Last week’s webinar introducing Hungarian Legal Incubator Jumpstart & Central Europe’s first legal platform LEXITUP, examined “technology for law” in the post-Coronavirus world. The COVID-19 crisis has “forced” integration of technology into CEE law firms and panelists shared their views of its immediate and long-term impacts. As Coronavirus has prompted an “unmasking” of existing firms’ strengths and weaknesses, guests share the attributes that set successful firms apart. 

By Mariah Rossi

Legal tech trends will continue to accelerate in Central Europe in the wake of COVID-19 was the consensus of the May 20th webinar featuring a panel of legal professionals from around the world.  Toronto based Mitch Kowalski as Moderator, was quick to point out that, “a microbe is causing the legal sector to engage in far more change than anything else that the industry had thought was more vital” driving the conversation as industry experts divulged their observations for the future of law.

The webinar’s keynote speaker, the former dean of Northwestern University Pritzker-School of Law, Professor Daniel Rodriguez  addressed the changing nature of legal education during the Coronavirus. While being in the same place isn’t a requirement for engaging in professional activities, on the flip-side building and sustaining new professional relationships was an issue that both law students and legal professionals were facing. Rodriguez said, “with the aid of technology on the same day people have the opportunity to contribute to multiple events worldwide and people are finding that they are busier than they ever have been.” He added that, “the use and utilization of technology is something that lawyers, and professors will want to sustain post COVID-19.” The virus helped develop and nurture trust in technology in the legal sphere and Rodriguez was optimistic that it could be used to “strengthen and broaden” relationships with clients.

Panelists: Eric Eck , Andrea Miskolczi , Ellen Hayes, and Miklos Orban moderated by Mitch Kowalski agreed that the virus was forcing innovation and trust in “technology for law” as Eck put it. Miskolczi was quick to point out that is wasn’t about the size of the firm that will dictate success with innovation and legal technology after COVID-19, rather it was those attributes, strategic thinking, experimenting, risk-taking, and visionary leadership, that define future, post-COVID 19 leading firms. Eck discussed the advantage of being an “augmented lawyer” who reads faster, writes faster and utilizes time more efficiently with technology. However, for the moment, both law firms and Inhouse legal departments are at a level of “minimal viable adoption” of technology. Eck states that now all will need to embrace technology, but we do not yet know if this digitalization will be controlled and collaborative or rather take place in an antagonistic context between a client and his service provider. Hayes built off that and addressed the three main attributes of the pandemic in the legal sector as: firing, furloughs, and freelancing.

Orban took advantage of the current crisis and together with Hayes launched LEXITUP a freelance lawyer platform. Both Hayes and Kowalski agreed that this was the direction the market was heading for lawyers, law firms and legal departments. Orban highlighted that among others, lawyers should deepen their knowledge on computers in order to find novel and more efficient ways to serve their clients and increase access to justice. He added that, although lawyers usually underestimate computers, they are really useful for finding patterns and drafting documents. Panelists agreed that the Pandemic was a testing ground for new business models that were working better in the modern world and acknowledged that lawyers with multidisciplinary skills were faring much better.

The big debate was how can lawyers better serve their clients beyond COVID-19? Eck says that it is the end of the law firm as a “black box.” Firms will need to consider each client individually and design what works for them instead of driving matters in ways that works for the firm; flexibility, innovative business models and technology to ensure both productivity gain and transparency. This will also call for greater accuracy in the work oversight of Inhouse lawyers. Kowalski agrees with Eck, “Creating a unique client experience through a proprietary combination of talent, process and technology is what will truly set firms apart in the 2020s.” The crisis has forced firms and lawyers to embrace changes in day-to-day interactions and risks they are willing to take. It has sparked a movement away from traditional models and provided an opportunity for firms to embrace technology should they chose to. Miskolczi described the crisis of an “unmasking” for firms will distinguish innovators ready to thrive in the changing legal sphere.