Is the crisis a challenge or is it still an opportunity? If it is the latter, then for whom? What should be the “rules of conducting” of the Law Firm managing partner? What practices can “go down” in the near future, what practices have already a demand? Read more in an interview with ESQUIRES managing partner Olexander Shkelebey in the Yurydychna Gazeta newspaper.
– Oleksander, how has your life and the life of your company changed over the past few weeks?
– Starting from 17 th of March, 2020, the ESQIURES team works and consults remotely. An exception may be only a participation in urgent court cases or investigative actions. This format was chosen by the majority of leading law firms, and clients took the new reality in the field of professional services with understanding. I have worked “stationary” for more than 17 years and now I have to change a deep-rooted habit. I remember the example of Google, where the work outside of the office is not approved.
Today, together with colleagues, we jointly master new tools and productivity methods to maintain the level of service and effectiveness. Colleagues have practiced already remote work independently or as part of a project team. Since the establishment of EQUIRES law firm, we have been focusing a lot on computer software for teamwork as well as on data security. Therefore, the change of the office on the house has only affected the usual state of things.
– Probably, every managing partner of a law firm, first of all, is a businessman. What challenges do you currently face as a manager and business owner, what do you plan to overcome them?
– Legal business, as well as other types of entrepreneurship, is caused by the new economic reality, which according to optimistic estimates will last about 6 or 9 months. Pretending that nothing has changed will not help you to pass the pandemic test. First of all, it is advisable for partners to make a detailed and honest overview of the situation, which will provide an understanding of the company’s strength. In the future, you can calculate the margin profit of each practice, and then – services.Since the entrepreneurship is always a risk, based on the available information it is possible to make a decision about which owners (partners) and creation of which values do clients want to concentrate on. Due to the obvious reasons, we are observing a rapid increase in the rates of legal market players in agricultural practice.
In fact, during a crisis, a businessman should do the same thing as before. However, the necessity and depth of analysis and thoughtfulness of each decision are especially important, as the cost of failure is much higher. In my opinion, in the long run we will have to face significant changes in the market of legal services due to the effects of quarantine.
– How is work within the company organized today? What difficulties / opportunities did you get from working online?
– Lots of programs for teamwork, remote control and clients’ understanding of the process are proven and known for the majority of markets. Of course, a number of internal business’ processes will have to be reviewed and additionally digitalized. However, special attention should be paid to the difference between the remote provision of legal services and the remote work of the team. The second can be difficult. A whole day alone with a laptop for colleagues who tends to active life and personal communication can be a real challenge.
The main goal in ESQUIRES is to keep the motivation and effectiveness of each member of the team and the team as a whole in the conditions of distance work. Also, a systematic discussion of both current projects and general issues via video communication should take place. We use Microsoft Teams. In particular, it is interesting to share experience with each other on how to protect yourself from additional distractions at home and concentrate on work. According to the results of one of the studies, It takes on average 25 minutes to return to a task from which something has distracted you.
– Do you make or plan to make personnel changes in the company?
– Of course, the growth in clients demand for certain legal services may cause the necessity of the involvement of team members from related practices. I am convinced that one should quickly respond to the first signs of change and timely draw the team’s attention on the areas of improvement. Conscious choice of a lawyer’s profession implies consent and readiness for continuous training and improvement.
– How do your clients feel now?
– During this period, legal advisers need to provide clients with a sense of legal protection, as well as make sure that clients are really ready to rely on them. Since the importance of certain legal issues is gaining significant weight, it is natural that clients’ expectations are much higher than before.
I can say that ESQUIRES clients are satisfied with the quality and process of received legal services. This is evidenced by the results of a recent online survey. A correctly conducted survey will help to understand not only the impression of legal services, but also to identify the sore points and elements of receiving services that are important for each client.
– What are the most common questions / requests from customers?
– We observe an increase in the number of requests related to labor, tax and customs relations, the recognition of force majeure, the protection of business, current issues of economic activity.
Also in times of economic downturn, by analogy with the past crisis, an increase in demand for dispute resolution and debt restructuring is expected. However, today, for objective and subjective reasons, the timeframes for proceedings has been extended at the legislative level, court hearings are postponed, therefore we draw the clients’ attention on the possibility of pre-trial settlement (in particular, mediation).
Of course, the relevance of issues can change rapidly, depending on economic conditions. In my opinion, during the crisis it is especially important to provide clients with the ability to control expenditures (record the cost of legal services) and understand the process of obtaining a professional legal assistance, regardless of the content of specific requests.
– Despite the fact that the economy is predicted to stagnate, law firms may have the work to help businesses to get out of the “quarantine shock.” In your opinion, what practices can “go down”?
– For us, the main goal is to assist our clients in their fast recovery and development of their business. We work with our clients on minimizing of legal risks for business. Previous experience shows that lawyers and clients together as partners can achieve more than individually. In difficult times, lawyers in many projects actually become members of client teams.
As I already noted, there may be a significant increase in agricultural demand, taxes, debt restructuring, business protection and dispute resolution. I believe that in conditions of fierce competition, I will have to pay more attention to reputation risks and protect business reputation.
– How will the legal services market change in the next few months: competition, clients?
– Lawyers are distinguished by the ability to make not only economically grounded decisions. However, the legal services market is not separated from the influence of economic factors. The economic slowdown expected by economists and raise in unemployment may affect layers more than legislative changes may affect their clients.
In the case of a bad scenario, a personnel update may occur: many specialists will be released (not only ineffective). High motivation of applicants for the position of lawyers will be a must have. A significant shift into online counseling is expected. Fragile business will be destroyed. The strong ones will withstand the crisis, anti-frangible and optional ones will become better.
I sincerely wish to my colleagues to find their formula that will work!
– What do you think will help to overcome the crisis, if not as winner, then at least as “not defeated”?
– Do not believe the experts who say what needs to be done. It’s easier to figure out what’s best not to do. You should not panic, waste time, spoil relations with contractors, neglect market conditions. Hard work, team cohesion, reliable business partners and optimism would not hurt. You also need to have a desire to find exactly your recipe.
Source: Yurydychna Gazeta.
The article is available in pdf.