increased technology use, comes heightened risks of cyber-attacks. Businesses need to feel at ease when using a platform or service and be safeguarded against these attacks. Technology providers have identified this, and they will need to innovate more when it comes to security to make sure this potential risk does not become reality.
COVID19 has accelerated the industry into the digital age and legal professionals are starting to future-proof their business. Though this outbreak has caused major concern and worry in the legal environment, it has produced an environment where the ‘fit have survived’, showing us that flexibility and adaptability are an important trait for every business.