Brave new world: the impact of the pandemic was discussed at SPILF

How the world in general, and the work of lawyers in particular, will change after the coronavirus pandemic, was discussed on Saturday, 11 April, at the session “New World after Coronavirus, From Creative Destruction to Renaissance?” of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Vladimir Mau noted that the crisis will extend and complete the structural transformation that began in 2008-2009.

"Now the most important and most interesting thing is to separate the anti-crisis setting and the space where a beautiful new world arises. In that legal context, in those decisions that are made, there are obviously short- and long-term solutions. Currently it is not quite clear which of them will have short-term and which long-term effects," he said.

Andrey Gorlenko, President of the Board of the Russian Arbitration Center at the Russian Institute of Modern Arbitration, Partner at Ivanyan & Partners Law Firm, commented that the changes will also affect lawyers.

"Now we understand that, if we talk about the short term, we do not expect an increase in the number of disputes. At least, not the same as we had during the past crises. And it really shows that this crisis is different from the previous ones. However, once this crisis has passed and we are in a new reality, I believe, we will be heading for difficult times and probably higher numbers of disputes. If now, in this moment of crisis and integration in a good sense, many people are ready to discuss and engage in a dialogue, later in the post-crisis time there is a risk that the ideology of ‘homo homini lupus est’ will begin to have its triumph and the number of disputes and tough conflicts may multiply. And I think the role of lawyers will be on the rise," said Andrey Gorlenko.

According to him, after the crisis the popularity of arbitration and mediation may increase, as they help resolve conflicts and at the same time preserve the ties between companies. However, Mikhail Barshchevskiy, the Authorized Representative of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, did not agree with this position.

He is confident that "without the judicial reform, both mediation and arbitration will remain such beautiful frills that no one will be using. Because today, from my point of view, and from the point of view of practicing businessmen, they are absolutely uninteresting, not working, and not even profitable. Although the idea of third-party arbitration, and even more so of mediation, is sacred. We really need to change the judicial system to make these two things work."

Mikhail Barshchevskiy also gave his predictions on how the law will develop after the crisis. "I think, after the pandemic has gone down, there will be some new international agreement, a convention that obliges to warn other countries about emergence of new diseases. <...> Legislation - either international or national - has not been prepared to put barriers against it. The law always lags behind, it describes the events that have already happened," stressed the expert.

According to Mikhail Barshchevskiy, lawyers should be ready to an increased number of divorces, insolvencies, labour disputes, fraud cases, and other criminal offences starting from mid-summer.

Vladimir Mau shared his view of the world after the pandemic. "Probably, the role of domestic tourism will enhance, people will pay greater attention to self-development. And, frankly speaking, the value of communication will increase significantly, in my opinion. When they say that all education will go online,.. routine, probably, will go online. But school is about communication. Another domestic structural shift will affect shops; they will largely disappear as a place where people come for shopping. Restaurants, because it is a form of communication, are likely to be reborn. Supermarkets are also likely to become places of communication. I think that university campuses will greatly enhance the role of spaces where people communicate with their peers, with those for whom knowledge is valuable," commented the Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.

The moderator of the session, writer Alexander Tsypkin, in his turn, expressed the opinion that the importance of copyright after the pandemic will increase, as the role of the Internet has significantly expanded. Among other predicted changes: not all specialists will return to the offline mode, and the structure of the economy will undergo significant changes.

"We used to spend 70-80% of our income on nonsense that nobody wanted, as it turns out. <...> When you are at home, it doesn't matter if you are wearing "Dolce Gabana" or something different It does not matter what brand of car you have: all status attributes have ceased to matter today, because nobody needs them when you stay at home. But the importance of health, high-tech industries, and everything related to content has increased. Of course, this will affect lawyers in terms of who they will be protecting and who will be buying their services," explained Alexander Tsypkin.

The Internet was an important topic of discussion among the participants. According to Mikhail Barshchevskiy, it has now become a problem for the authorities in terms of manipulating public opinion; besides, it generates a lot of fake news and causes panic. At the same time it has obvious advantages.

"Many people think that the Internet is a free platform and I can do whatever I want. In fact, the Internet is as public a place as a fence or square. If you can't write a certain word on the fence, then you can't write it on the Internet either. Just as you can put an ad on the fence, you can also put it on the Internet. This is just a new reality, which, thank God, is not yet overregulated by the state," said Mikhail Barshchevskiy. He added that the state would probably be unable to "regulate" the Internet due to the lack of technical capacity. 

"This crisis will be such a catalyst and it will speed up not exactly the process of generation change ... Rather, many conservatives will move into the category of visionaries, innovators or "technogeeks", summed up Andrey Gorlenko.

St. Petersburg International Legal Forum 9 ½: The Rule of Corona is held online from April 10 to 12. Heads of Russian and international authorities, lawyers, researchers, politicians and journalists will take part in virtual discussions. The main topic of the forum is legal aspects of public and business life in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.