Clear Communications During A Global Pandemic

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

It is critical that in-house counsel and lawyers in private practice communicate effectively with their clients. Quick, concise communications become especially crucial during crisis situations, such as responding to a global pandemic.

However, language can often be a barrier when firms operate in multiple geographical locations and languages. Canada is a prime example; as an officially bilingual country, most legal firms operating nationally work in both French and English. This means that contracts, communications with regulators and even communications with employees must take place across these barriers, and the legal advice must be delivered quickly and accurately in all languages.

As the “new normal” sets in, technology is once again turning out to be an important differentiator when it comes to ensuring business continuity. Before the pandemic, legal firms invested in technology to maintain a competitive edge. Meanwhile, in-house departments were often viewed as cost centres and limited by tight budgets. Now, both practice areas must invest in technological solutions to ensure their operations can continue to effectively serve clients.

Fortunately, technologies in language, messaging and translations are becoming more common and sophisticated, so organizations are increasingly relying on them for fast and accurate delivery, especially in times of crisis. In-house counsel and lawyers in private practice must also incorporate such technologies in their day-to-day practices.

When operating under stressful circumstances that are frequently changing, updates and support materials need to be available in all languages used by stakeholders. It can be easy to accidentally overlook translating materials in the chaos of a pandemic, but this is very important — for both internal and external messages. Advice must be understood to be accepted and acted upon. Translations must also be industry-specific and not too wordy or complex.

While some organizations might have in-house capabilities on standby for all language and translation needs, especially when dealing with complex legal documents, it is easy for them to feel overwhelmed when announcements and communications are constantly in flux. Notwithstanding this, all official messaging needs to be precise, consistent and prompt — in all official and working languages. For example, a bilingual Canadian company should not provide English communications on one day and French communications the next day. Bilingual messaging and communications must be shared as cohesively as possible to ensure each message is delivered on the same schedule and is held to equal standards and timelines. The key is to be able to have both simultaneously ready to send out, with high reliability.

Technology shift during COVID-19

When we think of the items that have become indispensable for business in 2020, it is hard to avoid referring to technologies such as Zoom, Skype, Slack, Dropbox, WeTransfer and more. The pandemic has forced the legal industry to explore, adopt and integrate new technologies at a much quicker rate. A recent report from Clio, a legal technology company, found that 69 per cent of lawyers view technology as more important now than before the pandemic. This new reality is even pushing the most traditional institutions, such as court systems, into a virtual world. The sector is quickly adapting and looking to implement or leverage any technological tools that streamline processes while optimizing time and budgets.

To guarantee streamlined communications in multiple languages with technology, many organizations and in-house legal departments are turning to programs that utilize artificial intelligence (AI).

Using artificial intelligence during a crisis

AI and machine-based tools are playing a key role in the pandemic response. These tools enhance the precision, speed and effectiveness of human efforts and use continuous learning to improve outputs. The application of AI in the legal sector provides several benefits, including augmenting workflow and streamlining and automating processes. One of the many uses of AI during the pandemic has been to increase efficiency and speed of translations, resulting in more rapid communications.

Some of the benefits of using AI for translations include:

  • Smarter, more objective translations that require little human editing;
  • Increased speed and cost-effectiveness;
  • Ability to learn from all documents and messaging consumed by the program, which allows it to adapt to each company’s unique tone or style of language;
  • Translations completed far more quickly, accurately and affordably than traditional methods, freeing up valuable time.

More firms are also relying on videoconferencing, webinars and online events to communicate with clients and key audiences. Due to this shift, many platforms are currently investigating the ability to leverage text-based AI for translating live audio and/or video speech, which will provide further language support for multilingual organizations across the country. This will be especially helpful for court hearings, which may be held virtually in the future.  

The impact of clear communications for the legal sector cannot be underestimated, especially when clients, customers, suppliers and regulators speak so many languages and are geographically dispersed. New technologies, such as AI, are key to automating processes, maximizing output and increasing efficiency without sacrificing quality.

A lawyer and entrepreneur, Gary Kalaci is CEO of Alexa Transations, a professional translation services firm, and Alexa Translations A.I., a leader in translation technology. He has also held leadership positions and sat on the boards of directors at several professional associations and not-for-profit organizations.

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