Thursday, 27 August 2020 22:00

Wellness as a priority

As we move towards a post-pandemic era and economic activities resume, wellness must remain a priority for law firms and businesses, Diego Martín Menjívar (pictured), a partner at Consortium Legal in El Salvador, writes in this opinion piece

Diego Martin"We are at the doors of a new era, and which some people call 'the new normal', or 'the new reality'. Whichever way you call it, it is unquestionable that the changes to come will be quick to arrive, will create more competitiveness and the legal profession’s adaptation to them will be necessary in order to survive in this already complicated sector. Law professionals are being called on to adapt to new ways of working, bringing more technological solutions to their environment.

Telecommuting, as well as the use of legal tech tools related to contract management, E-Signature, E-Commerce, electronic payment methods, and virtual corporate meetings, among others, will have to be part of the infrastructure required by a law firm. Investment in technology will be more important than investing in the office space, which most probably will be subject to a natural downsizing. In fact, many of these changes have been already implemented by large law firms, the majority of them, from more developed jurisdictions, such as in the US and Canada, and in European and many Asian countries, and it is only a matter of time before we see these developments come to jurisdictions where it was thought we were 10-15 years behind.

Lawyers in Latin American countries will need to take big steps to put themselves in a similar position to their peers in the US, Canada and Europe. But in general terms, these are not the only changes we will be witnessing, and which applies to law professionals worldwide. There are other important changes that will be happening very soon, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, regarding changes to our way of life, in order to provide wellness to our colleagues, family and our environment.

Wellness is a broad concept, which has taken on a more important position in our lives. The balance of our life needs, between family and friends, physical, mental and emotional health, nutrition, environment, work, education, and culture has expanded to a new reality.

Many people have discovered that our home is the most important area of our lives, and many people did not have this space prepared for what we have been obligated to endure during these past months. Many realised, for example, that even when they had internet access in their house, this was not broad enough to fulfill the new needs that the person (or family) had. Even insignificant things (in appearance) such as our furniture, our kitchens, our appliances, are not fulfilling the functionality we need right now. Many persons have probably invested more in their cars (which have been parked for months without any use) than in their kitchens, for example, which are now the “centre of operations” of families nowadays, since they spend an important part of their day in them.

The same thing happens from a professional perspective. Lawyers have perhaps invested more in an expensive outfit than in their personal computer. The suits are hanging in their closets right now, and the computer has become the most important working tool. Offices have invested more in filing cabinets (including the cost of leasing the space), than in the cloud. Travel expenses in the budget (i.e. for seminars, networking events), which now have been substituted by costless webinars and videoconferences, were probably bigger than the expenses for non-economic benefits for employees, such as healthy meals, fitness facilities, professional training courses – things that create wellness for them.

This virus has taught us that wellness is important. If we get the virus, and our body is not prepared to combat it, because we are over-stressed or over-weight, or because our blood levels are not optimal, it is more likely the outcome of the disease will be terrible for us.

Business plans, travel plans, life plans, were put on hold because of this virus, and we might not be able to achieve these plans as expected. Our way to plan ahead has changed. Our priorities have changed. We should see this as an opportunity, and not as a crisis, if we set our minds to changing our past customs and applying what we have learned for a better future. We must shift the focus of our business from a “profitcentric” vision to a “humancentered” vision, which in the end will create profit as well.

Due to the broad use of technology, and the ‘new normal’ of social distancing that we are going to be obligated to follow, our clientattorney/employee-employer relationships must change, and we will have to search for a more humanised way to approach them, now that we have realised that technology used in a smart way can bring us together, instead of tearing us apart, as many used to think before the pandemic."

The Latin American Lawyer
N.15 • September - October 2020

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Iberian Lawyer
N.97 • September 2020

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