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This article is written by Millia Dasgupta, a student studying BA LLB at Jindal Global Law School. This article covers how the current pandemic will affect the legal industry in terms of policy making, the working and attitude of the courts, firms, and in-houses, legal learning and remote work.


The last generation that saw a pandemic which called for this level of social distancing is probably not even alive today (the last pandemic of this severity being the spanish flu).

COVID-19 is going to change the world as we know it. It is going to have a profound effect on society and the way humans interact with each other, even the way our governments have been functioning until now. Among all the professions, the legal professions will be profoundly affected as well. The ways that the legal profession will get affected is the direct fall out of societal changes and also the economic downturn that will follow. Till the vaccination is developed. The physical distancing guidelines are going to have an enormous effect on the food and beverages industry, retail industry and many other big businesses which will directly affect the legal industry. 

This article will not be talking about the bigger implications of the recession that will follow this pandemic, societal and cultural changes and business damages that will affect the legal industry. We will be talking more about specific effects on the legal industry such as work from home, and how that will shape this industry’s future.

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus is named after the term ‘crown’. They cause common diseases such as the common cold, flu and mild respiratory diseases. Some of them can also affect animals and on rare occasions we see the virus jump from animal species to the human population. 

But there has been a novel type of this virus which is causing such a ruckus. COVID-19 is a new type of virus that experts have not seen before. 1,867,130 have fallen victim to this disease and the most worrying concern is that the virus keeps mutating, thus rendering all previous information about the virus irrelevant. 

The virus can be transmitted through touch. Such diseases are usually transmitted through large droplets (i.e. saliva and mucus) from the infected which contain the virus and survive on surfaces. Another fact that has made this virus so potent is that it survives on surfaces for very long. In order to make sure one is not infected by the virus, individuals are asked not to touch their faces and to always wash their hands, especially if they have been in public areas. Due to the quick rate of spreading, our government has imposed a strict quarantine in order to prevent spreading through human contact. 

Policy Making 

During such pandemics, the government plays an extremely important role due to the fact that a pandemic is largely a public health issue. How the government chooses to legislate in order to deal with this historical event will decide the structure and the contours of the legal sphere and the nature of landmark cases. Before we delve into what the future looks like, let us first discuss one of the models that the government follows during such events.

The Four Acts Model

First Act- Progressive Revelation

Progressive revelation is acknowledging that there is a problem and there is an increasing number of cases. Thus through this step, the government must engage the masses and make them realize the gravity of the situation.

Second Act- Managing Randomness

It is the job of the government now to make everyone understand the source, nature and reason of the pandemic. They must prevent religious, spiritual and cultural groups from cashing on this moment and attributing the reason to something else like the will of God.

Third Act- Negotiating Public response

After it has been ingrained in the collective public consciousness that there is an ongoing pandemic, they will demand some kind of action to be taken. It is during this act that strong and decisive leadership is needed in order to enforce some kind of action that has an effect on all the levels of society. This action must be conscious of the various cultural attitudes, class hierarchy and social differences, and must be enacted in such a way to unite everyone as one against this disaster. 

Act Four- Subsidence and Retrospection

This is for after the danger seems to subside and life begins to return back to its normal patterns, it is the job of the government to analyze their actions i.e.- figure out where they could improve and prepare for the next epidemic or pandemic. 

The Future

Looking at the decisions that the government has already taken with regards to lockdown, it seems that the government will implement more strict laws which may be borderline arbitrary. The court’s reaction to these laws might change as well. 2019 was a year of landmark cases such as the Navtej Singh Johar v. Union Of India Ministry of Law that valued individual liberty over public morality/opinion. The court might change this attitude and pass judgements and approve of laws that value public safety and morality over individual liberty.


The courts in India are one of the pillars on which this country’s democracy balances on. But due to the pandemic, Supreme Courts and High Courts have limited themselves to only see cases which are extremely important. Courts in their own way have been trying to get creative solutions to the problem such as setting up video conferences. Here is how the various courts are dealing with the issue.
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Supreme Court

The Chief Justice of India, S A Bobde said that closing down courts was not a favourable option and they would commence with virtual courts in order to tackle the problem. The SC is also encouraging e-filing and video calling. 

Those showing symptoms of cough and cold will not be required to attend the court. 

Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court shall only be restricted to watching urgent matters and unless dispensable, parties are advised not to make any personal appearances in court. Video conferences shall be used to record evidence.

