THE IMPLICATIONS AND EFFECTS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON THE LEGAL FRATERNITY AND THE NEW AVENUES OF OPPORTUNITIES IT HAS CREATED

INTRODUCTION

The COVID-19 pandemic is a major public health crisis which has affected the entire Economy and it’s stakeholders especially from the macro economy angle. Due to the novel coronavirus which spread widely the entire supply chain has been badly hit, not only has it disrupted and cut-off the Indian Economy but this has resulted in widespread economic losses across all the economies of the world.

It has caused widespread damages, hinderances and inconvenience especially in regards to the interruptions of people’s movement which has in turn halted and jolted the entire production line and activities which also poses as a serious risk to the macro economy.

Apart from having devastating and damaging effects on human lives, it has claimed over 543,605 lives and infected over 11 million people all around the world. The novel coronavirus (COVID- 19) has significantly knocked down not just the Chinese economy from where it emerged but also the global economy.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund has officially confirmed that we have entered into a recession as bad as or even worse than that of 2009.

In order to revive the economy by 2021 we first must contain the virus at the earliest by hook or by crook. In Italy the number of confirmed cases are increasing and depicting a spiking up trend with over 1.8 million in the United States and also the number of deaths increasing in Italy and the UK which was under a 6 months long lockdown, this seems like a far blown possibility.

FACTORS REQUIRED TO DETERMINE THE EFFECTS OF COVID19

There are 3 factors which is to be analysed and discussed in order to get a clear understanding about the plausible damages caused due to this pandemic, they are as follows:-

1) Demand

2) Supply

3) Finance.

On the demand side declining income, fear of contagion, reduced working hours, possible layoffs, absence of vaccine has detrimental effect especially in the service sector.

On the supply chain as the manufacturing line took a bad hit and almost came to a standstill, the manufacturing activities in the most affected regions were badly affected and this resulted in bottlenecks in the global value chain

China is reopening its factories but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the manufacturing companies abroad are finding it exceedingly difficult to purchase products in and ship them out of China.

The Covid-19 is posing an unprecedented Global Public Health Emergency and this has resulted in also creating financial distress in the form of drying up of liquidity, providing credit and meeting contractual obligations.

As a matter of fact, demand, supply or financial disruptions, might not directly affect but they do have a profound indirect effect on the legal field.

IMPLICATIONS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON THE LEGAL FRATERNITY

The last two decades have seen an exponential growth in the legal field. As per the Bar Council of India( apex body of Indian Legal Professionals) the Indian legal profession consists of approximately 1.2 million registered advocates, around 950 law schools and approximately 400-500 thousand law students across the country and high numbers are seen across the world. This data is as per the Vision Statement of the year 2011-2013.

While the supply side of the legal education remains almost the same year after year, barring minor changes, this recession will surely contract the manufacturing and service sector. Thus, the demand for the new entrants in the legal industry might observe a sharp fall.

As the economy is in a recession due to COVID-19 pandemic, the legal industry will be affected by it, but How? In order to predict the future the past must be examined. In 2008 Global economic crises the event’s that took place need to be analysed and only then we will know how brave the 2020 recession shall be as the contours of legal landscape look more or less the same.

The impact of an economic recession on the legal profession has been disastrous as this has resulted in mass layoffs, hire freezing and salary decreases and this has in turn rendered an overwhelming amount of law graduates unemployed.

The legal field in the last decade witnessed methodical changes, remoulding and a tremendous shift of power from the hands of providers to the hands of consumers.

Also new skillsets have been developed, multi-disciplinary problem solving as well and technological adoption all of those has resulted in the rise of data and digital transformation.

The law firm dominance and an emerging global legal community in order to Analyze the industry trends it is easy to predict and also which category of lawyers will fare better or worse during this COVID-19 scenario is a must due to the consequent economic downturn.

VARIOUS NEW AVENUES AND AREAS OF OPPORTUNITIES OF LAW THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS CREATED

People/Businesses will always require trained legal professionals in the long run. Certain areas of law will be in great demand in comparison to others.

With increasing health crisis all over the globe, there will be a great requirement for health care lawyers. High value mergers and acquisition areas of corporate law may dry up. A

Attention will turn towards restructuring, insolvency, bankruptcy and litigation work. Firms with varied practice areas are more likely to perform better during recession. Policy lawyers will be in favour as new companies will aggressively invest on policy lawyers to move far ahead from traditional industries.

With business downsizing, decline in job market and hire freezing there will be a lot of scope for Public Interest Litigation/Class Action, Labour and Employment lawyers. Global Environmental Catastrophe is not far away and Environment will be a highly litigated issue. Thereby creating a need for efficient Environmental and Animal Right Lawyers. 

