What's been learned in the past six weeks? What must be done in the next six months? And how will we do things differently for the next six years?
In a recent LitiCast episode, Peter Coffee, Vice President of Strategic Research at Salesforce, shares the global, multi-industry perspective of Salesforce in a follow-up to his popular Litiquest NYC 2019 keynote presentation.
He explains why it's not too soon to look beyond the novelty of the present global crisis and to start establishing systems and practices for sustained engagement in the shadow of pandemic risk.
Watch his conversation or read the highlights below.
New Challenges, Opportunities, and Disciplines for Lawyers
Coffee says that remote hearings and other changes to the legal profession may present unforeseen challenges for attorneys, such as judges who behave differently on a teleconference than they do in person. He cites the example of Clarence Thomas, the famously silent Supreme Court Justice who was surprisingly vocal during the Court’s first remote oral arguments on Monday.
But remote work also has many potential benefits. “For litigators, it’s going to be an opportunity to develop some new skills,” Coffee says. “You may now have access to an expert witness who you previously weren’t able to get because of travel or other logistical issues. It creates new opportunities and new challenges for litigators, for researchers, for everyone in the profession.”
Coffee also says that entire disciplines or practice areas are going to arise from this crisis, many of them centered on employer-employee relationships. He believes that the standards of workplace safety we typically associate with meatpacking plants and factories will now be applied to white-collar office settings.
“We will be holding employers to standards of worker protection, and asking questions about, ‘If I get sick, do I have a cause of action against my employer for failing to take adequate care? What is the standard of due care?’”
These are questions the courts will be answering, and precedents they’ll be establishing, over the next few years.
Stabilize, Normalize, Accelerate
Asked what Salesforce’s response to the pandemic has been, Coffee says that they have gone through three phases, which almost every company will go through:
- Stabilize: Stay in business.
- Normalize: Arrive at a place where you can function through a crisis that’s going to last months, not weeks.
- Accelerate: Move quickly to what comes next, with a clearer picture of the lasting changes that have taken place.
He says that on March 1, he received an email from his employer that said, “Go home,” i.e., stay safe; take care of yourself and your family. A few weeks later, Salesforce launched Salesforce Care, which offers free or inexpensive tools to help other companies get through the normalization stage. One of its engineers even created and vetted an app — in four days — that manages ventilators, routing them to the areas of greatest need.
Salesforce is also repurposing one of its websites into a suite of tools for contact tracing, remote work, staggered schedules, and other solutions for a world where pandemic risk is part of the environment.
“When people are in a mood where they’re prepared to discover you, make it easy to discover you,” Coffee says. “Offer them something of high value at negligible or even zero cost, and let them discover, ‘Wow, there’s value here. Thank you for helping me get through the difficult part. Now let’s talk about a longer-term relationship.’”
“Surfing the Shockwave Is Always the Better Way to Go”
Dohrmann says that, in the face of a rapidly evolving legal landscape, attorneys seem to fall into one of two camps: traditionalist/protectionist and progressive. The former feel threatened by the changes that are occurring, while the latter see them as opportunities for innovation and growth.
Coffee says that this debate has happened many times before. “It used to be that owning a seat on the New York Stock Exchange made you a gatekeeper and you could charge people lavish commissions to trade publicly traded stocks. Now anyone with a smartphone or web browser can do it, often with minimal fees.”
As with any other industry, change is inevitable, and having a “defensive, turf war point-of-view” is not conducive to survival. “Surfing the shockwave is always the better way to go, as opposed to hunkering down in defense against that shockwave.”
Coffee adds that expanded access to justice is not a threat to lawyers who really advocate and work for their clients, only to those who essentially serve as “toll collectors,” accepting fees to present cases in court. He suggests that a broader, more robust marketplace may raise the bar for legal services, which would be a good thing for consumers. “The question is, when there isn’t a contrived scarcity of access to a market, how do you add value in that market?”
Coffee concludes by emphasizing the elevated importance of lawyers moving forward, saying this is “the time to be creating value by understanding complexity and helping people make informed choices. If that’s not a good definition of what the legal profession is all about, I don’t know what would be.”
To surf the shockwave, accelerate your business, and create more value for your clients, request a Litify demo.