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Elias Neocleous: The Legal Profession Must Embrace New Technologies

Elias Neocleous: The Legal Profession Must Embrace New Technologies

What is the significance of the annual Limassol Economic Forum?

The Forum is, without doubt, the premier business event in Cyprus and also amongst the elite of the EMEA region. Since its inception, the Limassol Economic Forum has succeeded not only in attracting the most important decision makers in Cyprus but also many significant players from the EU and beyond. It provides a unique networking opportunity for the exchange of ideas and concerns in respect of  Cyprus, European and world economies and politics. The interaction among entrepreneurs, professionals and decision makers from both the public and the private sector in one arena can often produce fresh insights into the economic challenges that we all face. Set alongside this, of course, is the fact that the Forum is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our vibrant city and its talented people. 

What made you decide to become a sponsor of the event?

As the leading law firm in Cyprus and one of the foremost law firms in Europe, we were naturally drawn to support the original 2009 Limassol Economic Forum and its successor events. We are delighted to have played a part in ensuring the continued success of the Forum.

This year’s theme is ‘The World in 2020-2030’. How do you expect the global and local economy to develop over the next decade?

The current economic and political landscape is an extremely volatile one, therefore any form of prediction must be heavily caveated.  There are, however, four significant long-term trends which have emerged in recent years. These relate to shifts in the balance of economic power, trading activities, technological development and attitudes towards climate change. Examining each of these factors can offer some guidance as to how the world may look in 2030.

In 1995 the USA was the dominant world economy and the combined GDP of the G7 countries was double that of the E7 group of developing nations. By 2015 the GDP of the two groups had, largely driven by the Asian members of the E7, achieved parity. Whilst the USA remains the largest economy, the fact cannot be ignored that the economic might of Asia is growing rapidly and posing a threat to USA hegemony, hence the current trade war with China. Coupled with market indicators which warn of a pending recession in the US and the EU, it would be sensible for business to look to newer, expanding markets for both profit maintenance and growth.

The long-term decrease in world prices of traditional commodities means that most countries can no longer rely on this trading activity to grow their economies. Instead, those seeking to develop must look towards trading manufactured products and service skills for their growth. In ‘advanced’ countries, where costs are necessarily higher, this translates into a need to shift economic activity towards creating and producing ‘value added’ products and niche goods and services. This, in turn, requires heavy investment in research and development (R&D) and, maximization of the use of technology.

The rate at which technology is advancing is unprecedented. It is no longer merely a means to speed up existing work practices. In many instances, it has revolutionized the entire way goods are designed and produced and, in doing so, rendered many occupations redundant but created many others. Computerization and the Internet have totally changed the way in which transactions take place. Technology has also created a need for greater scrutiny of trading activity and provided the means by which that scrutiny can be effected. Indeed, ‘technology’ as a ‘product’ is now a huge market with massive growth potential. Digital exports from the USA are already approaching ú500 billion and in Europe it is estimated that, by 2025, the market for key digital technologies will reach ú2.2 trillion. Significant opportunities will remain for the further exploitation of concepts such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, advanced robotics and 5G connectivity.

Concerns surrounding climate change have been building steadily and will necessarily impact how economies develop in the future. We have already seen a growth in regulation in this area and it is likely to escalate. This will add to the pressures and costs faced by some economies but it may also provide opportunities for others, by helping to create markets for ‘green’ goods and ‘green’ production methods. Certainly, there will be numerous market opportunities in relation to innovation and R&D in developing new ‘green’ technologies, including alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass in order to ensure environmentally sustainable global growth. Indeed, there is now also a shift in the attitudes of financiers towards preferring projects which are perceived to be ‘green’. The European Investment Bank, for example, will no longer consider supporting projects that are not environmentally friendly.

Cyprus is in a relatively good position to take advantage of these trends. Brexit will naturally have an impact on the economy but, in the longer term, this need not be a negative one. There is scope for the shipping sector and the professional services sector to gain trade as a result of it. Importantly, Cyprus has been working for many years to forge new relationships and trade partnerships with many of the E7. Coupled with the fact that Cyprus offers them a gateway into Europe, this should mean that it has a good opportunity to exploit their growing economies.  Cyprus has already made the move to being primarily a service economy with a strong professional sector and a well-educated workforce. The challenge it now faces is to ensure that it continues to innovate and develop new services, whilst maintaining the highest standards.  This means keeping pace with technological advances and investing in R&D. Cyprus currently invests less than the EU average and this is something that needs addressing. As a firm, we see this as a priority, reflected in the fact that we are currently developing a legal technological innovation hub. There is also much work to be done on ‘greening’ the economy but, unlike many nations, Cyprus has ample sunshine, wind and waves to assist it in making the shift.

What are the main challenges that you expect your particular sector to face in the coming 10 years?

The legal profession must embrace new technologies, develop new and specialized services and both navigate and contribute to regulatory supervision. To be successful, tomorrow’s lawyer must recognize that clients are becoming increasingly sophisticated and, as such, more demanding vis-à-vis the quality of service that they expect to receive. Lawyers will be (and already are) expected to demonstrate sound commercial knowledge and judgment as well as to provide multifaceted and specialized legal assistance. Clients will expect their lawyer to maximize the use of modern technology in order to provide a faster, more qualitative and more cost-effective service. Lawyers will also face the burden of ensuring that both they and their clients operate within the increasingly complex web of national and international regulation. Challenges only become obstacles to those who bow to them; agile, forward-looking businesses will use every challenge as an opportunity to outperform the competition and grow. That is the approach we must adopt in order to embrace the future and its challenges. 

 

Elias Neocleous & Co LLC provides specialised legal services in all aspects of Cyprus and European law, with a focus on excellence and innovation. With more than 140 qualified advocates and tax consultants, and offices in Limassol, Nicosia, Paphos, Prague, Kiev, Brussels and Budapest, Elias Neocleous & Co LLC is the largest law firm in Cyprus, and is internationally recognised as the premier legal advisor in the region. The firm tops the IFLR and the Legal 500 rankings for Cyprus and was named ‘2019 Law Firm of the Year – Cyprus’ in the Benchmark Litigation European Awards.

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