As part of Alternative Dispute Resolution, Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration are effective ways of resolving a dispute. Parties to the dispute will lack the means viz., time and money to pursue litigation post the covid-19 pandemic and will prefer arbitration, mediation and negotiation.

International Arbitration is facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the travel restrictions in place but, even with inhibiting factors of the currently available technology the post covid phase will see tremendous growth in usage of technological methods for dispute resolution i.e., online dispute resolution; video conferencing; chats; teleconferencing etc.

Lease disputes will burst at the seams, tenants are already serving notices invoking Force Majeure clause. Hence, Property Law will have scope for development.

SUPPLY CHAINS MOVING OUT OF CHINA

Due to existing trade war between USA and CHINA and thepending legal suit against China for the spread of COVID-19, hedging the risks of MNC’s corporations are mulling, moving their production out of China. The ongoing pandemic has only worked as a catalyst to this process.

Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese multinational companies have already started moving their Chinese production facilities to countries with favourable business policy regime and friendlier International relations viz.Vietnam and other South East Asian Countries.

The warm ties between India and the USA pegs India as a potential production hub. In case of such an eventuality Asian transactional lawyers will benefit tremendously.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

Providers that have embraced technological advances have a sure shot success through the recession period.

The Supreme Court of India has started hearing urgent matters via video conferencing. E-filings make the courts productive as it saves time from lengthy paperwork. Such circumstances will give young techno savvy lawyers an edge over the established lawyers.

JOBS

The Post Covid-19 phase will open the doors for a lot of young and aspiring lawyers as well as experienced lawyers who are open to the idea of juggling between different practice areas.

Senior Advocates who are otherwise experts in their respective fields but not adept at using technology will now be forced to employ younger and technologically savvy lawyers in their traditional offices.

The legal process analyst will have the job of analyzing a piece of legal work, subdividing the assignment into meaningful and manageable chunks, and identifying the most appropriate supplier of services for each. This task requires deep legal insight and experience. This individual will often be employed within an in-house legal department, rather than at a law firm. 

Legal Risk Managers will emerge who will have to anticipate a problem and propose solutions.

AI/Algorithm/Blockchain Dispute Resolution will emerge to deal with matters related to Motor Accidents or Consumer Compensation etc. 

Virtual law libraries will emerge and the experience of Senior Advocates or Lawyers will be necessary for writing monographs and book reviews.

Online Legal Services will throw open an array of a lot more new practice areas for lawyers, who were till now, practicing their skills using traditional methods.

CONCLUSION

We are living in an era of revolutionary changes and technological advancements and we must consider how vast and far stretched the paradigm shifts in information technology have taken place which is a boon for the entire legal fraternity.

Even biomedical research, genetic discoveries, biotechnological advances and nanotechnology have changed our world.

One must observe how deeply the LPG has influenced the exchanges of legal and other professional services. This has led to the homogenization of cultural trends and consumption patterns across the world.

What more, even the viruses of both biological as well as software kinds have become all pervasive. This has resulted in the reduction of the mortality rates across the country, as a by-product of which we are experiencing a massive population growth.

Due to the Global climate change and acute scarcity of resources which has resulted in mass migration of the humanity in search of better pastures, it has resulted in the shifts of each day which generates the fundamental questions and answers which shall alter the shape of the human experience.

It is certain that lawyers will play an indispensable role in tackling it with the help of these developments and harnessing the opportunities to secure an orderly change and which will in turn enhance the human welfare in the much larger context.

The period of Economic Downturn is critical for every field. It has a huge impact on global healthcare facilities and legal professionals around the world. Though, the legal profession is more resilient to the recession than many others but it hops in the economic downturn.

The law firms and individual practitioners who widen their horizons by welcoming the opportunities will adapt to and triumph the current situation.

The legal profession should take advantage of the ongoing paradigm shift to develop liberalized business structures that allow the firms to build and develop a sustainable and competitive practices so that it will result in the evolution of the market for legal services.

Till date no panacea exists for the situation at hand unless there is an immediate containment of the disease and invention of the vaccine, the world as we know it will never be the same again.

This will not only require targeted and active macroeconomic measures but a series of medical policies as well. Until a permanent solution is found, the legal fraternity has to proactively explore the fields of law for upcoming opportunities and sow seeds of progression, which will bear fruits for the generations to come. “

WEBSITES REFERRED

(i)https://www.livelaw.in/columns/covid19-implications-and-opportunities-for-legal-fraternity-159981

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