When the news report that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, it is an accurate report. All sectors, both private and public, have felt the impact of the quarantine. Businesses have been shuttered; government offices have been forced to limit operations except those involved in security and healthcare; transportation by air, sea, and land was hampered; and economic transactions have slowed down.
Yet there is a service that remains critical even during a lockdown. Law firms must continue to assist many kinds of clientele, ranging from a company that needs legal advice on contract re-negotiation, a young couple looking for legal options to restructure their mortgage terms, or an individual contemplating going to court for a serious personal injury case.
Mobile Firm Concept
To make the services of the law firm more accessible, even during a public health crisis, many have already adopted a mobile firm concept. This means that they can be reached and consulted via many channels, which include a website, chatroom, phone inquiry, and even video conferencing.
In the old days, law firms were like brick-and-mortar stores. To get the product or service one needs, it was a necessity to travel to the office. These law offices would have reception areas and separate meeting rooms where a lawyer can speak with a prospective or active client about a case. The office would also have a reasonably sized storage area for case folders, office supplies, and other materials. If it was a medium to large-sized firm, each law partner would also have his or her own private office and a library.
A mobile law firm, in contrast, would have almost everything digitized. Case files, legal research, client information, financial reports, tax folders, copies of pleadings and affidavits, and other documents needed in law practice are stored in databases. Since everything is mobile, the lawyers, paralegals, and other staff can be at different locations yet have the ability to collaborate effectively on a case.
Cloud Storage and Paperless Law Firms
Computerization of legal work has made it a portable occupation. For example, a lawyer might be practicing his swing at the golf country club on a Saturday morning but is urgently needed to review a contract for a significant client. He need not drive back to the office. The law firm’s secretary or office assistant can share the document digitally onto secure cloud storage that can be accessed by the lawyer on his smartphone.
Indeed, having cloud storage capability raises productivity by many notches. Even when the lawyer is actually inside the courtroom and suddenly needs a document or text from legal research and jurisprudence, he can easily access online databases and their law library. Right now, when many courtrooms are closed, and even if some law firms opted to close temporarily due to the pandemic, they could continue working from home since they have a cloud storage-enabled operation.
Artificial Intelligence or AI is also revolutionizing the legal service industry. AI is now used to replace some vital work that uses human intelligence, such as the reading of documents, fact-checking, data review and analysis, litigation outcome prediction using data analytics, and even an automated divorce service.
In the past, a typical law firm would have to hire paralegals to help with legal research. This task is very tiring and time-consuming since it involves scanning, reading, understanding, note-taking, and filing of pertinent legal facts, decided cases, jurisprudence, and other information that can be used by the lawyer for a particular case. These days, an AI software can do the research digitally, 24/7, without any need for a lunch break or weekends off. While AI will not replace human workers at a law firm 100 percent, it is still a game-changing technology that has upped the level of efficiency, accuracy, and speed in legal preparation work.
Using AI data analytics and predictive software, an entire report with graphs, reference notes, and potential court decisions can be accessed by a lawyer who is studying a case. This makes it easier for the lawyer to have a comprehensive view of a case from two perspectives, as prosecution and as a defense attorney.
He will have a glimpse of what a judge’s decision could be, based on historical data and statistics on decided cases in their jurisdiction. The software can even pull up records of appeals, state law decisions, and final rulings from a higher court or a federal judge, all the way to the Supreme Court.