Louise Pentland | Chief Business Affairs & Legal Officer | PayPal

The business case for diversity has never been stronger, but we still need more progress on a global scale. Creating a workplace that’s committed to diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging is a journey that takes constant commitment, ongoing investment, and intentional action from everyone across an organization. Companies must focus not just on attracting a diverse slate of candidates, but also on retaining them and advancing them into executive, management, technical, and board roles.  Consistent demonstration of this commitment at the highest levels is necessary to set the tone and expectation throughout the rest of the organization.

For example, at PayPal, we’ve focused on building a diverse Board of Directors with years of experience and who provide a range of leadership perspectives. Our Board of Directors is currently 45% women and underrepresented ethnic groups. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) also play an important role in ensuring we listen to the voices of all employees. We need to understand diverse experiences and ensure PayPal employees always feel supported, protected and included. By partnering with ERGs, we are better positioned to advocate for employees who are women, Black, Latinx and Hispanic, veterans, LGBTQ, specially-abled or disadvantaged. This diversity also strengthens our ability to innovate and to understand and better serve our customers.

Our work will never be complete – sustained advancements in diversity and inclusion require a consistent and holistic approach. It’s critical to our culture and to how we do business, and we’re committed to continuing to doing even more going forward.

Taking a stand

At PayPal’s core, we are a mission-driven, values-led organization. When something runs counter to our values, we must stand up, speak out and, importantly, take action. This naturally requires a strong partnership between the business and the Legal team. Given the recent proliferation of societal issues, and the rapid acceleration of innovation and technology, legal functions must be in lock-step with their partners – both across the business and in the public sector – to provide strategic counsel and identify risks. The success of this model can be seen in the many actions PayPal has taken over the past several years – from ensuring we pay equally across gender and ethnicity, to withdrawing from North Carolina in response to the passage of discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community, to opposing discriminatory laws targeting immigrant communities, to taking stands on removing white supremacists and other hate groups from our platform.

Louise Pentland | PayPal

Recently, I’ve worked in close collaboration with PayPal’s leadership team to acknowledge and confront the systemic racism endured by our Black colleagues and customers for far too long. In response, PayPal announced a $530m commitment to support Black- and minority-owned businesses and communities through a multi-pronged initiative designed to help address the immediate crisis and set the foundation for sustained engagement and progress towards economic equality and social justice. As part of the program, PayPal committed $15m towards strengthening the company’s internal HR and D&I programs. Of this, $10m will be invested in university and high school recruiting, pro-bono engagements, public advocacy initiatives, and matching employee giving and volunteer hours. The remaining $5m will be pooled to be shared among PayPal’s Employee Resources Groups to help drive internal programming and community engagement aligned to the company’s mission to democratize financial services.

Building networks

Lack of diversity in leadership roles remains a challenge for the legal profession. Systemic racism is a topic on everyone’s mind right now and it’s more important than ever for us to do all we can to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal field. The benefits are clear – as companies diversify their workforces, they are able to serve more diverse customers. Diversity of thought and experiences allow us to uncover new ideas, challenge legacy processes and better solve customer pain points.

I’ve long been an advocate for mentorship and at PayPal, we’re constantly seeking innovative solutions to create better support systems and encourage greater connection. In developing the Women Luminaries Program in Singapore, for example, we set about to help address the gender diversity gap in technology. Through the program, we partnered with local universities to provide tuition scholarships, mentoring, internships, technical workshops and courses, and networking.

I came into this profession with no network myself, and without the privilege of personal or professional connections. In fact, I was the first in my family to go to college so my advancement as a lawyer has been a distinct combination of hard work, and mentors and sponsorsThe lack of diversity can, unfortunately, still be attributed to the fact that many people don’t have a network. I believe every lawyer with influence should be compelled to use their network to support under-represented lawyers, whether that’s introducing new law students to law firm partners, or advocating for diverse pipelines in law firms, or by simply serving as a mentor.

I believe it is important to not only ensure my own team is diverse, but that outside firms with which we work also have diverse representation. I am proud that the PayPal legal team has committed to the Mansfield Rule and for the 2019-2020 inaugural pilot, was one of only 13 legal departments to have earned the Mansfield Plus Certification. The primary goal of the Mansfield Rule is to increase the representation of historically underrepresented lawyers in legal department leadership by broadening the pool of women, racial/ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities who are considered for leadership roles, open positions for lawyers, high-visibility work opportunities, and outside counsel hiring. This commitment went beyond our established annual diversity survey and extends it to each new matter. We have also created an internal Legal Diversity Council that meets regularly to discuss opportunities and initiatives, and to track our progress. We hope that PayPal’s commitment to important initiatives such as this encourages others to take similar action.

