A note from our CEO Steven De Backer...
Yesterday, we marked Be Kind to Lawyers Day. Hadn’t heard of it? Well neither had we until this year! The day acts as a reminder of how essential lawyers are to the workings of society and the justice system.
Despite it being a little-known day, I felt it was an opportune moment to reflect briefly on the last 12 months. They have been tough for everyone, but Covid-19 has had a particularly prodigious impact on the legal sector. Changes in the world have inevitably come with dramatic changes in the law.
From as early as March 2020, law firms in Africa were rapidly transitioning to focus all efforts on counselling clients on how to survive the crisis. Simultaneously, they were working hard to mitigate their own risks as governments imposed lockdowns to fight the spread of the virus.
Lawyers have been faced with an anxious mix of opportunity and loss over the last 12 months. While employment lawyers saw an almost immediate surge in enquiries as workplaces changed forever, difficult times were had by M&A lawyers as corporate deals slowed across the board.
In Africa, lawyers that were so used to pristine offices in which they spent long hours, formal attire and meeting their clients face-to-face were thrust into a new digital way of working. Like it or not, the legal tech revolution is underway, and it is set to provide huge opportunities. I have been blown-away by the speed and ability with which law firms deployed technology and adapted to a digital way of working almost immediately. The enormity of this transition should not be underestimated, while the positives of tech are indisputable, they are littered with presuppositions, assuming lawyers are all tech-savvy and have the necessary equipment to hand that works consistently. Many lawyers will have found digitalisation exceedingly challenging.
Lawyers in Africa have had a tumultuous 12 months and they will continue to face hurdles in 2021. As many businesses are still weathering the storm, the role of law firms is as critical as ever to ensure bountiful investment opportunities are realised. With vibrant activity expected in a multitude of sectors, including healthcare and renewable energy, it will be lawyers who are front and centre of helping companies to navigate complex terrain and to remain compliant. The “borderless” opportunities presented by the now active African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and a huge host of pending regulation in many countries will be keeping the continent’s legal minds exceedingly busy over the coming 12 months.
At Afriwise, we have seen how lawyers in our network have worked tirelessly to make the necessary preparations for their clients amidst pandemic headwinds. We wanted to use this day to empathise with the challenging times behind us, and thank all the lawyers who are helping to ensure businesses succeed across the continent.
A big "Thank You" from the Afriwise team!
Steven De Backer - Founder & CEO, Afriwise