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Home » International arbitration might speed up after the coronacrisis. Rowan Legal wants “e-hearings” in the Czech Republic

International arbitration might speed up after the coronacrisis. Rowan Legal wants “e-hearings” in the Czech Republic

06. 08. 2020

Author: Jan Januš
Publisher: INFO.CZ

CORONAVIRUS IN ADVOCACY | During the coronavirus pandemic, law firm Rowan Legal switched to working from home and in the future plans to offer their people the option of working from home as a benefit, explains partner Miloš Olík, in the latest installment of INFO.CZ’s big survey of “Coronavirus in Advocacy.” They also do not intend to dismiss anyone because of the crisis, nor will they provide any discounts or reduce their prices, but they do offer their clients some other options for riding out these difficult times. At the same time, the firm will work towards making international arbitration more effective: “Oral hearings can be held via videoconference, and we know what difficulties this method poses and what to look out for. We would like to transpose this knowledge to the Czech milieu and to help make arbitration e-hearings common practice,” says Miloš Olík.

Did the current crisis inspire you to make some innovations in providing your services?

Many years ago, we formulated a long-term vision for our law firm, which states, among other things, that thanks to innovation we keep one step ahead. We constantly strive to fulfil our vision, so I dare say that the current crisis has not been such an inspiration to us to introduce anything completely new.

With the introduction of blanket quarantine measures, the world has changed virtually from one minute to the next. We have seen our clients, colleagues and co-workers make tremendous efforts to quickly move all personal appointments, meetings of various kinds, training and the overall provision of services online. For those who already had the technical facilities and knew how to use them productively this was no problem at all. On the contrary, it showed that even though man is a social being and likes to meet others in person, many meetings can be conducted very effectively and without any difficulty via video or telephone conference. In certain cases, we experienced first-hand what was previously unimaginable for many, that even processes like mediation meetings or oral hearings can sometimes be held via videoconference without any trouble, not to mention the significant time- and cost-saving this entails.

In our view, therefore, the crisis has rather accelerated the introduction and expansion of some innovations and it appears that in many cases these innovations are much more effective, and can substitute the former methods of providing legal services, albeit not entirely.

Are you planning to develop your long-distance services further? How?

For sure, we have big plans for the future in this field. In particular, for instance, we could mention moving lectures online and organizing webinars. Our colleagues have lectured at a couple of webinars and have received very positive feedback every time. In addition, we have purchased an effective platform BigMarket, which helps us with this. We plan to use this channel more often in the future.

We are also very proud of the “UNIque law” project, in which three law firms have joined forces (besides us, PRK Partners and tdpA), and together we give online lectures for law students and professionals.

As a firm we have long been contributing to projects that help digitalizing the Czech Republic and individual offices. In our view, the current situation will only speed up overall digitalization and computerization.

We also have big plans in the field of dispute resolution. We have seen in international arbitration that oral hearings can be held via videoconference, and we know the difficulties this method poses and how to deal with them. We would be glad to bring this knowledge to the Czech milieu and to help make arbitration e-hearings common practice, for it would mean lower expenses and higher efficiency for many hearings.

We also believe that interaction with clients will be handled online more often and the highest level of security of communication channels should be maintained. Still, the truth is that we look forward to meeting our clients in person, even though this might happen less often than before. Nevertheless, we consider personal contact with clients at least in the beginning to be the basis for establishing the relationship between advocate and client. Technology is great, but it doesn’t replace human contact.

With respect to current economic prospects, are you considering or have you already started adjusting prices? In what way?

We reacted as much in favor of our clients as possible and adjusted the way of providing our services to the needs of our clients. In our view that does not go hand in hand with giving discounts or reducing prices. The path that we have chosen in this situation has several grounds:

  1. We provide assistance beyond legal services. We have reached out to our clients and informed them of the impact of current measures with respect to the specifics of their businesses and of course we have also prepared accessible materials regarding the possibilities of state support.
  2. We provide important contracts and documents for free – we have prepared an online database of templates of contracts and other forms on our website that our clients and anyone who needs them can download for free.
  3. We have united with the Czech Chamber of Commerce, where as a part of an online advice helpdesk we provided businesses with advice for free. Through this platform we responded to more than 80 questions from various sectors.

Will the current crisis affect your human resource management in any way?

We appreciate our team immensely and great thanks go to our colleagues for being so flexible. Right in the beginning of the government measures we implemented compulsory working from home overnight. It was not easy for everyone, but we were in constant contact and supported each other. We are very proud that in the end we all managed to handle it very smoothly and that this situation did not have any influence on the quality of our services. This goes to show that we are truly a team that pulls together. In the course of working from home we even managed to partly restructure our support team in the way we had planned, and the crisis did not set us back.

Thus, we don’t plan to change our team in any way because of the crisis. If we manage to keep the firm growing as we did in previous years, we will continue expanding our team. The crisis has proved to us that working from home is a functional alternative to going to work every day. For this reason, we are now preparing the possibility of working from home as a benefit not only for our lawyers, but, as it turns out, for the firm and our clients as well.

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