 

Jim Chosy | Executive Vice President and General Counsel | U.S. Bancorp

U.S. Bank is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the horrific killing of George Floyd occurred in June.  Immediately thereafter, conversation began within the bank and the law division about how we were feeling and what we needed to do. The tone was set at the top by our CEO, who highlighted the need for us to lead differently and better to address inequality.  Subsequently, the Bank announced multiple investments (over $100m) and initiatives to bridge gaps and address inequities.  Within the law division, we’ve launched a new program reflecting our commitment to racial justice and to standing against racism and working together with purpose to learn, grow, build community, and foster change within the legal team, the broader legal profession, and our communities. I feel a special responsibility in this as a corporate leader, a lawyer representing the legal system, and as a citizen of Minneapolis.

In-house legal departments have big role to play in positively influencing diversity with outside counsel.  Given our purchasing power, we’re able to drive change and I feel an obligation to do this with our law firms, which we consider an extension of our own in-house function. We do this in several ways, including participating in external initiatives, and through our internal Spotlight on Talent program.  We also request and measure diversity data from our law firms to help drive hiring decisions, and last year presented our first U.S. Bank “Invested in Diversity” award to one law firm, in recognition of its efforts and success with diversity.

Moving the needle on diversity and inclusion

One of the initiatives we have been closely involved with is Move the Needle (MTN), [a collaborative effort designed and funded with $4m to test innovative initiatives to create a more diverse and inclusive legal profession, facilitated by Diversity Lab]. I am proud to serve as a founding MTN general counsel and on the MTN Fund’s board of advisors.  The MTN concept is to test innovative diversity initiatives to create transformational change that has been lacking in the profession. Diversity Lab brought together five leading law firms, over 25 general counsel, and top community leaders to work together to develop new approaches to be tested over five years and hopefully serve as models for lasting change.

Importantly, the law firms have invested $1m each in the initiative, and have set aggressive, measurable and public goals in areas like recruitment, retention, work assignment, access to clients, and advancement to firm leadership.  Corporate departments support these firms along the way, backed by our significant collective legal spend. It’s no small thing for big law firms to commit (expose, really) themselves in this way, financially and with public accountability, and I commend them for their courage and bold thinking.  I’m excited about the prospects for MTN and hoping we can, actually, “move the needle” more so than in the past.

While we have a robust Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I program) at U.S. Bank, we’re not where we want to be yet and need to keep working hard at it.  The program has several elements and we continually adjust it, keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t.  In terms of recent priorities, several originated with Diversity Lab.  For example, last year U.S. Bank was proud to be among the first companies to join the Mansfield Rule pilot for in-house legal departments which requires consideration of underrepresented groups for hiring and leadership roles and also outside counsel representation.  We just certified complete for the first year and have started the 2.0 version of the commitment.  We’ve also requested that members of our preferred outside counsel program, representing 40 or so of our deepest law firm relationships, agree to participate in the law firm version of Mansfield.  They also must have at least one diverse client team leader on our U.S. Bank account.  And I’m gratified to say that several firms adopted Mansfield in response to our specific request.

Talent spotting

I believe strongly in formal talent planning and mentorship or sponsorship as part of furthering diversity, and they’ve worked well for us.  At U.S. Bank, the law division participates in disciplined talent planning processes and also mentorship and sponsorship programs for professional growth and development over time.  The programs, some focused specifically on diverse employees, are not only good learning opportunities but they also drive retention and engagement.

We’re also involved with several talent pipeline efforts, such as law school internship, externship and fellowship programs and our own Pathways Summer Associate Program, a partnership with several preferred law firms to host diverse summer associates.  And we partner with outside counsel on the development of diverse, early-career lawyers.  For example, through our “Spotlight on Talent” program we invite preferred law firms to apply for the opportunity to showcase their diverse talent by conducting an in-person educational session for our entire department followed by meetings with our senior leadership and practice groups.  Afterwards, we work to create lasting relationships with the Spotlight “alumni”  with the goals of career advancement and engaging Spotlight associates on Bank matters.

Mentoring will certainly remain important as we re-adjust to a post-COVID world.  We’ll need to lean on each other and learn and grow anew as we navigate the future.  Some are concerned that economic difficulties caused by the pandemic will disproportionately impact women and people of colour within the legal profession.  However, I believe that most law firms and corporate departments fully appreciate the criticality of diverse and inclusive workplaces and have been finding creative ways to keep mentorship and other diversity efforts active during the pandemic and in a largely virtual environment.  We recognize that the new challenges brought on by this environment demand innovation and creativity, which diversity can help unlock.  But we do need to remain vigilant and make sure we don’t lose any of the progress we’ve made with diversity over time.

Hannah Gordon | Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel | San Francisco 49ers

My journey into football really started with watching Hannah Storm host the NBA playoffs. Growing up in Oakland I’d always been a huge sports fan, so seeing a woman lead coverage of a huge sporting event captivated me.  At University of California, Los Angeles I became the first woman ever to cover football for [UCLA newspaper] the Daily Bruin. Covering football led me into internships at the Oakland Raiders and the NFL Players Association, and from there into media relations.

