Despite the material adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy, the pandemic has had a positive impact on In-house counsels in terms of mandate and tools.
A) In-house Counsels’ Mandate
The Covid-19 pandemic shed the light on the crucial role played by In-house counsels in terms of providing both, strategic and tactical support to the survival and profitability of the business in the midst of a major global recession.
In-house counsels’ preconceived role limited to providing back-office support to the various business units within a business conglomerate turned over night into a major business partner role mandated with the implementation of cost optimization related tactics and strategic divestments / asset portfolio re-allocation related decisions leading to the optimization of financial operational efficiency / profitability in a very difficult year.
Hence, the change in In-house counsels’ mandate / modus operandi may be compared to the major positive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the information technology sector in terms of exponential growth of digital conferencing platforms. Such a total change in In-house counsels’ mandate is here to stay for the long term and has had a “domino effect” on the type of support that is required from external legal counsels.
In fact, external legal counsels are now more than ever required to justify their bill. In other words, external legal counsels can no longer operate on the basis of providing generic support with a focus on maximizing timesheet entries. External legal counsels are required to:
1. Think out of the box
2. Provide expert advice
3. Ensure that transactions are closed within a record time
4. Leverage on their network of clients in terms of business alliance related initiatives
5. Provide competitive pricing in terms of blended hourly rates, fee caps and lump sum based pricing.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an equally positive impact on the In-house counsels’ tools.
B) In-house Counsels’ Tools
The Covid-19 pandemic has created the immediate need for legal services provision related digitalization whether in terms of automating the issuance of agreements or the digitalization of signatures / legal vetting of corporate agreements.
The immediate automation and digitalization effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have led to questioning the possibility for a full operation of legal departments by means of artificial intelligence in the future.
Although such idea might be attractive from a forward-thinking / futuristic approach, nevertheless, we are still far from such an eventuality. Reason for that lies in the fact that the human brain is not easy to replicate especially in events where deep and strategic analysis of facts and legal matters is required.
In fact, it is quite common for lawyers to make a radical change of perspective / assessment of a legal matter over night. Such distancing from the matter at hand followed by a re-assessment of the subject matter is practically impossible to replicate by means of artificial intelligence. Computers and robots cannot dream!
In light of the above positive effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on In-house counsels, we arrive to the conclusion that “in life what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
Nadim Elias El Haj
General Counsel / Head of Legal & Ex Co. Member
Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company PJSC
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