Law firms
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This article is written by Ananya Shah, pursuing a Diploma in Business Laws for In House Counsels from LawSikho.

Introduction

Covid, Coronavirus, been here for over nine months and has shown no signs of slowing down or leaving any time soon. A virus that is so new that there is no way to keep it at bay or create a cure immediately. With pharmaceutical companies rushing against time and each other to constitute a vaccine and save humankind, being secondary, rather to gain profits everyone is anxious for a cure to be found. The coronavirus has brought the world as we know it to an immediate full stop. The coronavirus has also stopped functions of the offices, factories, and all the works of the offices and has come to a stand still without a single positive outcome.

Many people have lost their jobs during this severe pandemic, there have been many jobs and livelihoods that have been lost as the corporates aren’t churning out the amount of profits that they used to. With the shutting down of the markets and lessening of the customers there is a major gap in the markets due to lack of customers. 

The coronavirus is at its peak and there has been a major problem with the jobs, especially in law firms and it is a major problem that is seen. That the law firms are unable to create an environment for themselves wherein it is easy for them to bounce back from the hit that has been brought in due to the pandemic. There are few different ways that the law firms can be impacted, that is, people are scared to venture out of their homes and there are less cases that are coming up, which can cause a lot of problems in profiting and there are many lawyers that are removed due to less income and cash flow. The corporates being unable to pay have, like other industries have had to let go of their employees. There is yet another problem that the law firms and consultancies have faced that is that there are not enough clients that are coming in as there is lack of funds for the consultancies. Especially considering that the courts are shut and there is lack of understanding of a new way of contesting for a case which is new to everyone making the job much more difficult and problematic for the client as well as the lawyers who are trying to understand the work in a new format and in a manner that is completely new and different in comparison to the manner the work was done previously. Law firms have faced many challenges as from lessening of clientele to reforming the ways that they have worked upon beforehand. These challenges are quite problematic for the lawyers who have been working in this profession for a long period of time and there are many changes that they have gone through making it difficult to forge forward under the same circumstances. All over the world there have been small downturns that law firms have gone through. The level of difficulty felt by firms as they make the switch to remote work during COVID-19 will depend upon two factors: court appearances and age of clients. 

Many cases have been cancelled or postponed, and some courthouses have been shut down. Essential activities (like criminal bond hearings and family court cases involving child custody and visitation) are still occurring. Cases that do not require urgent hearing (like evictions, workers comp, personal injury, etc.) have mostly been put on hold with no particular date.

At the same time, firms will find that older clients require more face-to-face interactions. For estate planning, COVID-19 adds an extra layer of urgency as clients face difficult decisions in the face of potential incapacitation or death. For employment attorneys, clients who have been fired or laid off will require immediate assistance as they navigate unemployment, severance pay, non-compete clauses, and other challenges. Another manner of looking at the same situation is in a more positive light, that is in the 2008 recession there were many people who had lost their jobs and they had then opened their own businesses and works. We see that such small businesses created a new era of businesses and there were a lot of registrations that had taken place of the new home grown companies hence there were a lot of lawyers who were required to render their services to the new companies that had then been set up during the recession of 2008. There are many factors in play that have created a whole new manner of working in the legal industry and a few positives as well.

What are the positives of a pandemic

  1. Firstly there were many elderly people who couldn’t travel for a long period of time or at all to visit the courts during their dates the online court that has been set up in case of litigation has been majorly successful and there is a lot of scope.
  2. Also, there are new opportunities that are coming up which will act in a positive light for the law firms, there are new drafts to be made as to how a company must function under a pandemic situation as it has never before seen. Many companies are asking also for new policies to be drafted and worked upon as the entire work scenario has changed. Hence having a good lawyer, firm and/or consultancy is at the peak and is of utmost importance as well. 

Downturn in long term goals

There are certain goals that every law firm requires to fulfil and there are certain averages that are to be completed for every company and those transactions have gone quite low and there have been many write offs for all company employees. The amount of profits taken in by the law firms and consultancy firms are massively low and they are many times unable to make ends meet. This in turn forces the prices and consultancies to lower their prices and they are unable to compete with these costs. Some law firms handle downturn much better than others many firms due to multiple reasons that could be the following:

  1. Either they entered the market before.
  2. The company took in more profits in the last financial year.
  3. The company downsized themselves much earlier than others.
  4. The company had fewer employees to start off with hence didn’t make much impact.

There are many other factors that are involved, wherein the companies try to reach their goals and many times are also victorious in the same. There is a major shift in the demand and the manner that the clientele was and is coming.

The priorities for the law firm’s leaders are now to cut the cost of their services to keep the clientele base with themselves as the main focus as of now is mainly clientele and how to keep clients happy, because the context of the business has shifted dramatically and this is a challenge which is completely unprecedented. Connecting with their clients is although a difficult task but also beneficial for the law firms that have gone through a massive change.

The law firms must be vigilant on pricing as if the pricing slips up there are many problems that come with the same. If the pricing is strategic it would help the law firm as a strategically shown strength through extending the firm balance sheet for clients rather than gradually losing ground through a lack of pricing discipline.

Being farsighted and nearsighted at the same time is the key for the law firms that are currently in a problematic situation or in hot water so that they keep their services for gaining share from competitors, accelerating partnerships and they would in turn help the law firm. This is a highly uncertain environment wherein we are living in and the environment is changing rapidly which makes a lot of changes in the already existing law firm. The law firms and consultancies would also in turn learn how to adapt and become more agile in their work so that they may benefit with and from any situation that is thrown at them under the most dire of circumstances. 

Conclusion

The Covid pandemic has forced the world to change in all of their ways there has been a devastating impact all over and there is a major crisis that has been formed. The legal scenario being no different we have seen that there are a variety of issues that have risen from the pandemic. There have been dates that have been postponed, people who aren’t getting legal help as they do not want to venture out and meet others, there are many elderly people who aren’t savvy enough to use the internet to reach out to a law firm. The firms are in fact trying to take all the precautions that they can from meeting their clients and coming to work. Work from home in an entirely new scenario. There is a limit to which technology can help us and it can only go so far. There are both positives and negatives that we must see until the pandemic crisis is averted.


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