When I later went to law school, I knew wanted to keep my focus on sports, and in my early years as a lawyer [at Latham & Watkins’ San Francisco and New York offices] I worked primarily on player contracts and collective bargaining in the NFL. I was recruited to the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, right as the lockout was ending, and we were entering what was the last collective bargaining agreement. That was really a thrill for me, because I was from the Bay Area and it was a wonderful opportunity to go into a newly-created role where I would build out a day to day legal affairs practice there.

A universal language

One of the great things about sport is that it offers a microcosm of society. Football appeals to all ages, races and sexual orientations. The NFL fan base is more or less split 50:50 between men and women, offering a true reflection of the country. As a team we have season ticket holders from almost every state in the United States, and fans from all over the world. When it comes to D&I, that gives us a great power to help influence things and show how sport can be a positive catalyst for social change.

In my role as chief administrative officer, I have been at the forefront of the Niners’ community philanthropy, public affairs, and fan engagement work. A lot of these initiatives are really a celebration of the diversity of our fan base. For example, we have Women of the Niners (WON), a fan engagement platform and official fan club for women, which reaches several thousand female fans every year through its digital magazine. We also hold events like our virtual happy hour where our female fans can hear from beat writers who cover the team and discuss the upcoming season, as well as hear from our marketing department on some of the new initiatives that are coming out. We had rap artist Saweetie, who is a 49ers fan, join one of these chats. Her grandfather, Willie Harper, was a linebacker for the 49ers in the 70s and 80s so it was really cool to link that history.

We also have 49ers Pride, our fan engagement platform for the LGBTQ+ community and allies. A big part of that is making sure all of our LGBTQ+ fans know that they have a safe space here at the 49ers and that we welcome them as an important part of our fan base, while also encouraging all of our fans who are allies to speak up and show that we are one community. We participate in the San Francisco Pride Parade, hold watch parties in The Castro, and generally bring two very important parts of San Francisco’s cultural life – its football team and its vibrant LGBTQ+ population – together.

Beyond this fan engagement work we have looked to make a positive change to our communities through direct contributions such as social justice grants, looking at commercial relationships to make sure that our business is selecting vendors in a way that reflects racial equity, and even direct interventions through policy work. We endorsed Proposition 16 in California at the 2020 election, which would have removed the ban on affirmative action involving race-based or sex-based preferences from the California Constitution.

At the Niners we also have a diversity of interviewing policy, which means that we interview at least one person of colour and at least one woman for every single business opening. We also recognise that there has to be diversity on both sides of the interview table. If we want to attract diverse candidates, the panel of people who are making the selection needs to be diverse as well.

Mentor’s Playbook

One of the great initiatives at the Niners is the Denise DeBartolo York Fellowship, which provides opportunities for women in professional sports. Fellows are given exposure to many business divisions within the 49ers, and particularly to those where women have historically been underrepresented in sports. As an executive mentor to the programme, I have been privileged to work closely with many talented young women. Mentorship is something we all benefit from in our personal lives, whether it is offered by a supportive parent or a community leader. We also need that same support in our professional lives. Mentoring doesn’t have to be an ongoing, formal relationship between teacher and student. Some of the most useful mentoring I received came in one off conversations with people who were prepared to take the time to help me. That, for me, is the mindset of a good coach. You need to make sure you are always potentially available as a resource to others.

I began developing these views in my book, SZN of CHANGE: The Competitor’s Playbook for Joy on the Path to Victory. The book is my attempt to give people some of the tools that have worked for me, and to offer those who do not have a mentor they can call up and speak to a framework for how to think about their careers. It is best thought of a guided journal, with a structured plan for reflecting critically on what we’re doing and why. It moves from studying your own motivations and personality traits, to outlining a vision of where you want to go, right through to drawing up a game plan of how to execute this vision and make it a reality.  It also covers what I call “reading your clips”, which is all about how you take in outside information and understanding the difference between constructive criticism and noise that you need to tune out, and tips for “in-game adjustments” when things get tough. Finally, I look at recovery – just like athletes, all of us need recovery and self-care – and practice. How do we continue to use these tools going forward? These tools are a part of a long-term plan, and keeping a journal is something that can help people make sure the dedication to self-improvement sticks.

Obviously, the book is heavily influenced by my time in sports, and there is a simple reason for that. A lot of the tricks that help an athlete to overcome challenges and push on to success are equally relevant to business. For diverse candidates who feel the odds are stacked against them, I hope it fires them up to fight even harder.

