One of the biggest differences between ancient and modern societies is the existence of law. Whether you live in a small village or a giant metropolis, most of the actions you take as an individual are governed by either local, national, or global laws. The same goes for businesses, non-profit organizations, and all other types of institutions.
For example, on an individual level, if you have been in an accident and believe that someone else is at fault, you can hire the services of a creditable personal injury lawyer to help you navigate through the various intricacies of making a claim. On a corporate stage, times in which the law plays a vital role include mergers and acquisitions, employee contracts, the filing of patents, and many others.
Keeping that in mind, let us look at some of the most important trends present in different legal areas within our society.
Labor and Employment Law
One of the many consequences of the COVID-19 global pandemic is the growing need for companies to find ways to cut down on expenses, improve sales, or both. As we all know, thousands of businesses have been forced to shut down in the past year and millions around the world have been left unemployed.
From a legal perspective, this represents a shift in the hiring of employees, namely their employment contracts. While in the past, most enterprises followed traditional labor practices such as hiring mostly full-time workers, firms today are making use of all kinds of people based on specific needs at specific points in time. For instance, many small firms are hiring temporary workers during peak business times and outsourcing areas like accounting, marketing, and human resources to freelancers and part-time employees.
There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, hiring different types of people under different contracts brings greater flexibility to an organization. On the other, it is a useful cost-cutting measure as businesses are not required to provide non-full-time workers with benefits like social security, healthcare, and paid leave.
Unless you have been living in space or at the bottom of the ocean, you are without a doubt familiar with presentation and video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Better yet, you are probably using one, if not all three, of them for your studies, work, meetings with friends, celebrations, and everything in between.
Even though having an online meeting or phone call is nothing new, there has perhaps never been a time when video communication is as prevalent as now. Once again, we have the COVID-19 global pandemic to blame. People need to stay away from each other but still maintain a semblance of normality in their everyday lives.
As internet connection speeds get faster and faster and technology in communications continues to develop, the legal industry has transformed from a local or regional market into a global playing field. If you are a customer, you now have access to representation all over the world. As long as you can connect to the internet and have a way to transfer money overseas, you can be living in the United States and have a lawyer from the Philippines work on your case. Likewise, your enterprise can be set in India but have a French law firm handle a merger or acquisition with a Chinese business partner.
Nobody knows who the first person to say information is power was. Some credit the famous phrase to former United Nations Secretary Kofi Annan, while others believe it was one-time US vice-president Hubert Humprey. Regardless of who said it, one thing is for certain, it is true, especially in the world in which we live today.
For businesses and individuals alike, protecting a product, design, or idea has always been worth the cost of patent filing and processing. For example, a pharmaceutical company will spend millions to protect innovative prescription drugs and even over-the-counter medicines like Aspirin or Tylenol.
Yet, what we are seeing today is a movement from product-based patents to those involving processes and diagnostics. How you do something is now becoming equally or more important than the product itself. As such, it is no longer enough to protect the final fruit of your labor. Rather, every step in the process to achieve it should be guarded as well.
But there is still improvement to be made. In many cases, patents only cover certain areas, and the illegal copying, stealing, and manufacturing of products and services are still prevalent in many nations across the world.
Three key trends in the legal industry are contract differentiation in labor law, global representation, and changes in patent law. In an increasingly interdependent world, they will continue to define how legal processes are handled for the years to come.