Usually seen as a very traditional sector, where the character of day-to-day operations requires robust and difficult procedures, advocacy is an area that has been moving for some time to an increasingly digital and technological reality, such as attests the response of several firms to the restrictions caused by the pandemic to face-to-face work.
The law firms interviewed by Jornal Económico all report an agile process of transition to the situation of remote work thanks to technologically advanced systems of communication, both between colleagues and for the lawyer-client relationship, which already existed pre-Covid-19.
“We have always invested in technology and the digitalization of our activity and we had already adopted all the tools of digital or remote work that allowed us to adjust quickly,” explains Duarte de Athayde, managing partner at Abreu Advogados.
“Our investment was in strengthening the responsiveness of the technologies that we already used, namely videoconferencing, Zoom and Teams webinars, document signing, virtual data rooms, etc.”, he says.
"What we did was to reinforce the stress tests on our network and a sharp analysis of the technical quality of the technology supports we have", says Duarte de Athayde.
João Vieira de Almeida reinforces this idea: “additional technologies were not used in addition to those that were already used. Only the capacity and security of existing solutions for remote access to the firm's systems were reinforced ”, reveals Vieira de Almeida's managing partner.
This portrait shows a technologically evolved sector prepared to deal with a progressively more digital reality. And, although this is mostly valid for medium and large-sized offices, particularly the most reputable ones, the trend of digital transition was already occurring before the pandemic that changed the way of working in the world.
Security is central
The legal software of the firms, for example, was a means used by some leading firms that, already having this type of service, made it more robust, secure and capable, in order to be able to respond to the demands of the last months.
Duarte de Athayde recalls that “at the end of 2019, Abreu Advogados integrated, at its facilities, the Abreu Security Operations Center, an innovative information and security center that guarantees the careful treatment of assets (information, networks and systems) managed by society , fostering the expansion of Abreu's cybersecurity capacity ”.
Also in PRA - Raposo, Sá Miranda e Associados, the existing technological structures were key to maintaining the operation during the most critical period of confinement.
“Based on the technological structure already implemented, the capacity for remote connections and cybersecurity levels was reinforced, given the need to implement the PRA Home Office for all lawyers and employees”, explains Pedro Sá, partner and member of the Board of Directors of the firm.
It appears, therefore, that the technological tools were already available to professionals, in an effort to better monitor customers, streamlining processes and making the most of time. The concern with cybersecurity and protection of customers' personal data is central to an environment where confidentiality is sacred.
Even so, routines for meeting or communicating with customers began to be carried out on various online communication platforms not specific to the activity, as recalls João Diogo Manteigas, founding partner of Mota, Manteigas & Associados. “We are witnessing a real boom in this area of online meetings and meetings”, highlighting the “videoconferences and video calls, whether carried out via Skype and Whatsapp (in the first instance), or by Zoom”.
For societies with greater innovative and technological capacity, cutting-edge concepts such as artificial intelligence, blockchain or data analysis are already a reality and the expectation within the medium is that they assume an increasing relevance.
"Areas such as artificial intelligence or robotics have shown enormous advantages in the profitability and optimization of processes in different business areas and will also, in the field of advocacy, drive a great revolution", recalls Duarte de Athayde.
Artificial intelligence for agility
In advocacy, artificial intelligence allows greater speed of repetitive tasks such as document management or the drafting of standard matrix documents, such as some types of contracts or powers of attorney. An artificial intelligence technology combined with data analysis may, for example, predict court decisions based on similar cases already tried.
João Vieira de Almeida believes in a similar trend. "I anticipate advocacy based on increasingly complex technological bases, (...) greater needs for integration of knowledge and standardization of collaborative platforms with other service providers".
But it is not only in the relationship with the client and the judicial institutions that the firms that currently lead the digital transition process make use of technology.
João Vieira de Almeida recalls, for example, the usefulness and efficiency of these resources in “the gradual evolution of career models and the progression of associates”, an internal procedure of companies that ensures better retention and promotion of the talent of each office.
In order for technology to become an integral part of legal activity, institutional infrastructures adapted to these new processes must be in place, something that the extraordinary situation caused by the pandemic has accelerated and that several societies are keen to highlight.
Pedro Sá, despite recognizing some weaknesses in the legislative process and in the rules approved for the practice during the pandemic, namely the consolidation and the test period that have not yet passed, praises the “global reaction on the part of the State, (…) in the right direction and will probably leave a positive mark on the system - digitization, remote communication, deformalization and global flexibility, closer to good examples from other jurisdictions ”.
Towards the “remote lawyer”
Duarte de Athayde, on the other hand, prefers to wait and see, given the uncertainty that the current moment carries and the legislative changes underway, which should extend until 2021. For João Vieira de Almeida, despite the adaptation having gone “in a non-consensual way and application ”, This was“ quick (…) when it comes to procedures of an emergency nature ”, or the courts.
João Diogo Manteigas, on the other hand, recalls the various acts specific to lawyers that can be completed online, such as the “online building, the company portal and the online automobile”, tools that have allowed a relevant process streamlining. Even so, the expectation is that "the legal acts, above all at the procedural level, will undergo some changes that will remain for the future".
Thus, the sector is preparing for times of strong change and acceleration in the digital transition process, towards a true “remote lawyer”. “It is curious to remember that our professional activity already involves the possibility of easy mobility, as well as a quick adaptation to any space other than the usual professional habitats”, recalls João Diogo Manteigas.
“In the times to come, lawyers will see their ability to stand out: that they are able to provide, with any client, a current and full-time follow-up”, he concludes.
"The coming years will be a huge challenge to a real modernization - including OA - and it would be great if this movement, which is inevitable, was led by the lawyers themselves", concludes João Vieira de Almeida.