Chee Hoong Pang, Head of Legal Asia, WSP

For GCs, technology is very much a love-hate relationship. We love using technology and are increasingly reliant on it, even though we hate to admit it. The pressure every business has been under to work remotely is showing us how much we rely on technology to operate, which was a trend that started long ago.

Within the legal function we are now using technology for everything from e-discovery to data mapping and analytics. Even beyond front-end legal work, we are using technology to update our insurance certification or take care of our invoicing and billing. Really, we could not operate as a function without this technology. The question, then, is not whether legal technology will become important – it is already essential to the way we operate – but how it will change what we do, and whether it will replace certain tasks. As far as I can see technology will not replace lawyers, but it will open up new ways of working and allow us to see things that were previously invisible. 

Working within a rather lean legal team means that each person has to draw on whatever resources are available to maximise his or her benefit to the business. I am a certified data protection officer and sit as the designated privacy representative for the Asia region. I’m also a certified enterprise risk advisor, a certified business continuity manager, and have just sat the anti-bribery exams. Having that broad-based training is one way of maximising the range of matters I can cover. The other is using technology effectively.

I estimate that our use of technology allows each lawyer to double their workload, so this is not an inconsiderable benefit to the team. The other big benefit technology brings to our legal work is that it allows us to take a more systematic, joined-up approach to risk. The ability to search documents quickly and reliable is one of the best ways to identify and mitigate risk patterns in litigations, investigations, complaints and a many other areas.

This is a fast-moving area of legal tech and one where we really need to keep our eyes open. For example, investigations require detailed knowledge of the underlying facts, and increasingly sophisticated software is being developed all the time. As lawyers, we have to be very open-minded to the possibilities this software will unlock. We almost have to forget that we are lawyers for a moment and think of it as a data mapping task rather than a legal task.

To use legal tech effectively you cannot be afraid to fail. You have to explore new technologies, launch new programmes and initiatives, and start working in different ways, but you also have to know when to abandon software and strategies that are not effective. This requires a fundamental shift in thinking for most lawyers.

Open yourself to new ideas, trial new software and ways of completing legal tasks, but don’t be afraid to admit that something isn’t right for you. You have to be very careful, because not every technology will suit your use case. Try and test as much as possible before determining whether you can actually implement it for use in the long-term.

When it comes to identifying and procuring new technology, we are fortunate to have a supportive IT function. New software is purchased by IT at group level, but every decision follows close discussions with the various business units and support functions to make sure a product will do or can adapt to what we need it to do. My experience is that IT are always eager to explore new tech and are happy to find things that will make your life easier. Building that relationship with your IT people is essential to getting the right tools. But of course, as GC I also need to be involved in the process because only the front-line legal staff can truly stress-test a system.

While there have been big changes in the market for legal tech, most law firms remain quite conservative here and tend to focus on legal skill sets at the expense of other ways of working. However, there are signs of change. New business models that offer on-demand legal staff or a mix of outsourcing and technology-based solutions at competitive price points are becoming more accepted. Ten years ago no one thought it would work, particularly in this market. Now they are threatening the traditional firms. The lesson here is clear. Both in-house and private practice lawyers must be more receptive to new ways of defining products, markets and clients. Technology itself will not leave us behind, but our inability to adapt to its consequences certainly will.

As everyone knows, life after COVID-19 will not simple return to normal. New working arrangements are here to stay, and that means technology will become an increasingly important aspect of working life.

Marcus Clayton, general counsel and company secretary, Adelaide Brighton Cement (Adbri)

The number one goal of innovation in our legal team, in an organisation manufacturing basic commodities, is to be able to do more with less – to consistently deliver high quality outputs at lower cost, so we are contributing to improving our organisation’s profit. There’s always pressure to keep costs to the minimum, but there is also a particular risk in needing to do more and more in terms of meeting increasing compliance requirements whilst containing costs.

The second goal is to increase reliability. There are more regulatory requirements to deal with and more things being asked of us, and to do that confidently and efficiently we need to make sure that the information and the processes we’ve got to be able to do that are robust and reliable – so I know that when the CEO wants a piece of information I can produce it reasonably quickly, and we are providing various stakeholders with confidence about our organisation’s governance.

We’re in the early stages of looking to see what new legal technology is available that can successfully meet our needs. I’ve been an in-house lawyer for over 20 years now and am probably one of the longest serving in-house lawyers in Australia. I use a basic, but robust and reliable system which has served us well.

We use a SQL Server relational database for recording and linking all the information we use every day, such as information about matters we are working on, agreements, property details, intellectual property, company details, and external lawyers’ fees, but we are looking to upgrade from this. We have been looking at what there is on the market, and there have been some quite interesting developments in terms of matter management. Overall, our organisation does not have a consistent process for information management, leaving it to particular teams to make their own arrangements.

