For those of you with leases coming due in the next few years, start talking to your architects now.  The “other side” office better not be a clone of today’s @ 25% scale; it needs to be designed clean-sheet-of-paper fresh to serve the functions offices will still be used for.  My hunch is almost all (a) conference rooms; and (b) shared working spaces of all sizes, modular, flexible, and rapidly reconfigurable.

How you work

A few weeks ago I started seeing an article once a day or so showcasing a company that had done something creative and responsive to the crisis in record time: Everything from Zegna and LVMH reconfiguring the machinery they could to churn out PPE gowns instead of runway-wear to athletic helmet manufacturers pivoting to face masks and diving-helmet like scuba-gear for first line medical workers to Ford and GM and Tesla realizing they could mass-produce ventilators.

Now, instead of seeing one or so article a day along those lines I must see half a dozen or more.  Here’s one from this coming week’s Economist, for example (“The pandemic is liberating firms to experiment with radical new ideas”):

But the defining feature of the latest innovation revolution is breakneck speed. Companies are being forced to raise their corporate metabolism and overcome “analysis paralysis”, an affliction caused by top managers having pored over the same irrelevant case studies at business school. In a recent briefing consultants at Bain urged companies to throw out old data, test quickly and often, and assume you will be in testing mode for some time to come.

Elsewhere you see that this crisis has dynamited organizational silo’s, hopefully for good.  “Collaboration” is no longer honored in the breach; it is lived, because suddenly people’s mere preferences in terms of their comfort zone, insecurities, and neuroses, fall aside in the face of the imperative to get work done.

What might some of this experimentation look like in Law Land?

Not to be facetious, but “let a thousand flowers bloom.”  Welcome suggestions from anyone and everyone.  Try anything and everything that passes the laugh test and “test quickly and often.”  Just as an example, if your firm’s internal teams are now meeting via Zoom or WebEx or LoopUp or whatever, how much more work would it be to invite the client, or a pricing specialist from your firm, or your head of e-discovery?

Start preparing for what will be hot and what not

Some practice areas will be almost surefire beneficiaries of this on the other side, and others probably will not be.

  • Insolvency, restructuring, distressed assets: UP.
  • Private equity: UP. According to State Street, in the 20 years since the turn of this century, the equity market has doubled in size, but the private equity market has expanded six-fold.  The private equity investors have dry powder and all of a sudden a lot of potential targets have appeared if only because they’re so much cheaper than they were eight weeks ago.
  • Regulatory investigations and dispute resolution a/k/a litigation: UP. Busted or canceled deals, contract defaults, unpaid anything and everything, and a vast new frontier in exploring just what all those boilerplate orphans, the force majeure clauses, were actually supposed to mean.
  • M&A and, maybe, antitrust: UP. From banking to retail to transport and logistics to the healthcare sector, big looks to benefit from this while small is under tremendous strain.  Look for companies seeking scale or greater scale.
  • Tech and all the ancillary practices it spawns, including IP: UP. Suddenly tech in almost all its forms is not a toy or a merely nice-to-have, it’s the new operating system of all of our firms and most of our clients.  Zoom, the poster child for this, has seen five years’ worth of growth compressed into six weeks.

We will also have some thoughts on one thing that is not going to do well now or into the future, and that’s weak, indecisive leadership.



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