Property Australia

Leading legal processes into the digital age


Interim changes designed to accommodate social distancing may have lasting positive impacts on the efficiency of normal legal processes, says Guy Humble, partner and head of litigation at McCullough Robertson.

A new law passed by Queensland Parliament enables many parts of the legal system to operate via video link in accordance with social distancing measures.

While this law acts as an interim measure, it could have lasting impacts on the efficiency of normal legal processes, says Guy Humble, partner and head of litigation at McCullough Robertson.

“Many of our laws were enacted before the time of email and the internet and amendments to key pieces of legislation have not always kept pace with rapid advancements in technology.”

Prior to the new law, activities such as witnessing wills, appearing in court and swearing affidavits were reequired to take place in person.  When COVID-19 restrictions fell into place, these key legal processes became extremely difficult to carry out effectively. 

“Now, we have been able to rely on electronic processes – so that key legal processes can now be done virtually, using video-conference facilities.”

Humble says that even though there were hesitations about moving to an online platform, the virtual shift is far less intrusive for the client, because there are no restrictions on travel or time, and also means a reduction in costs.

“With the opportunity to test and review how we practice law in a more virtual world, we could get to a point where existing laws are permanently streamlined by including the option for electronic communication, rather than by physical attendance only,” Humble says.

While there are some concerns about the potential for increased level of fraudulent activity online, Humble remains focussed on expediency and productivity. “For us, our priority is making sure that our clients feel comfortable during a time of such uncertainty, while at the same time we are able to effectively provide legal services.”

Changes within the legal system do not stop in the courtroom. Humble says face-to-face company meetings are no longer required, with the option to hold general meetings via video conferencing improving accessibility for shareholders.

For Humble, the most important characteristic of a leader is positivity. “Worrying about infection rates and the things we can’t control can lead to state of anxiety. It is better to focus on what we can control and how we respond to that.”

As a lawyer, Humble says that his usual mode of operation is to plan ahead, “but in a time of such uncertainty there is danger in trying to project too far into the future”.

“It is important to focus on the here and now. Flexibility is key. It is pivotal to confront the issues as they appear and not worry so much about what it will look like in six months’ time.”

With more than 90 years of experience, McCullough Robertson has an impressive portfolio of work across the property and construction industry. Headquartered in Queensland, the firm works on matters across many geographies and jurisdictions.