Marcus Clayton

We have had a lot of growth over the time I’ve been here and we’re a much bigger company now, with more operations, more people, and more issues that need to be resolved every day. We are in a period of rapid change for our organisation.  One aspect of this is the organisation is about to embark on a digital transformation project planned to unlock value, including a focus on the benefits from automation and smart analysis of our financial and operating systems and processes.  We’re also looking at how that works for us in the legal team, to bring it all together over the next probably six months, against the objectives of robustness and reliability that I mentioned before.

We are currently looking at NetDocuments, iManage and a couple of other leading information management systems and are also looking around for matter management systems. What did surprise us was that there was not really one overall, out of the box, comprehensive package available for the typical needs of an in-house counsel team like ours.

We try to keep things as simple as we can, and we prefer just to go out and get something that is going to do what we want off the shelf. Our needs will be similar to many other companies’ needs. Given that we already have a good simple set up, we don’t want to have something new that is of a proprietary nature and forces you to go down a route in doing things their way, that may not align with our preferences, and could provide less functionality than we’ve got at the moment.

A couple of high-level IT leaders I have worked with recently, inside and outside our organisation, have confirmed a contemporary approach is to use out of the box wherever you can.  They also reinforced a strong preference for a cloud-based approach, rather than on premises facilities.

We have quite a free rein in terms of what technology we can onboard within the team. Of course, if it doesn’t work or deliver value, I carry the can for that. To learn about the value of the technology which is now available, we went out and got anecdotal evidence, did research, and then followed up with a few of the aggregator providers about what they would recommend. That led us to talking to some people, getting some demonstrations and forming our views.

I was surprised at the low estimates for setting up this system and migrating our data.  I feared from previous experience that the actual costs could be greater than the optimistic forecasts, so in the budget I’ve put in a more realistic amount than has been suggested for a migration (which of course we will manage carefully). I’ve also said we want to do it in incremental stages, which helps us manage the transition risks.

We’re a small department, who operate in a company that has traditionally run everything very lean. That’s the environment I’ve been working in for a long time with colleagues in the legal team. We evaluate our technology intuitively and based on how much it is actually helping us to achieve our objectives. Having said that, we are building KPIs into our assessment process at the moment as part of our structured evaluation procedure.

When staying abreast of what legal technology is available, organisations such as ALITA are useful and easy to access to corroborate what we’re finding in other places, and help us to test things anecdotally against promotional material or the stated capabilities of the tech.

I’ve followed what’s going on in artificial intelligence relevant to our responsibilities, and I can see where it will have application, but in our case we are a heavy manufacturing industrial company which doesn’t have a lot of low-value, high volume legal work. We leverage our internal expertise with carefully selected external advisors who we are confident will apply themselves creatively and deliver value for us, and while I currently don’t see a big role for AI in our legal team on a regular basis, we’re continuing to monitor its progress. We have used AI in certain cases, for instance during some major litigation, and I was really impressed with the quality that came back from applying AI to our discovery records.  Automation, AI, and machine learning are opportunities we are planning to exploit for our heavy manufacturing business, with an expectation of significant benefits, so we are on the look out for where these sort of opportunities might be there for the legal function also.

COVID-19 and its effects have of course had an influence on the way we are working at the moment.  From March to July, everyone was working from home, and in July we cautiously moved back to offices, following a contingency plan which for us had a ‘team A’ and ‘team B’ that were in the office on alternating weeks.

We are operating throughout Australia, so we have had experience with the different situations in the different states. We’ve had experience with all the video conferencing facilities, and have had a major rollout of hardware and software to people who weren’t using stuff in a mobile way to the same extent as others. In our legal function we’re all equipped with laptops and iPads, and because (pre-COVID-19) we’re often all around the country, it wasn’t a great change for us. The relational database that I mentioned before has given us a really solid framework for our essential information, so that even though the team’s been at home for some time over lockdown, we’ve been able to continue all of that essential stuff without any glitches whatsoever.

Going forward, I think that technology will change the roles of in-house lawyers in a more subtle way than many are predicting. Some tech that we use, such as hearings via video conferences, can be used tactically, and you need to consider that before being pushed down a certain path – should you agree to videoconference or not agree? Are you giving up some advantage if witnesses are not being cross examined in person, or if your representatives are interacting with the court in different ways? This shows that technology needs to be adopted in a measured way, because there are just too many side issues that come up.

Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) was in May, so we had to deal with how we were going to do this in the middle of the pandemic, with the restrictions on meetings. This quickly exposed us to virtual AGMs, but these are still not that straightforward. We did a hybrid AGM, which went well apart from the fact that a third-party tech provider played the CEO’s speech before the Chairman’s speech. It was simple human error, despite numerous rehearsals undertaken and the procedures we had in place.  Most viewers would not notice, but it just highlighted that there are risks in new technology. Next year, I think we’ll probably still do a hybrid AGM, but we will have learned the lessons, I don’t think we’ll move to a fully virtual AGM.