Bombay High Court

The Bombay High Court is discouraging individuals from unnecessarily visiting the court and that they should visit only when matters are serious. The court shall be open from 12 pm to 2 pm. HC staff is also exempted from putting their attendance through biometrics and are required to put their attendance by signing a register. The court staff should also avoid crowding rooms and areas like the canteen. 

Calcutta High Court

Like the other courts, the High Court of Calcutta will only be seeing urgent matters. Activities from the Judicial Academy will be postponed until further notice. Lawyers have been directed to not bring their clients into court and video conferencing shall be available for undertrial prisoners. There has been a request for an increase of doctors in not only the High Court but in district courts as well. They shall also be equipped with thermal guns to check the temperature for everyone who enters the court. 

The housekeeping staff shall be reduced to half and shall work on rotation. They have been also asked to maintain hygiene in the court and to disinfect the complex on a daily basis. 

The Future

Due to the pandemic, it seems that the aftermath shall result in courts being able to shift into a structure that they have been very reluctant about changing into i.e- going digital. It seems that they shall be more open to using technology in their daily functioning such as e-filing and video conferencing. 

Law Firms And In-House 

A post-COVID-19 world will prove to be more competitive for firms in terms of finding talent and searching for clients and customers. Due to the problems that this pandemic is causing, businesses will want to go to firms and legal businesses that are able to provide a solution to these unique issues that will arise from the pandemic. This new environment will encourage a new system, where the customer will decide at what amount elite legal expertise will be given, not the firm itself. They will also decide how results are measured. This is due to the fact that there will be a scramble for clientele thus the client will become the real king and will dictate the terms. 

Legal departments will have to look at other areas for insourcing and outsourcing. This is because the recent environment is posing a threat to the traditional structure of such firms and these legal firms must look at unique solutions to these problems. While a lot of the business will go digitized, it will also change many of the traditional ways a firm works. What exactly these changes will be is hard to say from now. 

Mark A. Cohen in his article for Forbes states that the divide between law firms, corporate departments and other supply chain providers will no longer be so defined. Due to the shift to digital work, it will be easier for legal establishments to collaborate and find a solution for their clients. In this new age, expertise, collaboration, delivery, results, and customer satisfaction will matter.
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Digital Legal Learning

Law Colleges may follow the example of companies which provide online courses. Such as The advantages of such courses are that they are flexible and accessible. One can tailor their law course to their own needs by choosing the subjects they wish to specialize in. 

Not to mention that online course companies are willing to take the risk of investing in niche subjects (for example space law) due to the fact they will always find a market due to their accessibility. Being an online course also means they are more flexible with their mentors and can update their course material more regularly to meet the needs of their clients AKA students. 

Despite all these perks, Law colleges have adamantly fought off the structure of online courses and have stuck to the traditional classroom structure. It seems that now with COVID-19 forcing major Law Colleges to adapt online classes in their daily working, online teaching will now become the norm. 

It also seems like that online courses will no longer seem to be inferior to mainstream colleges as the masses will get used to the idea of online teaching. The traditional view that physical learning trumps online learning might be shaken off. Law colleges will confront competition from other sources, big tech giants might create legal training and learning centres. They will offer legal courses. Due to the job market becoming more competitive for law students, it is imperative that their coursework is tailored to prepare them for such a job market. 

Work from Home 

COVID-19 has changed the legal workforce drastically. A very prominent change is accommodating remote work in the usual legal culture. Due to this change, many individuals who are a part of the legal workforce have found themselves having to work from home. Thus we see the solid walls of bureaucracy which were so hard to break down before, have now m finally met its match. 

In order to enforce social distancing, industrial and legal titans have had to employ various tools in order to make sure that despite workers being unable to physically be present in the office, they can still contribute. 

These tools include online conferences with coworkers, clients and bosses, e-filing, more electronic communications and more. While it has been extremely difficult for the legal world to accommodate these changes, it has not been impossible and we have seen it evolving at a rapid rate.

While working from home may seem like a strange and chaotic breakdown of mainstream work culture,  A report by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) states that it is nothing new. In 2019, 69% of organizations allowed their workers to work remotely. And it seems that working from home has more benefits than what meets the plain eye. For one, work from home yields better job satisfaction. Further studies also state that changing the work environment and flexible timings which come with remote work yield a more efficient use of company resources and are more productive.


In this article, we have discussed how the legal industry will get affected in terms of policy-making, the working and attitude of the courts, firms and in-houses, legal learning and remote work. While the future may seem bleak, it seems that a titan like the legal industry will survive. 


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