There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed hundreds of industries, and many of those changes are likely to continue even when the pandemic surge ends. One set of changes to come out of this historical time was how the law has become more accessible thanks to technology.
During heavy lockdowns and limited vaccine periods, regular court and law proceedings were disrupted by necessary accommodations. Many of those accommodations led to quickly adapting technological solutions when meeting in person was not possible.
How exactly were law needs and proceedings made more accessible thanks to technology during the pandemic? Is it likely that these changes will persist even when the pandemic is over?
How The Pandemic Made The Law More Accessible
#1: Lawyers Working Remotely
One of the most significant changes to the work of the law is that lawyers quickly adapted to working remotely. Many have continued this practice to the added ease and efficiency both they and their clients enjoy.
There has been a historically high demand for lawyers during the pandemic, and working remotely has enabled lawyers to meet with more clients by limiting required transportation time. Additionally, lawyers and their assistants have quickly adapted to using tools like web conferencing and online document sharing to make the process more accessible.
Even as the pandemic ends, it is unlikely that lawyers will stop using these tools, which have proven to be a boon to their career and valuable for their clients.
#2: Seeking (And Finding) Savings
Another intriguing effect of the pandemic on law proceedings has been a move towards finding cheaper legal services. COVID-19 highlighted a need to reduce costs for many people, and individuals saw that they could and should discover more affordable law services.
For a long time, many jobs typically done by lawyers could only be done by lawyers for a high cost. Many people simply did not have the money to afford those expenses, so legal representation was not an option.
It is now more possible than ever before to get affordable support while working through legal matters. For example, innovative companies are now offering help filing a small claims court lawsuit from home as well as providing assistance on how to handle the process online.
Law firms and lawyers realize that they will need to integrate affordable tools and services, such as document review, if they want to keep up with this change.
Technology and online platforms have made it possible to DIY how you address many parts of the legal system, making the law more accessible for everyone.
#3: Digitizing Paperwork
If you’ve ever had to have something notarized for a court hearing or to file an official document, you know how frustrating it can be. Traditional paper-based documentation was still considered the primary and necessary way of handling much legal documentation.
As the courts become more comfortable with technology and see the power of digitizing in action, things are changing. From digital notaries to digital signatures, there are more ways to submit verifiable documentation than ever before. In the years to come, this method will likely continue its take over as the primary method of recordkeeping.
#4: Accessible Video Conferencing
It’s easy to debate whether or not all court hearings should transition to web conferences in the future, but there’s no doubt that the integration of remote meetings in the legal system has gone very well.
Integrating digital technology to make these meetings more accessible has significantly changed the legal process in everything from mediation meetings to pre-trial discussions with the judge.
Not everyone realized just how expensive and difficult it could be to be involved in a trial even if you are not the one being sentenced. Suing someone was not an option for many people because they couldn’t afford the time needed to travel to multiple meetings while also working full-time. This made it impossible for many to seek justice even when they wanted to.
Now, however, things have changed. Individuals are no longer required to spend more than half of their day traveling to and from a 15-minute meeting. Instead, they can join from work or home to get important information without putting the rest of their life on hold.
It will be interesting to see how web conferencing is integrated into the legal system when it is no longer a requirement but an option. Only time will show us how things will turn out, but it seems likely that courts will continue to find ways to use video conferencing to make court hearings as efficient and accessible as possible.