Young lawyers who will have to drive the profession’s use of technology forward should be clear about what they are trying to achieve from legal tech. That’s cost efficiencies, delivering valued outcomes, avoiding surprises, and having reliable information and systems and tools to be able to do the task that you’re responsible for dependably. Everything comes back to that, and that’s what we’re trying to do in order to deliver value for our shareholders. You need to have a mindset that is going to let you understand how you can use the technology and the potential developments to further what the organisation is trying to achieve. You can’t be divorced from the underlying nature of the business.

Ivy Wu, head of legal for Greater China, DXC Technology

Digital transformation is a hot topic right now and DXC Technology is an industry leader in this field. We leverage technological innovations to deliver better business outcomes by driving new levels of performance, competitiveness and lower prices. Put simply, we work hard to make sure other businesses stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. 

The legal team has embraced this approach. As [DXC general counsel] Bill Deckelman said, the digital innovation tools that our department has had access to since 2017, [when DXC was formed through a merger of the recently spun-off Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Enterprise Service segment and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC)], represent a unique opportunity to position our legal team as global thought leaders in legal digital transformation.

From the very start of our journey we aimed to do something different, partnering with UnitedLex to help restructure the global legal team. At the time, this was the largest-ever managed services transaction in the legal space. By bringing in new technologies we have developed a far more agile way of working that enables us to cover more ground than ever before. We have created a digital platform housing legal research, templates and advice. This allows us to provide a lawyers on demand service for a range of matters, from documentation to compliance, from litigations to procurement. Supplementing this, AI-based legal tools and machine learning allow us to better predict risks, understand customers’ problems and improve performance.

This technology has undoubtedly improved our efficiency. It can streamline templates and playbooks, assist with negotiations, help with training and rationalise workflows. It also allows each team member to properly track their work in real time so the management team is constantly aware of the progress being made on a matter. This means management can identify gaps in our coverage and move to respond to potential issues faster than ever before.

Ivy Wu

It has also helped us show management the value our team brings to the company. We can track the value of each matter we are supporting, whether that is by managing litigation risk or contributing to new business. The feedback from business has been very positive. They are able to see that the cost saved or value added by the legal department far exceeds our budget.   

Technology reduces the barriers to collaboration across functions. It can be a useful way of working with various business units to identify pain points, opportunities and solutions. In fact, the new ways of working we have developed have been so successful that we plan to make remote working, at least to some degree, a permanent feature of the way we operate. Technology will not replace lawyers, but it will require a re-imagining of resources, both technical and personal. Legal work will place much more emphasis on the ability to collect, analyse and process relevant data.   

The push to introduce new legal technologies is to be welcomed, but there is still a long way to go. Many of the new tools that have come to market are very complex, do not allow for optimisation, and requires a big time commitment on the part of GCs to fully learn its functionalities. Of course, the more time you have to spend learning a new system, the less effective it is as a cost-saving tool. Team members may also need to repeatedly log in, complete registration forms, or provide other information.

International legal service providers should also consider customising their products to work in Mandarin, or tailoring them to fit local cultural usage. China is a very large market, and enhanced support for our lawyers would be beneficial to both domestic businesses and multinational companies.

There is no doubt that legal technology has helped everyone in the market improve their performance. Most interesting has been the impact it has had on the judicial system. The ability to file lawsuits electronically or attend virtual hearings has proved very successful in China. This is a very important development, especially for employees of multinational companies who are not able to be physically present during the course of a matter. Other developments are even more surprising. While previously it was very time consuming to notarise electronic evidence, we are now able to apply blockchain technologies to preserve electronic evidence.

There are a lot of changes taking place. Our mission in the DXC legal department is to understand these changes, learn as much as possible about the technologies powering them and, most importantly, to be at the forefront of any future change.

Carl Watson, general counsel – Asia, Arcadis

Arcadis may not compete (yet!) with Apple in the brand recognition stakes, but in the world of environmental engineering its right up there with the iPhone as the premier player in its space. For over 130 years, from its roots in the Netherlands, where it was an early pioneer in redevelopment of land, water and sea defence systems, the company has grown to become a leading global player in built asset and sustainability solutions, with a workforce of nearly 30,000 people spread over 72 countries.

In the Asia Pacific region, our consultants and engineers are regularly called upon to work on the types of projects that can make or break a country’s future, from protecting against coastal erosion to designing flooding protection systems to advising governments and stakeholders on master plans for smart city developments.

But, as with most global companies that have grown inorganically, there can be regional differences, and one has to be respectful of different ways of doing things. When I moved from my private practice in project finance to build an in-house legal team, I was very conscious that I might be seen as an outsider, someone who should be kept at arm’s length. Crucially, I needed to earn the trust of my new business management very quickly, and the easiest way to do that is to present yourself as someone who’s coming in to try to take their problems away. Going for the low-hanging fruit got me quick wins and showed I was someone who would make their lives easier.

