COVID-19 prompted a raft of changes to legal practice over the past year or so. Some of these, like e-filing and e-signature, were already in place but not broadly adopted. Others, like virtual hearings and remote commissioning, grew out of necessity. Lawyers, judges, and the entire justice system scrambled to adapt. And it’s a good thing they did, as many of these changes are here to stay.
The Form Factor
Changes in legal processes had downstream effects that caught many off guard. Court form revisions and additions, for example, exploded in response to changes at the courts. At Korbitec, we have followed a regimen of quarterly updates to our court forms library. This week, we released our seventh global update in less than four months, with changes to 44 more forms.
For lawyers still managing forms themselves, this pace of change has made it hard to stay current. If you use an older precedent today, there is a good chance the form is wrong. With the proliferation of e-filing and electronic service, for example, forms must now contain an email address. Layouts and fonts have changed, too. And some forms have no precedent at all – those for virtual witnessing and commissioning, for example. In all, hundreds of forms have changed in the past few months and the case has never been stronger for software that keeps you current with the latest content.
On Your Own
Working from home created yet another sea change. With assistants no longer a stone’s throw away, lawyers realized they needed do more on their own. And tech was again the enabler. Any application that automates rote tasks took on a more prominent role in the lawyer’s toolkit.
As a side benefit, these applications have helped lawyers eliminate menial tasks from their workday. As Ed Walters, CEO and co-founder of legal research company Fastcase, said at the ABA Techshow 2021, “the administrative overhead of doing some of this work can overwhelm your ability to make money.” Adopting electronic tools, he says, will help lawyers spend more time focused on billable matters for clients and less on administrative tasks.1
Here to Stay
With COVID-19 accelerating the adoption of legal tech, lawyers can expect a “new normal” in the practice of law. In Ontario, Attorney General Doug Downey says that some of the justice-system changes in response to COVID-19 will “absolutely” become permanent, amid positive feedback from the bar.2
Following the AG’s long-term vision for justice reform, for example, the Ontario legislature passed the COVID-19 Response and Reforms to Modernize Ontario Act 2020, which codified the process for remotely commissioning or notarizing a document.3
And if there was still any doubt about the will to enact meaningful, long-lasting change, look no further than the CBA report issued in February titled, “No Turning Back”4. The report says the past year has finally “dispelled the notion that justice (and the legal profession), was somehow nobly removed from the fourth industrial revolution.”5 If you’re stressing over all this change, relax; technology is your friend. It’s been there all this time, ready to make your job easier.
- Moran, Lyle. Legal tech CEOs urge lawyers to keep innovating beyond the COVID-10 pandemic. www.abajournal.com. March 9, 2021.
- Balakrishnan, Anita. MAG Doug Downey commits to permanent modernization for remote notarizing, commissioning. www.canadianlawyermag.com. May 14, 2020.
- No Turning Back: CBA Task Force Report on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19. Canadian Bar Association. February 2021.
- The “fourth industrial revolution” is characterized by the growing use of artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, and other emerging technologies.
About Michael Sauber
Michael Sauber leads the marketing program for Korbitec, producer of Automated Civil Litigation Software (ACL). He has worked with document production technologies and professional services for over 30 years and is a frequent blogger on these topics.