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The Asian law firms investing in legal technology

In a highly competitive and low-growth market, firms are increasingly turning to technology and innovation to stay ahead of competition while boosting efficiency and profitability. Asia-based firms are no exception. Those in Australia and Singapore, where growth has been harder to achieve, are leading the charge.

Over the past few years, ‘legal hackathon’ and ‘design thinking’ have become the most frequently used buzzwords among the managing partners of Australian firms. In response to demands for greater value from sophisticated clients, Australian firms are the most advanced group in the Asia-Pacific 100 when it comes to innovation and technology.

KWM, for example, uses a variety of AI products and software either to improve efficiency, for work such as due diligence and discovery, or to help build up contracts. It has also developed its own web-based programs and apps to navigate clients through regulatory and compliance requirements, and to assist with graduate recruitment. Its ‘Being a Clerk’ app aims to help new recruits make the most of their KWM experience.

To generate growth in a highly competitive and increasingly sophisticated market, Clayton Utz recently formalised its innovation strategy, appointing a director of innovation and an innovation team made up of 81 professionals. They employ a science-based approach to grow the firm’s business and address clients’ needs.

Meanwhile, Gilbert + Tobin has been training its lawyers to code software with US smart contract firm Taylor Gerring and invested in start-up online legal services provider LegalVision. In addition, its internal legal transformation team launched the Smart Counsel app to provide free legal resources and answers to in-house lawyers. The firm hosts ‘legal hackathons’ with major clients such as Westpac to develop and prototype innovative solutions to a range of common legal requests and operational issues.

Australia’s mid-tier firms, which probably face the strongest squeeze in the market, are also embracing change. Hall & Wilcox is a leader among its peers. Recently, it deepened its commitment to innovation by appointing legal IT professional Peter Campbell as director for client solutions. The move is set to drive forward a ‘Smarter Law’ strategy, with initiatives such as the development of client-facing technology, improved project management methodology, business process improvement and developing the firm’s knowledge management strategy. Teaming up with technology firm Neota Logic, Hall & Wilcox has also launched a web application that makes it faster and easier for workers’ compensation insurance providers to pursue recoveries.

Elsewhere, South-East Asian network Zico Law and Indian firm Cyril are pioneers in adopting AI and technologies to improve the efficiency and delivery of legal services. Malaysia-based Zico Law’s affiliated listed entity, ZICO Holdings, has launched a subsidiary, ShakeUp Online, to provide professional services over the internet and transform the way in which services are delivered and consumed. ShakeUp is collaborating with the UK’s legal document automation system provider, Epoq Legal, through a Licence and Support Agreement. Initially, ShakeUp aims to provide affordable online legal services to small and medium-sized enterprises in the ASEAN region, offering access to high-quality legal documents that are easy to understand and simple to use. The platform also plans to partner with large companies to help improve the quality and cost-efficiency of their in-house support services.

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) has become the first firm in India to improve efficiency, accuracy and the delivery speed of certain legal services using AI. In January 2017, it signed an agreement with Canada-based Kira Systems, a machine-learning software provider. In May, CAM appointed legal operations manager Komal Gupta as its first head of innovation and AI. Previously vice-president of Integreon Managed Solutions, she will develop and drive the firm’s innovation strategy.

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