IHC: WHAT IMPACT WILL THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAVE ON THE FLEXIBLE LEGAL SERVICES MARKET?
Nair: The new way of working only reinforces what we have known for some time: that flexible working and productivity aren’t mutually exclusive!
Clients are now much more open to consultants supporting them from other jurisdictions and, given the advances in communication technologies, teams can still collaborate without needing to be onsite and physically present. This opens a whole new world of opportunity for legal consultants and gives clients access to a much wider pool of talent.
IHC: WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES FOR IN-HOUSE COUNSEL AT THE MOMENT, AND HOW ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CLIENTS MEET THOSE OBJECTIVES?
Nair: We are lucky to have the opportunity to speak with legal leaders across a range of industries to better understand their most pressing issues. Pinsent Masons’ flexible resourcing unit Vario is now comprised of Brook Graham (Pinsent Masons’ specialist Diversity & Inclusion consultancy), Client Consulting and Legal Project Management. This puts the firm in a unique position to speak to clients about matters beyond the more traditional remit of the legal team.
Most seem to agree that, while we won’t soon see a return to the more buoyant market conditions of early 2019, we must accept our new environment and find ways to operate within those parameters.
Some of those priorities are sector specific while others transcend industry lines. For example, because of the pandemic, there is a renewed focus on Health and Wellbeing along with ensuring employees feel well supported as they navigate the challenges of working from home or supporting sick family members. Several clients have also committed to making meaningful progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives, while others are looking to expedite their digitalization and contract management efforts. Legal has a part to play in all of this and, through our broader Professional Services offerings, we’re able to support them on that journey.
IHC: WHAT ARE THE KEY AREAS OF FOCUS FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, AND WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE LEGAL TEAMS?
Nair: Inclusion is about creating an environment where people feel valued, respected and heard. While many organizations focus on creating inclusive cultures, more work on increasing and encouraging diversity – such as, targeted positive actions to increase the under-representation of minority groups – is still needed.
The Covid-19 pandemic exaggerated inequities across society and responsible employers have responded with targeted plans. As such, our clients need support on a broad range of matters including gender equity, cross-cultural exclusion, mental health and help with wellbeing. Legal teams will play a critical role in the formulation of diversity and inclusion policies, advising on local employment legislation and rolling out training to their organizations.
IHC: HOW SHOULD BOTH CONSULTANTS AND CLIENTS PREPARE FOR THE OPPORTUNITIES AFTER THE PANDEMIC?
Nair: The pandemic brought a level of market uncertainty that few of us have experienced in our lifetimes. An inevitable outcome was the tightening of budgets and headcount freezes. For the first few months of the pandemic, most organizations were reining in spending and trying to do more with less.
However, as we take tentative steps to ending the pandemic, activity levels are starting to increase. M&A activity has been rising in the Asia Pacific as pent-up cash reserves begin to flow once more and, in Hong Kong and Singapore, we’ve seen an uptick in demand from the Financial Services and Energy sectors in particular.
Most seem to agree that, while we won’t soon see a return to the more buoyant market conditions of early 2019, we must accept our new environment and find ways to operate within those parameters. We predict increasing demand for consultants who can provide support on anything from day-to-day operational matters, to larger regulatory changes. Clients appreciate the flexibility of our solutions, as they can get the support they need without the fixed overheads and, in turn, our consultants can work on exciting projects with top tier clients.
Karishma leads Vario’s Flexible Legal Services
*This article is the IHC Magazine’s off-shore update for July 2021 issue. Click here to read the full magazine