How would you describe the Nordic legal market generally regarding the last 12 months?
I am only able to speak for the Icelandic market, but over the last 12 months, the only significant change we have experienced is related to the more flexible working environment implemented because of restrictions put in place because of Covid-19. Business has been good although because of the restrictions we experienced delays in dispute resolution cases, but that has been offset by an increase in M&A activity.
What would you say has been the primary impact of the pandemic on the market?
Iceland was probably the country that felt the least impact of the pandemic. From time to time though limitations on the number of people in the workplace were put in force which resulted in the implementation of a flexible working environment supporting employees to work from home. Although the technology was already in place, the pandemic ensured that video conferences and meetings became the name of the game and every employee in the industry optimised those sources to keep the business running without interruption. On the business side Iceland, as with most other countries, has experienced increased M&A activity. In many cases the pandemic caused certain industries to struggle or particular firms, which has led to frantic exploration to increase efficiency. In many cases downsizing and restructuring has been the way forward while in other instances a merger has been deemed the best option. M&A activity has therefore been at an all-time high for the latter period of the pandemic.
How was 2020 and early 2021 for the firm? Would you say it was a successful year? If so, why? If not, why?
The year 2020 and the first half of 2021 have been successful. Turnover has increased marginally, but a lot of costs have been saved and significant gains have been made through alternative billing methods, which promoted efficiency for the benefit of all stakeholders, the firm, the client and the employee.
Have you noticed any noticeable new trends for the firm in the last 12 months? Have any practice areas increased/decreased in prominence?
As stated, before there has been a remarkable uplift in the M&A sector. Other sectors on the rise are the IT sector, although it has probably more to do with increased start-up activity than the pandemic. We do not see any notable downturn in any sector, but as stated before litigation has slowed during the pandemic, but in our opinion that has more to do with Covid restrictions than a poorer inflow of assignments.
What does all of this mean for the future of independent firms in your country? What elements separate out the firms that are ‘thriving’ and those that are not?
All major law firms in Iceland are independent. The big accounting firms have been increasing their presence, but only in limited sectors. Iceland has not experienced the threat of international law firms. The outlook for independent law is therefore positive.
The question of why some firms are thriving and some not is always difficult to answer. In our opinion at LEX Law Offices, the most important element of legal industry is to really understand the needs of the clients. Why is he asking for advice and how can we, the lawyers, deliver as much value as possible as efficiently as possible. If one loses sight of that he is subject to become dispensable.
Are there any particular mandates that you have handled since the pandemic began that have been particularly noteworthy or have ‘bucked the trend’?
LEX was mandated by international investors to advise on the acquisition of the passive telecoms infrastructure of two of the major telecoms companies in Iceland. This has led to other owners of passive telecoms infrastructure exploring opportunities of disposal and it seems that it has created a lot of attention from both domestic and international investors.
Has anything unexpected (particularly positive) come from the pandemic? What do you envisage will be the long-term impact/changes?
Overall, from the company perspective the pandemic has not caused as many problems as one would have expected. The pandemic has tested the resolve of the employees and the management to figure out new ways of processing and delivering advice to our clients. Not unexpectedly, the whole of the firm has walked hand in hand to figure out and implement new methods. This whole process has led to more and better communication between management and employees and in general a better working environment.
Although never neglected I suspect the long-term impact will be on a better working environment and increased efficiency in processing end delivery of service.