A Changing World
History shows us that three things happen after pandemics. According to the Economist, after periods of massive non-financial disruption such as wars and pandemics, GDP bounces back stronger than it was previously forecast to do. Many forecasters believe that America’s economy will grow by more than 6% this year, at least 4 points faster than its pre-pandemic trend, and they predict the same trend for Britain (albeit with slightly less growth). So, whereas previously we were anticipating a property recession by 2020, we are now facing a different post Brexit Britain. Although uncertainty continues to linger after periods of massive non-financial disruption, people continue to spend (they have saved during the crisis, so they have the funds to spend while they remain cautious).
Secondly, these crises encourage people and businesses to try new ways of doing things, upending the previous structure of the economy. After the Spanish flu epidemic globally in 1918-1920, the number of start-ups boomed from 1919 onwards. Economists also draw a link between pandemics and another change to the supply side of the economy, which is the use of labour-saving technology. So, post the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-1920, the 1920s became a rapid era of automation in America. More recently, researchers at the International Monetary Fund looked at outbreaks of diseases like Ebola and SARS and found that “pandemic events accelerate robot adoption” (on the basis that robots cannot get sick).
Thirdly, our behaviours change post pandemics. Three academics from the London School of Economics highlighted evidence in April 2021 from Italy, Germany and the UK which illustrated a growing dislike for inequality and a preference for fairness in both income and health. Their conclusions are that Covid-19 has had an important impact on people’s income and health equality preferences, making them much more inequality averse - especially if they have not been affected by Covid-19 themselves. Political upheaval often follows massive social shocks too (the cholera pandemic in 1830s France prompted an economic revival, but the social injustices were revolted against as the story of “Les Misérables” illustrates).
And indeed, there are remarkable social change movements in the world around us. The death of George Floyd on 25th May 2020, sparked outrage across the world and the growing “Black Lives Matter” Movement. The false claims from President Trump that he won the election from 3rd November 2020 onwards, led to the Washington insurrection on 6th January 2021, and then to the unprecedented action by Twitter and Facebook to ban President Trump from their social media platforms. We collectively want to display compassion and integrity to each other – and we now have a voice to demand it across social media and the internet.
For example, in the last few years investors, governments and the public have become increasingly aware and concerned about ethical and sustainability issues within supply chains. One key element of supply chain sustainability is a need to ensure modern slavery is not present in the chain. At the end of 2020, the UK government announced its intentions to toughen up the reporting obligations which relate to modern slavery and introduced mandatory reporting periods and penalties for non-compliance. By way of another example - 26% of consumers in the UK have encountered fake reviews (without realising it) either by seeing companies have their products talked down or having those of a competitor falsely praised. Under proposals published in July 2021, fake reviews are to be made illegal in online shopping and the Competition and Markets Authority will be given powers to fine companies that use false reviews.
The legal profession is beginning to officially address the profession’s behaviours too - the Solicitors Regulation Authority (the SRA) recently published five reports about its operational work to the year ending 31st October 2020. In its “Upholding Standards Report”, it states that there are growing number of individuals reporting workplace bullying and harassment, and it is now developing guidance on workplace culture and a healthy working environment for firms to be published later in 2021.
As we study the changes around us, we do so against the background of the question “How do you get lawyers to change?”.
That question is at the core of everything that we do at The CS Partnership, and we will be discussing it in our blogs going forwards. How do we get lawyers to change to mirror the changing world, but simultaneously retain everything that is bespoke about their services?
Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram throughout 2022 to join us in this discussion!