To complicate matters, the Asian side of the business had little in the way of localised legal resource and so my first job was working out what talent we had within the organisation that I could leverage. There were nearly 4,000 people based across the Asian offices, and it seemed obvious that a fairly large number of them could be legal graduates who could find their way around a contract, even if they were not in my legal team.

Carl Watson

As a substitute for drafting new personnel into the team, I managed to borrow time from others around the business to help me build a new commercial contract review system – exactly the sort of quick win I was looking for. In the longer term, it was clear that technology was going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the legal function.

As you can imagine, as a built asset consultancy we didn’t have much in the way of pure play legal tech, but like most organisations we have software licences for legally useful technologies. Even a ubiquitous office technology like the Microsoft O365 suite of products contains a large volume of very helpful stuff that can help GCs drive meaningful improvements and build momentum quickly. It may not be at the cutting edge, but it’s an incredibly effective way to build trust. Data visualisation platforms like Power BI can be linked into Excel and the other products in the Microsoft suite to produce clear dashboards. Even something as simple as that can add a lot of clarity and transparency and around what the function is doing to leadership. For example, we now generate automated utilisation reports that show the different client types we have served, the value of the contracts that we’re reviewing and the type of work we’re doing on those contracts. That means I am not only able to keep track of what the team is working on, but can show the business our return on investment or the savings we are making in terms of claims avoided. When you add those numbers together legal no longer looks like a cost.

GCs can fixate on having new systems without first understanding the tools they already have at their disposal. Knowing what you’ve already got is super important for any business leader, and that applies to both our talent management and technology. Ultimately, if you are going to ask the business for money to buy some legal tech it is your responsibility to check whether the same result can be obtained with a bit of research into the products you already own. This also demonstrates that you can use technology effectively to capture value.

When it comes to building trust, nothing is more important for a legal team than showing business colleagues it has their backs. Using technology to develop new and more robust ways of managing corporate governance is one of the best ways to do this. We have automated the approvals and governance processes for new work entirely by putting it all on a digitally-enabled system we coded ourselves in-house. Likewise, all of our governance and reporting records are now maintained through a digital platform that eliminates duplication of records and work streams, or the need to fill in multiple forms to do the same thing. Rather than using a number of operating systems globally that don’t talk to each other, we now have a much more joined up system.

It also helps generate real value to the business. For example, a project sold say in 2016 on the basis of a certain financial performance or risk profile may no longer be adhering to those assumptions five years later. If there’s a delta between the financial and risk performance then and now we can track that digitally through an automated project review process and take action. The upshot is that we’re not just reporting dry data. We’re looking at trends, we’re looking at root cause analysis through the types of claims that come into our business. That data is helping you learn lessons rather than perpetuate risks. That builds trust and confidence within the business and helps make them realise you are a reliable partner.

Everything in its right place

In its simplest form, Arcadis advises clients on their built assets, covering everything from services to manage their space to master planning and business case design. It also operates an architectural business, a landscaping business, a project and programme management business, a ‘pure play’ design engineering business, and a general business advisory and consulting practice that offers analysis, feasibility, delivery and implementation services to a range of built assets. With such a broad portfolio, developing and implementing a digitalisation strategy becomes hugely important.

The enlightened contractors we work with are shifting quickly into the use of technologies. We’re conscious of the pressure that places on us to evolve. We don’t just want to keep up with them, we want to be ahead of the game, selling digitally-enabled consultancy services that allow our clients to do more and better things with the information and analytics we can provide. Whether that involves using drone technology and advanced camera technology to provide remote access for site-owners or decision-makers sitting thousands of miles away, or offering our insight on asset performance through our Arcadis GEN brand, or through platform-led, subscription-based models where our clients can customise the expertise and experience they get from us, technology is going to be at the heart of our future and we have invested in the in-house capabilities and product development skills to deliver.

In short, repetitive tasks are being replaced by focused automated processes and platform solutions across the business, and the legal function should be no different. To maintain relevance in our digital future, we have to stay close to the business and keep our eyes open. But we need to have the bandwidth to keep our eyes open.

For example, it is just not efficient to have a senior in-house lawyer doing mundane contract work. I want my senior lawyers helping the business win big mandates, avoid big claims, navigate new legislative headwinds or develop digitally-enabled, client-facing services. Having them spend time on basic contract reviews is a problem, the solution to which can be using technology to do the same job, or it can be drawing on back-office support centres in markets that have a lower operating cost.

The real danger is using tech for tech’s sake. Digital tools are a big part of driving efficiency, but I’m a believer in a razor sharp focus on legal operations, you also need to look at the general optimisation of your cost and operating model via standardisation, automation and cost efficiency. If you can use technology to get where you need to be then that’s great, but it is a mistake to focus too narrowly on that. Your goal as GC is not having technology, it is ensuring the business gets quality, accessible advice that delivers value for money.

