Advantages and Disadvantages of Remote Legal Practice in the Covid-19 Era in Australia
Moving from an office-based environment to remote locations for legal practices has been easy for some firms and more difficult for others. There are several aspects of legal work where the effects of Covid-19 and the response to the pandemic have been particularly disruptive. These include:
- adapting infrastructure to suit remote work;
- implementing leadership support;
- enabling client communication;
- conducting litigation online;
- confronting the challenges of legal documents ;
- keeping up with the legal demands of businesses.
Adapting infrastructure to suit remote work
Some legal firms that have had some aspects of their business conducted online such as legal consultations and legal form filling haven’t done too badly when they had to work completely online but those who conducted most of their business in a bricks and mortar office had more trouble adapting to this new work environment. Most of the issues were to do with communication networks which had to be accessible in the employees’ remote environment. Most importantly they had to be secure so the following had to be fine-tuned:
- Virtual private networks (VPNs), which promised a connection which was secure and encrypted for all those concerned;
- Secure software as a solution (SAAS) choices for the storing and handling of client information so that confidentiality was guaranteed under Australian privacy principles;
- Robust staff training on its security such as keeping passwords confidential and knowing how to avoid cyber-scams;
- Protection from cyber-attacks by using anti-virus software.
Once established the transition didn’t attract any more key problems.
Offering leadership support
When a worker works from home it is not as easy for some as others. A few workers may have elderly or sick family members in the home while they are working which means more flexibility should be allowed for that worker and a timetable where verbal support and advice can be exchanged.
Enabling client communication
Some clients may be in need of constant attention even if Covid-19 has restricted their ability to work. There are many essential services that access goods from overseas that will need contracts drawn up and signed on a regular basis. Allowances have to be made to ensure a simple and ongoing communication network persists.
Conducting litigation online
- Some courts have delayed handling cases that are not urgent and will take them up when things are closer to normal.
- If a court has to go ahead all involved have to familiar with any new or unfamiliar technology like Microsoft teams.
Confronting the challenges of legal documents
Signing legal documents such as wills, contracts, affidavits, and deeds usually take place with the key individuals present, such as clients, witnesses, and lawyers. However, the courts have had to adapt by varying or eliminating some of the requirements related to signing and witnessing. The key concern is when people use a digital signature when it isn’t easy to tell if its fraudulent or not.
Keeping up with the legal demands of businesses
This hasn’t been easy with the impact of Covid-19, like many industries that a legal firm serves, such as construction, property, and the transport sectors, have looked for alternative ways of managing legal matters such as dispute resolutions and cases that normally go to court to find a solution. The legal community has managed to adapt remotely when engaging in the demands of businesses.