01 May CB1. Digital Lawyer and My personal history
‘Blog’ is from the words ‘Web and Log’. It is supposedly a regularly updated web page that is written in an informal or conversational style. ‘Digital Lawyer and My personal history’ is akin to a diary note of what transpired in Comasters Law Firm since COVID-19 hit. Additionally, it delves into the early life of the writer.
You are invited to leave comments after reading it.
- The advent of COVID-19 in Australia in late February 2020 gave new meaning to the word Adapt. I must adapt or I die (not literally, but in business talk).
- Working in a law firm, by the old definition, creates mountains of paper. Computer technology from the day Bill Gates started Microsoft, enabled law firms to save data and not print out. Nowadays, with OneDrive (saving data to the cloud), written documents have become PDFs saved in the cloud. Even signed documents.
- As a Notary Public – the old technique still applies – I must see a person sign a document in my presence (not over Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom) before I apply my red seal using my heavy black embosser. Mere lawyers and Justices of the Peace are enabled by NSW legislation from 22 April 2020 for six months to witness signatures over the video.
- The social distancing law is a shock to the system. I literally needed three weeks to get used to it. Like I needed three weeks not to touch my nose after touching the pedestrian crossing button (which is disabled now). I needed another three weeks to get used to wearing a surgical mask – to protect others in case I have COVID-19 and am asymptomatic.
- What shocked me the most is, all my staff members want to work from home due to the fear of catching COVID-19. I said Ok reluctantly. I went solo to work for three weeks. At least I can drive, park my car and go upstairs to work five days a week. My lawyer friends overseas under the so-called Movement Control Order could not go to their workplaces.
- Those three weeks alone in the office instantly, more or less, made me into a digital lawyer.
- WhatsApp groups were created with my staff members. They by themselves created their own WhatsApp group without me in it – so as not to disturb the boss.
- Next, Google Hangouts was put on, so that I can check out the hairstyle of each of my employees, who are all female. Mostly uncombed. I combed mine to go to work.
- In case my law firm’s clients don’t use Google Hangouts (which requires a Gmail account), Microsoft Skype and Zoom were tested and used. Later, I used GoToMeeting with some of my friends.
- My literally distant staff members could draft letters and put them on letterhead and even insert my e-signature (with my given authority) and Voila – my law firm has a Letter of Advice on Comasters Law Firm’s letterhead ready to go. No need to print out whatsoever. Just email. Our hardcopy filing system instantly became a digital filing system stored in the cloud (OneDrive).
- In case OneDrive fails, each week the whole data is downloaded into a hard disk and locked away. I had trouble downloading and the firm did no back-up for three weeks because of the f**king virus. When finally, some of my staff members returned to the workplace, the data got backed-up. Phew!
- Courts these days have begun to accept digital communication as evidence for trial use. It is particularly more so since COVID-19 raised its ugly head. A recent court hearing I attended was conducted over the video. Not as good, but it is convenient.
- More and more of what my law firm does is digitised, including doing STPs (Single Touch Payrolls), BAS (Business Activity Statements), client correspondence, court correspondence, 2nd and 3rd party correspondence. We have folders galore. All nicely cascaded.
- Emails remain my favourite form of communication. Even this blog is written by email, for forwarding to my staff member(s) to proofread, if not improve.
- I have an interest in computer technology, so apart from saying yes to a nice invitation to become a Non-Executive Director in an ASX listed company specialising in digital economy, I have begun to use Adobe Acrobat Pro – testing and implementing its creative abilities – and using even more Google Hangouts like never before. If PM Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg use it, I will too.
- During these unprecedented times, my clients who are hoteliers, restauranteurs, café owners and landlords are bearing the brunt of the economic slowdown, akin to the 1930s great depression. On the other hand, my accountant, digital economy and essential business clients (medicine is one) are making good money and some are even adding staff members. The takeaway food economy has become digitised – more deliveries on e-bikes are seen on the street.
- My law firm recently wrote a legal article on Lease ‘Rent Relief Package’ to help my landlord clients – particularly retail and commercial ones. It is also helpful to tenants. As I type this blog, my firm is polishing a legal article on the JobKeeper scheme. Such legal articles are sent out in ‘monthly’ newsletters to 1,700 clients and friends, some of whom would reply to say hi and a few would unsubscribe which is fine.
- So, Comasters Law Firm is becoming even more digital. And for that matter, the whole Australian economy is too.
- I take this opportunity to write a few words about myself. This is like writing a mini book at a time so that one day in the future, it becomes a sizable book like ‘A Bigger Picture’ by the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. In a future blog, I may comment on that book.
- Born in South East Asia, I was sent to an English school when I entered primary Standard One. My teachers were oh so strict that I was surprised I got canned, a punishment I never received at home. My parents probably spoilt me.
- I begin telling my personal story in my primary school days because prior to that time, my memory is unclear.
- My mother brought me up in such a way that I never needed to lift a finger to do anything in the house. I play, eat and sleep. Play is prominent. All play and little or no learning left me a boy who just does what I want. I had a lot of freedom. My only limitation is this: “Don’t play with those (certain) young kids – they are very naughty boys and girls”, said my mother. At that time, I did not know why they were naughty. I just heeded my mother’s order. Later in life, I knew why she so ordered.
- As I was growing up, I learnt that my mother was a disciplinarian on my elder siblings. My five elder siblings had little freedom, but they turned out good kids and clever at school. My mother probably thought I would be ok – no need to be so strict anymore – since the five had become good kids.
- But at Year 1, I had to catch up. My classmates were smarter and more rounded kids than me. They mixed with others easily. I on the other hand watched and learnt day after day. I began to mix and enjoyed it so much that I did not stop to do my homework – that is why I got canned – punished for not doing homework to pass up the next day.
- Achieving equilibrium took not weeks or months but four years. Growing up in Years 1 to 3 were like near disasters – I played, ate and slept and did not shine in school like how my two elder brothers did.
- I will venture into Year 4 another time. I would still say I have fond memories of my younger days.