Has Covid-19 Sparked Innovation in the Legal Sector?

During the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve seen the speed of innovation dramatically increase to help us in all aspects of our lives as we try and adjust to the new normal. Whether its car manufacturers building medical ventilators or breweries making hand sanitising gel, it seems that true innovation is happening at a pace we’ve never seen before.

In normal times, like two months ago, “innovation” was often a term dressed up by marketing departments to promote the fact their company is ahead of the competition, doing things better, faster, cheaper. These all too often overzealous claims dilute the meaning of innovation and instead entice a sceptical view that it’s all hot air, a vision of how a company would like to be rather than what it is.

So how has this seemingly changed, how have we managed to suddenly evolve so quickly? Has there been rapid increase in technical breakthroughs at a time when we need them most? Has there been a surge of new ideas while people have more time on their hands sitting at home, alone?  No, I don’t think so, I  believe it’s something else, another piece of the innovation puzzle which is key but often overlooked.  This is the ability to deliver change.

Once an idea has been formed and the practicalities of its execution have been worked out, it doesn’t stop there.  Managing change is critical to successful implementation.  It’s very difficult to execute change, people are naturally resistant to it and there needs to be a compelling reason to move in a different direction which often has unknown consequences.  To effectively execute change you need buy-in from key stakeholders which in turn leads to adoption, this involves a change of habit or mindset, replacing or augmenting what already exists with the new or enhanced solution.

We have seen over the last few weeks how pressure to make change can surmount the mindset barrier.  When we look at the courts they have been forced to adapt in a bid to stay operational with the introduction of Practice Direction 51Y which came into force on 25 March 2020. Video calling and streaming is not new technology but until now there has not been much appetite for it. It’s not entirely unfamiliar in the UK courts but now, in light of the current climate, progress has moved swiftly on and remote hearings are being conducted via video conferencing, something the courts have been very resistant to in the past.

This is not a simple change, this impacts not just the hearing itself but the whole process around the hearing. For example, papers for filing must now be done electronically via email. Electronic bundles must now replace paper, lawyers and judges have an intrinsic connection with paper but due to the requirement to switch to electronic platforms, e-bundles are now a must, not an optional extra.

So now the technological “change” hurdle is lower than it ever has been before, are these new ways of working here to stay?  Now we’ve made it this far are we going to redefine the standards and update the rules and further develop the guidelines and protocols? Is this innovation or just a stopgap until we get “back to normal”?

This global health emergency is going to undoubtedly have a negative impact, but hopefully it can be offset in some ways with some positives. With forced changes in the way we work, hopefully mindsets will change allowing innovation to flourish.


Image: Designed by starline / Freepik

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