Post COVID-19 – Bring the future forward

eBrief Founder and Managing Director Stephen Foley was a panelist on The Law Council of Australia’s recent ‘World Masters Webinar Series’, under the topic ‘”PC19″ Post Covid – Bring the future forward’, a number of common themes emerged as being highly prominent within the legal landscape.  As is often said ‘never waste a good crisis’ – and from the discussions of the panel and our daily interactions with users of the eBrief Ready platform, a significant amount of good is coming from the changes that the legal industry has seen during the course of 2020 as a result of the global pandemic.

Not only has the status quo been challenged since the beginning of the year, legal professionals and the systems within which they operate have largely reinvented themselves to something arguably unrecogniseable from what we’ve been used to. In many senses, a mirror has been held in front of the judicial process as a whole, with some important questions asked of it, including:

  • Can anything be done to ease the overcrowding in the courts?
  • Does the current legal process allow fair access to justice for all?
  • What can be done to address the levels of waste (time, environmental, etc.)?
  • Can parts of the legal process be run remotely?

Particularly in Victoria, Australia, which has endured some of the longest and most prescriptive lockdown measures this year, change has been accelerated. On the eBrief Ready platform, now with over 7,000 signed-up users, barristers, solicitors, courts and anyone else participating in the judicial process have found a way to continue to progress matters, despite the obvious disruptions. 

Law firms are now creating briefs faster (a recent study of ours measured this to be up to 10 times faster), using the digital platform to compile electronic PDF briefs as opposed to  conventional hard copy briefs. As a result, they’re seeing higher productivity and staff morale. Using eBrief Ready, they are able to include all forms of digital evidence (photo, video, etc.) in their briefs to barristers – building a significantly stronger case and making it much easier to search, share, reference and review information for all parties. 

Barristers are getting access to briefs earlier in the process than they normally would when working with hard copy versions, and they’re not breaking their backs wheeling suitcases of documents to and from their chambers. As documents are shared, reviewed and referenced by all parties to the matter via a common electronic briefing platform, barristers can more efficiently and effectively commence their involvement in a particular matter.

The courts, rather than having to close their doors, have transformed themselves to be able to operate virtually. Discussed directly in his book entitled ‘Online Courts and the Future of Justice’, Richard Susskind, the world renowned adviser to professional firms and governments, argues that that justice requires most disputes should be resolved by judges working online and not in courtrooms. Similarly, he believes that the global access to justice problem can and will be solved largely by technology. There have been no obvious disadvantages to running court hearings virtually and, in fact, many matters (or certain aspects of matters) are better suited to being run virtually. With that being the case, greater flexibility surely leads to a fairer, more accessible system for all. 

Importantly, if it weren’t for the technology which enables briefs to be compiled and generated digitally, the entire process would come to grinding halt. 

Our vision for an industry-standard approach to electronic briefing for the legal profession has certainly been reinforced by the events of this year. The eBrief Ready platform, more secure than old methods (email, couriers) and more accessible from anywhere at any time, complements and supports every step along the judicial path. We have recently formalised our vision into a paper which proposes an industry-standard approach to electronic briefing. You can download a copy of our paper here.

When all parties have had to revisit their dependence on the previously highly manual and time-consuming process of sharing, reviewing, and referencing material relating to a matter, the way forward appears obvious. The events of this year have helped lead our industry into a brave new world with high hopes for a sustainable future.

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