It would be tempting to say that we are publishing this Yearbook in an entirely different world than the previous edition. But the question is whether the world has actually changed, or we simply find ourselves living in different circumstances.
The conditions under which we have functioned over the last year will impact the future of many of us. That future cannot be foretold, as it is always a function of chance, and changes result from slow, imperceptible processes until some dramatic event occurs, unleashing existential despair. In such situations, a single urgent issue—such as public health today—overshadows all of humanity’s other problems and immobilises millions anticipating a panacea.
The situation may evolve in a similar fashion with environmental issues, which have been recognised by various bodies, but there is still insufficient social and political will to attempt to halt the degradation of our planet. An awareness of the danger will ultimately reach critical mass, but will it be too late? Destruction of the environment may also impact the economy, just as the pandemic has, but it will not be so easy to develop and roll out a vaccine.
Changes in the world around us are obviously accompanied by changes in legal systems. This generates a range of questions. Are these changes warranted, or only a pretext to limit the responsibility of public authority and shift this burden to the shoulders of citizens? Doesn’t moving more and more of our activity online, where it can be exposed to surveillance, create new and broader opportunities for abuse of power? Is the main problem today protecting against abuses of authority, or protecting citizens against the unknown risks of unfolding changes?
Undoubtedly we have a duty to monitor these changes, to identify them as early as possible and respond in time. But in short, everything that seems like a novel change in the rules of the game has always existed. Short-sightedness and a lack of imagination are eternal problems, like the tendency to abuse power and the law. Human strengths and weaknesses will always be manifested in new fields of activity. We must observe how constants function in new arenas, and extrapolate from mechanisms that have functioned until now, onto new regions of our experience. This provides a workout for our common immune system. Only in this manner can we defend ourselves as a social organism.
As lawyers, obviously we listen and reflect first and foremost in the legal field. Hence the whole set of our firm’s publications where we share our thoughts and observations with our readers. These include the practical approaches offered in the general legal and business portal “In Principle” and the employment blog hrlaw.pl, deeper explorations of technology (newtech.law) and public procurement (komentarzpzp.pl), and scholarship (In Principle: Legal studies and analyses). We not only advise on everyday business issues, but strive to make a positive contribution to the legal literature.
Observations of gradually occurring phenomena don’t always lead to catastrophic conclusions. One highly desirable trend noticeable for years is the increasing accessibility of legal communication, writing about law with a view to a wider audience. Legal design, like plain language, is not just the latest fad. It is also a method of communicating that always places the audience and readers’ experience front and centre. It is in this spirit that we have prepared this, our latest Yearbook. We would be interested to learn your views.