Latest news – ‘Anxiety’ the big issue during COVID-19; AGM contingency plans urged; Use of AI tech still ‘low’

[Australasian Law Management Journal,Marketing & Business Development,People Management(HR),Strategy & Leadership,Technology] April 27, 2020

Anxiety, isolation the big tests for lawyers during pandemic

A new American study suggests that anxiety and isolation are more significant issues for legal professionals than technology-related challenges as they adjust to working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Loeb Leadership report, called Law Firms’ Adaption to Remote Working, sought responses from 200 managing partners, partners, associates and business services staff, including many from Am Law 100 and Am Law 200 firms. They were asked: ‘What is the single biggest challenge you are facing now that you’re working remotely?’, with 28 per cent suggesting ‘general anxiety’, ahead of ‘social isolation’ (20 per cent) and ‘keeping team engaged’, ‘communicating with colleagues’ and ‘keeping regular schedule’ (all 18 per cent).

Most respondents indicated that they have quickly succeeded in transitioning to remote work. Among all respondents, 77 per cent said they have been ‘highly successful’ in adapting, followed by 21 per cent that said they have had ‘moderate’ success, while just 2 per cent feel they have had ‘low’ success in making the transition. The key soft skills in working from home were thought to be ‘virtual communication’, ‘time management’ and ‘stress management’.

“Not surprisingly, people are struggling with the health and financial uncertainties related to the epidemic. That, combined with fears of social isolation and communication challenges, can lead to potentially harmful mental health consequences, which can impede one’s ability to reduce stress, stay focused and collaborate,” Loeb Leadership said.

Click here for the full details of the report.


Contingency plans required for next AGM

Companies planning their AGM or other general meetings during the current pandemic should be considering developing contingency plans, says the Law Council of Australia.

This follows the release of a guidance note, developed by the Law Council in partnership with the Governance Institute of Australia and the Australasian Investor Relations Association.

Law Council President Pauline Wright says companies will need to make sure that arrangements for an AGM provide a reasonable opportunity for shareholders to participate in the meeting, including having a reasonable opportunity for shareholders to ask questions, make comments and to vote.

“While noting that each company’s situation will be different, having plans in place is imperative,” she said. “This includes checking relevant provisions of the company’s constitution and coordinating with share registries, making sure shareholders are kept regularly updated and are given the maximum opportunity to have their say.”

This guidance comes as the Federal Government announces that it will lessen the threats of actions that could push businesses into insolvency, an approach which is fully supported by the Law Council of Australia. These measures include providing temporary flexibility in the Corporations Act 2001 to provide targeted relief for companies from provisions of the Act to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the coronavirus health crisis.

“It is important that businesses have a safety net to make sure that once the crisis has passed, they can resume normal business operations,” Wright said. “We welcome these measures to assist otherwise profitable businesses that may find themselves facing financial distress during this time.”

Click here for the guidance note.


Lawyers still shunning use of AI tech: Oxford

According to a new study from the University of Oxford, the overall usage of legal technology with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities is low.

The report notes that document/knowledge management is the most common context for use of legal technology (80 per cent), followed by accounts/time recording (69 per cent) and document automation/matter workflow (43 per cent). However, the use of AI within these functions remains relatively small.

The Oxford researchers surveyed lawyers in England and Wales and found that just 27 per cent use AI for legal research, 16 per cent for due diligence, and 12 per cent for eDiscovery, eDisclosure or technology-assisted review.

Just under half of the respondents said that their organisations understood the challenges for lawyers brought about by new technology. Only a fifth of respondents said their organisations captured data effectively, so that it could be used in a lawtech context.

The researchers also found that half of the respondents had received some lawtech training during the past three years. This was most commonly for specific software packages adopted by their employer. Less common was generic lawtech training, in matters such as “legal issues raised by use of technology” (12 per cent) or “project management” (11 per cent).

With regard to multi-disciplinary teams, 60 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “lawyers need to become familiar with non-legal technical ‘specialisms’ such as data science, project management, and design thinking”. However, there was no consensus whether this was best done by working together with non-lawyers, or through lawyers themselves acquiring multidisciplinary expertise.

Click here for the full report.