Technology is here to stay and is changing everything about how society operates, and post-pandemic, legal counsel must re-evaluate how they’re servicing their organisations.
While the legal professional marketplace was already on a modernising trajectory pre-pandemic, COVID-19 has accelerated numerous trends and brought a diversity of legal technology into the mainstream, changing – as Marina Yastreboff puts it – “everything about the way society works”.
“[Technology is changing] the work we as lawyers handle, even the very definition of who lawyers are,” she proclaimed.
In a nutshell, she said, in-house teams must “recognise that technology is here to stay”.
Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, Ms Yastreboff, a UNSW legal counsel and NSW president of the Australian Society for Computers and Law, said that the pandemic has provided corporate counsel with a window through which they can rethink their team’s utilisation of technology – particularly given how reliant organisations must be right now on their legal leaders.
“I would say it’s critical. In some areas, if you’re not tech-savvy, you cannot even operate,” she deduced. “For example, it is now mandated that electronic conveyancing be used. We’re doing things a different way.”
Corporate counsel has been “given a fantastic opportunity” to re-evaluate how they do a whole range of practice tasks, Ms Yastreboff continued.
These include “our work practices, the nature of work, the nature of interaction and triaging of work and how we manage our time. It will be a shame if we return to systems that are based on control,” she said.
“We have an opportunity to say, what have we learned? What can work best and what worked really well in this environment that we want to raise going forward? We as in-house counsel have a lot to learn from our colleagues in other professions. For example, in IT, they tend to have fantastic ticketing systems. They know how to triage matters. They know how to allocate work to where their expertise is and they’re quite efficient in the work that they do. We should really consider how we can learn from their models and create those into ours in terms of practicing law and providing services to others,” she said.
Not only this, but in-house legal teams have a window in which they can take time to answer questions about why they do what they do, Ms Yastreboff continued.
“Is it to protect human dignity? It is to ensure bias doesn’t creep in? Whatever the motivator is, [we have to] begin to consume this technology to create, essentially, a society that we want to live in. And it starts in the workplace,” she said.
“It starts with our interaction with the people that we meet on a day-to-day basis. We have skills and principles that are very important to develop.”