Here’s a question that’s been making the rounds:
Who led your company’s digital transformation?
- Chief Executive Officer
- Chief Financial Officer
- Chief Information Officer
Here’s another question that’s been making the rounds, as companies start thinking about how they’ll reopen:
“What the heck are we doing leasing all that space?”
Perhaps this is a question that should start making the rounds: Will the market for Class A commercial space in center cities soon decline?
That may be the least of our worries during the COVID-19 disaster, but it may be something worth considering.
There are other things that the pandemic will change, many of them permanently.
In the law: Perhaps mechanisms other than in-person case management conferences are a better way to manage cases. In-person conferences are expensive, and they often achieve more quibbling than anything else. We may be learning that frequent video conferences are a better way to manage cases.
We may also be learning that many types of hearings are best conducted online. If a court is going to allow only two minutes of argument on a motion (as frequently happens on “motions days” and as almost always happens before the MDL Panel), perhaps those 120 seconds of argument could be uttered online, rather than in person. Indeed, perhaps all types of routine hearings could be conducted online. We now know that in-person hearings aren’t essential, and courts are becoming accustomed to listening to arguments and testimony over the phone. Why should we ever go back to the old way?
So, too, for many other aspects of society. In the United Kingdom, routine visits to physicians have been conducted by telephone for a long time. The United States has now discovered the telephone (and video conference), and there’s no reason to go back to in-person visits after the pandemic ends. (Insurance companies may have to rethink their reimbursement policies, but I hope that’s not too much to ask to achieve huge gains in efficiency.)
Online education, too, may now have come of age. (For years, fancy universities said that “students learn as much from their classmates as they do from their professors; that’s why everyone should pay more to attend Hoity-Toity U.” Now that all students are learning from home at Hoity-Toity U, and some students are asking for a corresponding reduction in tuition, it will be interesting to hear Hoity-Toity U argue that the students’ presence on campus actually adds no value at all.) Even apart from my parenthetical aside, if online education remotely resembles in-person education, the online version is a bargain at the price. Students may learn online; employers may come to respect online degrees; and society may move on.
Maybe COVID-19 has accelerated our path to an online future.
Mark Herrmann spent 17 years as a partner at a leading international law firm and is now deputy general counsel at a large international company. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law and Drug and Device Product Liability Litigation Strategy (affiliate links). You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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