We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Mon 24 Feb 2020 04:48 PM

Font Size

- Aa +

Big law vs virtual law: how virtual law is redefining the parameters of the legal profession

As digitally-led change impacts every area of enterprise, Abdulla Galadari, Senior Partner at Galadari Legal Advocates and Consultants, tells CEO about how virtual law is redefining the parameters of the profession - and how it will impact the way your business interacts with its legal advisors

Big law vs virtual law: how virtual law is redefining the parameters of the legal profession

Abdulla Galadari, Senior Partner at Galadari Legal Advocates and Consultants.

Galadari Legal Advocates and Consultants has contributed to the evolution of the region’s legal landscape since 1983. Agile, entrepreneurially minded and retaining a team of leading legal experts, the firm supports its clients across a spectrum of legal challenges, enabling them to prosper and grow their businesses.

A team of qualified Emirati and international lawyers skilled in practicing law around the world deliver expert advice on an array of legal challenges. In a swiftly evolving world, crucial local knowledge, rights of audience in all levels of UAE courts and tribunals and a dynamic, forward-thinking approach has seen Galadari Legal Advocates and Consultants grow to become one of the most respected and trusted firms in this region, with more than 60 international accolades and awards.

Technology and its evolution is impacting industries at all levels and within all market sectors and the legal sector is not immune to such change. The adoption of digital solutions is becoming a key priority for firms and a growing demand from clients who require greater transparency, predictability and security.

‘Big Law’ traditionally refers to larger firms that tend to be structured in a pyramidal approach, with the depth to handle high volumes of complex work. ‘Virtual Law’ is a structure that works to reduce overheads while enhancing efficiency. Virtual structures traditionally do not operate from offices and tend to leverage technology to deliver their services.

When it comes to the area of law, there is something of an ongoing debate around the various pros and cons of big law or virtual law.  While the notion of virtual law provides agility and efficiency which can benefit law firms, the outsourcing and virtual nature of communication and connection with clients often provides a ‘transactional’ notion to legal challenges, which can be complex and contentious in nature, for which clients still need a law firm that is present physically in order to build a trusting and mutually supportive relationship.

That’s not to indicate that virtual firms are a myth or not credible. Indeed, we are experiencing the contrary.

Whether a firm is virtual or big in nature, the debate and challenge remain the same for both firms, increasing efficiency, enhancing quality, leveraging new technology and embracing the new workforce of the future.  To address these challenges, we are experiencing the rise of modern firms that are increasingly adopting technology into their more established and traditional practices.

Artificial Intelligence

AI reduces the time of due diligence procedures such as uncovering background information or assessing facts and figures in order to provide effective counsel to legal teams and clients. AI is further leveraged in the capacity of contract reviews, which aid the identification of risks and issues, along with assessing any negative impact for clients.  The power of AI is further extended with the capability to help make predictions of outcomes based on years of trailing data and analysis, along with supporting forensic investigations and white-collar crime cases.

Enhancing efficiency and reducing fixed costs

Low value and high volume work can be outsourced to vendors located in overseas centres, which drives cost efficiencies and reduces fixed costs, often a model applied by virtual firms. While cloud solutions support such models there are elements to consider which include client confidentiality, data risk and overall quality of work. The modern firm embraces a blend of existing as a law firm with physical presence, while leveraging technology to drive value for its clients.

Technology is applied across practice management in respect of document control, matters management and overall risk and compliance management.  Furthermore, e-billing solutions are being provided to clients in order to reduce unnecessary costs, while improving client experience.

Firms are not only challenged to leverage technology to improve efficiency but also in response to the changing external dynamics which include the introduction of millennials to the workforce, along with the need to embrace e-courts which have started to become a reality across the UAE.

Embracing a digitally savvy workforce

The millennial workforce of today is attuned to digital operations and expects to work in an environment which is efficient, connected and innovative.  Balancing the needs of millennials, while upskilling Gen X and Y is an ongoing challenges for many businesses, including law firms, whether virtual or physical.

E-courts of the future

As technology continues to be leveraged across the industry, the adoption of e-courts will rise, with the Emirates already taking the lead on such initiatives.  The judges of the future will support decisions using data solutions, which will significantly reduce proceeding times, along with driving paperless solutions for online filling.  Firms must be ready to understand and embrace such solutions which are becoming a current reality.

Balancing risk with the case for change

An increased reliance on technology drives greater exposure to cybersecurity and privacy concerns. Research conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel highlights that almost one in three law employees stated that their organisation had experienced a data breach. While GCs and legal officers are aware of impending security threats, they often have limited awareness of the investments which need to be made in order to mitigate these issues. As breaches and attacks become prevalent and diverse, law departments are being held accountable for not only strengthening their own organisations’ defenses but ensuring that any sensitive data shared with law firms is safeguarded against risk.

Big law will still be relevant and required however, firms will need to work very differently, adjusting their business models to adopt the changing landscape while embracing tech in order to remain relevant to the future client and employee.  While virtual law firms will need to bridge the gap between quality and service verses the need for efficiency and having a transactional approach to client challenges.  The modern law firm is that which has managed to find a blend between the big and virtual law firm model, while continuing to deliver value and exceptional client service.

Abdulla Ziad Galadari advises on a broad range of litigation, dispute resolution, corporate, commercial, and matters for regional conglomerates, financial institutions, high-net-worth individuals and institutional and commercial clients, often acting as the client relationship and case partner. His experience includes advising clients in connection with complex, high-value real estate, construction and shareholder disputes; claims for breach of fiduciary duty against directors & senior stakeholders; public and private investigations, including financial crime and fraud issues, the rights and obligations of directors; insolvency issues and restructuring. Abdulla is also regularly involved in advising international clients involved in complicated cross-border disputes and litigation.

Digital magazine: Read the latest edition of Arabian Business online