COVID-19 has made considerable waves in the legal profession. McKinsey makes mention of several massive, sweeping changes that have impacted law offices around the country . From massive businesses like Kirkland & Ellis LLP on the one end to smaller companies like Horst Shewmaker Law everyone has had to adjust how they operate in these uncertain times. The practice of law has adapted to the shifting tides of the modern world, and it may end up saving some money in the process.
Overlapping Jurisdictions Have Made It Difficult for Compliance
In between the sweeping shelter-in-place orders, each county and district has had its own public health protocols to keep citizens isolated from the virus. The upside is that they may have saved a lot of lives. However, because these laws weren’t written cognizant of other legislation at the local and federal level, there is some overlap. The orders don’t say the same thing and obeying one might mean being in contravention of the other. The legal profession has had to carefully navigate this legislative minefield, especially when it comes to their clients’ well-being. Most lawyers have turned to technology to help them bridge the gap, and state legislatures seem to be catching on to this idea as well.
The Legal System Has Been Forced to Adapt
Similar situations have arisen where local legislatures have been dealing with matters on a case-by-case basis. There hasn’t been any overarching legislation that governs several parts of the legal practice, most glaringly contracts. Contract law and how the pandemic has affected them have seen the legal professional have to start adopting new ways to treat a unique emerging situation. Circumstances beyond the control of many businesses have rendered the idea of contract litigation a sensitive one. The “force majeure” rule allows for circumstances beyond a party’s control, and in the case of the pandemic, it’s one of the most used clauses in modern suits.
The Evolution of Hearings
Because of the difficulty in getting people into the same building together, courts have started to do depositions and hearings by Zoom. The legal system is likely to keep these practices after the end of the pandemic as well. With several regions of the country backlogged with both civil and criminal cases, these measures must push the legal system into movement. Unfortunately, it’s doing so way too slowly. The New York Times mentions that the pandemic has created a massive backlog of 39,200 criminal cases.
The “New Normal” of the Legal Profession
Lawyers and firms will both have to get used to change how they do business. With face-to-face meetings uncertain within the near future, meeting with and deposing clients and witnesses may change permanently. Technology has helped businesses adapt to the changing world, but whether these adaptations will save some smaller companies is still a question that needs an answer. The world has changed permanently, and the legal profession will have to adapt to it. Luckily, it’s already made massive strides towards doing so.