Like everyone else, lawyers need to adapt to changing circumstances to serve their clients well, whether change is driven by the coronavirus or by technology. North Vancouver law firm Lakes, Whyte LLP has responded to our changing times by opening its bright new offices at 1312 Lonsdale, in the heart of North Vancouver’s business district.
Some of its experienced lawyers share their views on change.
Lesley Midzain is a solicitor who practices in the areas of wills and estates and real estate law. She says “If necessity is the mother of invention, then the COVID pandemic was the ‘necessity’ that made us all invent new ways of getting the job done.”
Lesley recalls the sudden technological and practical adaptations Lakes, Whyte LLP went through in mid-March.
“We had to rethink how we did our work, especially how we interacted with our clients. ‘Working from home’ went from a change of scene to a necessity. We had to build out our virtual network and ensure that we had the hardware and software to stay connected and keep providing our services. Zoom and Teams quickly became lifelines for our lawyers to stay in regular, meaningful touch with clients and each other.
“Real estate deals still had to close, and people still needed wills and powers of attorney. We had to make this happen. We ‘invented’ a signing room for matters that still needed physical witnessing – we outfitted the bottom of a private stairwell, accessible through an exterior door, with a little table, plastic document folders, and lots and lots of wipes. When documents didn’t need signing, we found ways to meet and exchange drafts remotely.”
Giorgio Verdicchio, a solicitor who has been advising North Shore businesses and advising on real estate transactions since 1983, believes that adapting to technological change is part of the job.
“When I started practicing, we did everything on paper or through agents. Clients now expect that we will do everything electronically, and many things remotely. Today, we close complicated deals using PDF documents, rather than waiting for hard copies signed in blue ink. We can be more efficient with technology, but there’s no substitute for a lawyer providing practical advice and checking to make sure everything is done properly.”
Peter Lightbody is a litigator in the areas of wills and estates, personal injury and employment law. Thanks to videoconferencing technology, he has been able to continue to represent his clients in face-to-face litigation procedures.
“I’ve participated in virtual proceedings where the parties have been in five different locations. The dynamics are different, but the procedures are still effective,” he says, “I credit the courts and other service providers for embracing this technology.”
Peter echoes Giorgio’s comments about the need for careful preparation. “Preparing for remote attendance requires more diligence. You can’t simply hand up cases or documents when you are attending by phone or video at your office desk. You have to prepare in advance.”
With most people now comfortable with the technology, Peter expects many of these new ways will continue after the pandemic is over. Lakes, Whyte LLP will also continue to adapt to the changing times, offering meetings in person with social distancing protocols, over the phone, and by videoconference.