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THE LEGAL 500 > EVENTS > Dinner with GC - Singapore

Dinner with GC - Singapore

Attendees

  • Jenni Aldrich - Google
  • Christopher Chan - Redmart
  • Eunice Chew - EY
  • Gladys Chun - Lazada
  • Patricia Lee – Lego
  • Matt Pollins – CMS
  • Duc Trang – Motorola Solutions
  • Damian Yeo – Facebook
  • Alex Speirs – GC Magazine

In the latest iteration of The Legal 500’s Dinner with GC series, we assembled elite corporate counsel from across Asia-Pacific in Singapore, to consider the role of technology and innovation in the delivery of legal services.

‘I find it strange that whether or not we use technology is still such a common question asked of general counsel, because I can’t understand how any legal team can work without it’ explains Jenni Aldrich, director of legal – APAC, at Google.

While the sentiment expressed by Aldrich in opening the discussion at Dinner with GC: Singapore has become an increasingly common refrain from forward-thinking in-house legal departments and law firms alike, effective deployment and utilisation of technology remains inconsistent across both domains.

‘This isn’t five or ten years into the future – this is happening now. We already have the tools to automate contracts, playbooks and processes, to review tens of thousands of documents using artificial intelligence and machine learning, to digitally execute, store and manage contracts and to carry out certain aspects of legal research,’ explains Matt Pollins, partner and head of technology, media and telecommunications at CMS in Singapore.

Technology is overhauling how in-house lawyers are operating on a day-to-day basis, with tools used to facilitate automation and collaboration common across all of the legal departments represented at the dinner. That change wasn’t just impacting on how legal work was completed internally, but was changing what was expected of law firms too.

‘In the United Kingdom, the Serious Fraud Office has traditionally been one of the biggest spenders on legal services. In the first six months of this financial year, they’ve spent more money with an artificial intelligence platform than with their biggest law firms. JP Morgan has developed software that can do in seconds what previously took 360,000 hours of lawyer time. That should be a wakeup call for external lawyers. It’s why we now think of ourselves as a legal technology company, not just a law firm,’ says Pollins.

The use of technology in the legal sphere has led to questions about the role which lawyers will play in the future, with some pundits going as far as predicting the downfall of the profession, those in attendance were more reserved with their own views. While technology was undoubtedly going to be impactful on the profession as a whole, in its current form, it was limited to being a complementary tool in the modern lawyers’ arsenal as opposed to a substitute.

‘Technology is still dependent on the data entered by real people; if you have bad data or incomplete data, the results are not reliable. That’s one issue which is still there with a number of these technology platforms: until the technology reaches the level of complexity to process data with less human input, you’re still very reliant as a lawyer on having good input,’ says Duc Trang, former vice president, legal and government affairs at Motorola Solutions.

Instead, the impact on the profession was more likely to be felt by the next generation of lawyers, which our guests agreed would prompt a shift in the skillset needed to succeed.

‘I think it’s absolutely essential that the young lawyers who are coming through understand technology. They don’t necessarily need to know how to code, but they need to know what’s out there, what platforms are available and how they can help achieve their legal goals. If they’re thinking that’s separate to their role, I think they’re limiting their opportunities,’ says Aldrich.

The opportunities provided for young lawyers able to effectively implement technology was not just being able to operate more efficiently, but the chance to commit more time to providing meaningful solutions to complex problems – a quality which was universally agreed to fall outside of the domain of technology and artificial intelligence for the foreseeable future.

For the full report on Dinner with GC: Singapore see the Summer 2017 edition of GC Magazine.