In the first of a series of articles looking at trends for 2021, Kilburn & Strode attorneys discuss new ways of working arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wherever you are in the world, and whatever your role involves, there are likely to be some fundamental differences. With working from home now the norm for many people, face-to-face meetings and phone calls have been replaced by webchats and videoconferences. As Kilburn & Strode Chair Gwilym Roberts puts it: “The most important interface is now the laptop screen.”
But Gwilym doesn’t view this entirely negatively:
In many ways, we’ve never been more international or more connected.
For example, we can have virtual breakfasts with international clients at times that suit them. In the online environment, time differences and jurisdictional borders make less sense than ever.”
Even when pandemic restrictions are lifted, it’s unlikely the online tools and technologies will vanish again. Courts and IP offices have embraced fully virtual or hybrid hearings remarkably quickly, and there have been benefits felt by many such as flexible hearings and decisions, and reduced travel.
Home but not alone
Many legal professionals are in the fortunate position that much of their work is portable, provided they have robust IT systems. Partner Kristina Cornish is aware that there are a number of challenges that come with new ways of working, such as recruiting and training people remotely, business development and building social capital when people are dispersed, and says it is clear that
we need to keep paying attention to creating a culture of loyalty and belonging when people are not in the office.
Re-thinking marketing is part of that, adds Gwilym: “Videocalls make it easier to get to know better the people you already know, but harder to make new contacts.” Networking opportunities such as seminars and drinks receptions are not possible for now, and are being replaced by webinars, podcasts and virtual happy hours. Like many other changes arising from the pandemic, these may reflect longer-term cultural changes: for example, tomorrow’s IP professionals may be more comfortable socialising with clients by sharing virtual games than going to a drinks reception.
Close to you
For many innovative businesses, the pandemic has seriously disrupted research. While life sciences companies have worked at record speed to develop and test new vaccines, much laboratory work had to be put on hold when workplaces and universities were forced to close in 2020. “We haven’t seen this have an impact on patent filings yet,” according to Kristina. “But that may be something that we notice in the coming months.”
With labs closed, however, some researchers may have been able to go through old papers and revisit previous research. While the benefits of working alongside other scientists are missed, working from home may drive innovative thinking. Associate Rosie Carrie says: “Many technology-based SMEs, who are by nature agile and creative, have embraced new ways of working.” Rosie herself has embraced new challenges in 2020 – relocating to Kilburn & Strode’s Rotterdam office, just a short cycle from the EPO in The Hague, to support and develop local clients in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries.
Rosie reports that businesses have embraced apps such as Mibo which is more suited to socialising compared to the meetings-focused Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
When the restrictions of lockdown 1 hit in early 2020, Kilburn & Strode fully embraced these tools not only to stay connected with clients and contacts but also to stay close to colleagues; water cooler roulette, virtual pub nights, even a rock concert recorded in multiple locations – nothing could stop us staying close while being apart.
All these tools are surely set to stay with us even after the pandemic is over – but hopefully alongside some of the older ways of working. As partner Nick Bassil says: “I’m looking forward to the day when international travel is no longer an adventure!”
Contact Gwilym if you would like to have a word him about his writing, IP or the Welsh country side.
Read article two ►