Fast Forward – Looking Back from the Future
By Carsten Reimann
Christmas is coming, a new year beckons
At this time of year many people are trying to figure out what will happen next year, or even longer term. Looking ahead is essential to any business, as how else can one plan and prepare? Our objective is to identify new opportunities for growth and the best strategic and operational shape. I picture myself in the year 2032 reminiscing of the preceding years and the events which had passed:
The challenges of Covid-19 made law firms look after staff, trainees and clients with innovative solutions. New ways of working were quickly adopted with video calls and online training becoming the norm. Many things never got back to how they once had been. Young lawyers started sharing flats with former classmates working for competitor firms and parents juggled childcare or home lessons with conference calls. Remote working forced lawyers to develop new skills. WFH – working from home – changed urban infrastructure requirements and individual working habits.
Law firms, like most organisations, only change when they have to. Accounting firms, consultants and contracting lawyer services were eating away more and more work as the three primary competitors of the traditional legal profession. Luckily, we had anticipated this development in our Vario offering so we were basically surfing the wave.
The new legal landscape also changed the way lawyers worked. Advances in technology saved them from mundane tasks in due diligences and project management. Lawyers spent more time understanding their clients and working on complex non-automatable tasks, collaborating in flexible lawyer+ teams also including professionals with data analytics or IT backgrounds. Smart contracts, cloud computing and big data arrived and influenced NewLaw. Lawyers had to become tech savvy.
The majority of what lawyers did on a day-to-day basis before Covid19 had been workflowed and automated. The brave new world of law required a new attitude rather than a skill. Successful graduates adopted an open and entrepreneurial view of their career possibilities. More than 70 % of our firm’s lawyers worked in flexible arrangements as consultants, most had their own businesses, family commitments or leisure activities on the side. People worked from everywhere – offices, WFH, remotely.
Now, where does all this leave us today? I recall Walter Isaacson’s quote which I had used many years ago on the first page of my novel Legal Dino and the Algorithm:
Innovation will come from people
Who are able to link beauty to engineering,
Humanity to technology and poetry to processors.
In other words, it will come from the spiritual heirs
Of Ada Lovelace, creators who can flourish
Where the arts intersect with the sciences
And who have a rebellious sense of wonder that opens them
To the beauty of both.
I’d like to wish you a happy 2021 and look forward to seeing how the future of law unfolds over the next decade.