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Cavinder Bull, John Philip Siao, Duncan Abate, Sharon Ser

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shadow 2021, law firms have had to relook at their long-term strategy for everything from internal working policies to managing client relationships. When it comes to the latter, firm leaders say that it is important to be both innovative and proactive.

HOW ARE YOU MAINTAINING STRONG CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS AT A TIME WHEN BUSINESS IS STILL LARGELY CONDUCTED VIRTUALLY?

CAVINDER BULL SC, chief executive officer, Drew & Napier

We have had to be innovative in keeping in touch with clients in the midst of the pandemic. Much of this involves greater use of technology, which has been aided by the fact that we invested heavily in upgrading the firm’s technology infrastructure a year before the pandemic began. This has enabled us to make full use of virtual meeting platforms to stay engaged with clients. It has also enabled greater use of webinars which now can have participants and speakers from all over the world. In addition, there has been an increased usage of social media platforms to stay in touch with clients. These less formal platforms are never used for legal work but are very helpful for maintaining personal client relationships that have developed over the years. For clients in Singapore, there has also been the option of in-person meetings, of course always staying within the government guidelines of the day. Respecting the rules is an important way of respecting our clients’ health and wellbeing whilst still capturing some valuable time together. If we have genuine concern for our clients’ wellbeing, that naturally drives our desire to maintain close contact with them and to be available should they need our help, regardless of the pandemic.

JOHN PHILIP SIAO, co-managing partner, Tiongco Siao Bello & Associates

Since March 2020, when restrictions on movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic were implemented in the Philippines, the firm implemented a work-from-home arrangement. Given this, we took steps to ensure that our clients continued to have constant access to legal services in these challenging times.

The firm reached out to our clients to implement regularly scheduled meetings via the different online platforms. In a way, it became so much easier for clients to access our lawyers ever since online meetings became the new norm.

At the beginning of the quarantine period, social media was flooded with misleading or even outright false information. To counter this, we regularly updated our clients and assisted them in complying with the latest laws and regulations such as the new rules on remote working, laying-off of workers and closure of establishments, videoconferencing for stockholders meetings and digital submission of compliance requirements by the SEC, the various health protocols, legislation on suspension of obligations, and rules on taxation, among others. The firm’s accounting department was quick to adapt to online banking, which enabled our clients to conveniently and securely settle billing and collections. Documents and communication were digitized and shared among team members and clients such that evaluation and discussion could be conducted electronically. This increased the efficiency of our legal services and substantial savings in electricity, paper, ink and printer, and transportation, which were passed on to clients. Though the measures taken were in place to a certain degree pre-COVID-19, the pandemic compelled us to fully engage with technology.

As the office is slowly returning to normal, we will be keeping our best practices from our years in service while integrating with new practices brought about by the pandemic. The firm will continue to maintain strong relationships with clients both virtually and physically, in order to provide them with the best legal services.

DUNCAN ABATE, partner and chair of the Asia board, Mayer Brown

More than ever, being responsive to our clients’ needs and proactively anticipating the issues they face at a local and global level has been critical to maintaining and developing strong client relationships. Communication is really the starting point. Early on we adopted a flexible global communications strategy which empowered our people to leverage a broad range of platforms, including WebEx, Zoom and Teams. This has enabled us to accommodate our clients’ different communication preferences while facilitating global collaboration across jurisdictions facing very different pandemic conditions and responses. As the pandemic continues to evolve we have seen this flexibility foster greater innovation in how we support and partner with our clients. For example, client demand for training is probably greater than ever, which we have been able to fully embrace by leveraging our platforms, notably our COVID-19 portal. We have also seen clients increasingly eager to collaborate and engage with us on a broader range of topical issues, such as on diversity and inclusion and ESG, developing thought leadership content through our 10Hundred portal. In this respect, our response has helped to build deeper and richer relationships with our clients.

SHARON SER, managing partner, Withers

Our continuing investment in technology and digitisation empowers our lawyers to efficiently support clients’ requests seamlessly from any location. Extending globally across our cloud-enabled offices, these technologies include softphone capabilities, cloud video conferencing capabilities, in-office technology to facilitate the client’s preferred cloud communication solution; and widespread adoption of Microsoft collaboration tools. We have also launched a range of mobile applications which allow scanning, expense management, collaboration, time-recording, partner voting, and intranet access to be available from any location. The current pandemic brings about an acceleration of, rather than a change to, our technology strategy. Withers will continue to invest in modern technologies which support and enhance these working practices in order to best serve our clients. A key enabler is our digital strategy, which in conjunction with a review of our working practices across the firm, is implementing modern workflow and automation technologies to drive greater efficiency across our processes. Our efforts in enhancing efficiency through digitisation are set to evolve and grow even beyond the pandemic to enable the delivery of excellent legal advice and services to our clients.

 

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