UCL-IBIL hosted an excellent online discussion last night on COVID-19 and the UK IP professions. While the focus was on the UK and on IP, I would recommend it to practitioners in other countries and fields too.

The speakers were frank in addressing topics such as the pros and cons of home working versus offices, recruitment, training, fees, trends in IP filing and litigation. Much of what they said was surprising. 

For example, Mr Justice Birss of the High Court (which has adopted remote and hybrid hearings remarkably smoothly) noted a reaction against "hyper-perfectionism" as people have become more tolerant. "The legal profession doesn't need to be so prissy," he said.

Catherine Wolfe of Boult Wade Tennant welcomed the disappearance of the "working from home stigma" and the curse of "presenteeism", but also warned about the loss of "percolation" in offices and the risk that people will feel isolated as office-working becomes less routine.

Katharine Stephens of Bird & Bird talked about the boom in legal tech, and also questioned how remote working will change interactions with clients. With travel now more difficult for everyone, for example, it is possible to include junior lawyers and even non-lawyers on video calls with clients or prospects. 

This is a very interesting point, and prompts the question of how lawyer-client relationships will be changed by the absence of, or at least reduction in, face-to-face meetings and client receptions. Will lawyers need to find new ways to communicate with clients? Will they be under more scrutiny to back up claims about expertise, experience, diversity, etc? Will different skills be required to attract and retain business compared to the pre-COVID world?