It’s now just over six months since we locked down and moved to home working, so we thought it appropriate to share our views on how this virus has changed the face of shipping from the shipping lawyers’ point of view. Here are our top 5 observations.
- There’s no fall off in work. If anything this virus and its economic wake have created more legal problems. It follows that we are busier than ever, so much so that we’ve had to increase the team by hiring additional lawyers. Our most recent recruit hit the ground running and he’s already swamped.
- Whilst we have managed the necessary transition to home working, those who think home working is the best way for lawyers to operate are misguided. We reopened our office in September and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The value of social interaction and teamwork should not be underestimated. We have since taken a step back but “Teams” is never going to replace the benefits that come from physical interaction between the people who make up a dynamic team.
- Not travelling to see clients is a pain but it’s not insurmountable. However, the idea that this virus marks the end of business travel is nonsense. At the moment, we are getting by without seeing clients in the usual way, but the fact is that we all want to see our clients and the feedback we’ve had is that clients want to see us. One of the benefits of life as a shipping and trade lawyer is the ability to meet interesting people and learn about their business. The best way to do that is through personal connections.
- The various international lockdowns had a dramatic effect on our clients’ businesses. We are now seeing the fallout in terms of an uptick in the number of legal disputes. Pretty obviously, those involved in the cruise and leisure businesses were hardest hit. However, the impact was felt by all those involved in shipping and trade. On a practical level we’ve been dealing with the fallout from ships stranded in shipyards, crews stranded on ships, not to mention the defaults caused by businesses not being able to honour pre-Covid contracts. Common themes include frustration and force majeure. Aside from that however, we have seen a lot of demurrage claims coming through due to the disruption, delay and volatility caused.
- By and large our clients have responded well to the operational challenges of Covid. However, there is still a steady flow of enquiries. Only the other day we had a problem with getting a surveyor on to one of our clients’ ships in India. In short, Covid is making everything more difficult. We are having to re-think the way we do things and adapt.