Elena Iacob, Partner, ZRVP
- What are the trends related to technology that 2022 will bring or will continue in our industry? How will they impact us? What opportunities and challenges should we expect? How do you plan to use them in your favor and to be ahead of the others?
The legal services industry in Romania, same as worldwide, faces cardinal change and disruption caused by technology and innovation. The legal market grew even in the pandemic, and it is expected to continue to grow, but the traditional patterns regarding both the acquisition of legal services and the provision thereof are challenged.
According to a recent analysis, Romania’s mergers and acquisitions market reached an all-time record in 2021 in terms of number of deals, and the value of disclosed and undisclosed deals exceeded EUR 4 billion. The demand for legal services has increased and so have the clients’ legal expectations. The beneficiaries require use of technology, up-to-date, integrated, and cross-border advice, possibly extending beyond the legal field to financial, commercial, and industrial aspects. And all these while putting pressure for fixed fees structures, pricing based on added value and a greater transparency on fees.
Businesses and their in-house legal departments seek solutions to manage the high volume and recurring legal workstreams in an efficient manner and with reduced costs, guided by the “to do more with less” requirement, thus allowing them to focus on strategic plans. At the same time, the fragmentation of the Romanian business law services market continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many boutique and specialized practices rose from spinoffs or start-ups and even legal tech firms are competing with large, multi-practice firms on close to equal terms.
Use of AI for legal research is for some time now a reality, law firms are developing contract generation and negotiation platforms, tools for verification of public documents when working on public offerings, M&A deals, or other transactions, and invest in finding innovative solutions to help clients improve efficiency in repeating and high-volume processes, without losing quality.
From predominance of electronic communication and distance service provision over physical meetings and face-to-face assistance to the use of more complex and tailored legal automation instruments, technology is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for the legal services industry in the next years. The blockchain technology is ground for a whole new type of legal environment, one which allows the transfer of value (crypto-currencies, tokenised assets, etc.), thus taking the internet to a next level compared to its use for access to website information or as a social media platform.
Our traditional clients are also impacted by technology and seek adequate support for internalizing new technologies, which almost always require a legal assessment and adjustment of legal processes. As an example, under the “assault” of FinTech following implementation of open banking regulations, traditional financial institutions are seeking tech savvy and specialized counsel to deal with intricate yet often unclear provisions.
The demand for knowledgeable, competent, and experienced lawyers has not reduced but business lawyers are pressured to adapt to the evolving expectations of the clients, to become more creative and price-efficient in the competitive environment. ZRVP is following closely the advance of technology in the legal area and is dedicated to keep abreast with the new tools and deliver innovative solutions to its clients.
- The way of working, recruiting, onboarding and so on were probably the most affected by the pandemic. What do you think is here to stay and what new trends will emerge in 2022 when it comes to work? What challenges will companies face? How companies as well as employees will be affected? Does your company plan to implement new strategies for recruiting and retaining people? Do you intend to go back to the office? When? What changes should your employees expect to see there?
Remote work using digital communication technologies may have been accelerated by the social distancing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is “here to stay”. Through the recently enacted law on the digital nomad visa, Romania joined the club of countries offering this type of visa as an official sign that work from anywhere may gain further mass.
Talent retention is a key concern for law firms, and it is a challenging task considering the need for flexibility and improved work-life balance made evident in the context of the pandemic. We are constantly adapting workflows considering the above and under the observance of safety rules and applicable restrictions. We strive to offer our customers the best experience and are prepared to assist with a full-fledged team on location when the situation demands it.
- Are there any trends in the customer experience area? Do you foresee any change in the way our industry delivers services? Is the customer satisfaction affected by the pandemic? What opportunities do you see for this year? Did your company find any new solutions to improve the customers’ experience?
Like other businesses, our firm shifted from a practice area centred model to a user-centric model. We adjust the teams and form multidisciplinary task forces that allow us to provide prompt, efficient and tailored advice depending on every project our clients are involved in, and even anticipate requests based on the knowledge of their interests, business strategies and industries. We are proud that our traditional customers rely on us for all standard legal aspects of their business and trust us as well with innovative projects.