Faz Hussen, general counsel and director, government relations, McDonald’s

Most of our software is built in-house and customised for the legal team’s own use. Using home-grown software has two main advantages. It is obviously much cheaper, and developing our own in-house software means that we can hedge on business costs as opposed to getting them signed off for external technology.

Perhaps a bigger advantage is that internally developed technology can be customised to match systems we are already familiar with. That will ensure other business units can seamlessly work with the platform. Working with customised software is much more intuitive and user-friendly. When you take on technology from external sources there is always going to be a process of learning and testing.

Working with external providers also means the legal team loses some degree of control over the software. For example, a significant provider of due diligence software once decided to shut down its operations in Singapore. We lost access to the whole system and had to suddenly find an alternative provider. This was a major exercise, and it meant we had to get used to the intricacies of a new system at short notice. That is the disadvantage of external providers. You simply cannot pre-empt or control what they are going to do, and even things like maintenance or updates are out of your control.

In a previous role I worked at a public body in Singapore that concerned itself with science and technology, including in AI and other blue-sky technologies. Protecting intellectual property was a huge aspect of that work, and it has taught me that IP is critically important when it comes to developing legal tech. I believe that, especially for bigger companies, it is always good to own the IP on anything you use internally.

However, there are areas of technology where we cannot build our own systems. As you would expect, McDonald’s has a long list of compliance processes to go through. This process involves many people across a number of different teams. It must also synchronise with the compliance checks across the company, so for this type of exercise we are following the policies and systems of the global business.

For pretty much anything else we use our own technology. We have built a document tracking system that checks all our contracts for things like date of expiry and gives us a prompt so we understand where in the contract cycle a document sits. It is also useful in that it tells us which counterparties have we given any limitation or liabilities to.

For the most part, our forms tend to be pretty standard, so while the back end will be specific to each vendor that we are dealing with, the main boilerplates are very consistent. That means we can use software that focuses on tracking documents and sending us reminders. Some of my peers at other organisations are starting to use AI for more cookie cutter stuff such as NDAs, but for us it is still all done by the internal legal team, including paralegals.

Our process for implementing new technology starts with recognising the need for a particular piece of software. Whether that software is going to track contracts, bring in GDPR compliance or handle more complicated work, you need to identify the need within the organisation first of all. We then look at how this can be introduced in a useful and user-friendly manner, drawing up a customisation and implementation plan to help us understand what the software should look like. This latter stage will almost always involve conversations with the IT department.

This has served us well so far, but inevitably we will reach a point where our tech needs outstrip our capacity to produce solutions internally. For example, it will become increasingly important to have software that can supervise and track user data and user rights. These days, everyone wants to know what their data is being used for and to have the right to choose what parts of their data is logged. Having software to keep track of this helps to share that obligation or responsibility with the consumer.

Per Hoffman, vice president and head of legal affairs and sourcing, North East Asia, Ericsson

Asia is a very impressive part of the world where people are generally more technologically driven. It is this drive that motivates companies to continuously innovate. Asians are generally early adopters of tech, and customers are very advanced when it comes to embracing new technology.

When I compare Asia to Europe everything is on a much larger scale. The pace of innovation is unprecedented. Technology is being embraced across Asia, but it is China that is leading the way in technological innovation and development. The pace of development in China is particularly interesting.

For example, when it comes to moneyless payments, China is the most advanced market in the world. I rarely need to carry a wallet anymore as everything can be paid for via a mobile phone. Beijing is one of the biggest startup hubs for tech companies and a leading place for AI technology, research and development. Generally, the consumer and enterprise markets are massive, and therefore the potential for developing and implementing tech is apparent.

Ericsson has an established presence in China, where it occupies nearly half the market for mobile systems. In recent times, Ericsson has strengthened its market share by winning 5G contracts with three major operators in China.

The importance of technological innovation has been cast into the spotlight in recent months. Legal teams across Asia have embraced standardised technology to remain connected. We are using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint products. These platforms provide a collaborative area, where teams across the region can work together, for example to review documents. We are considering introducing a new e-billing system when working with our external law firms. From a contract management perspective, we have various repositories for sales and sourcing agreements.

Today, there are contract databases where you can search for templates and find various clauses. The next step will be AI based search engines, where the platform is itself intelligent and an evolving algorithm informs the search results. It is quite amazing to think about the opportunities associated with AI when applied to legal work. We will eventually be able to predict problems before they arise; we will know if something may cause an issue in a contract before finalising a deal.

Despite all the advantages brought by legal tech, going completely digital this year has not always been an easy task. Technology cannot replace the atmosphere of a meeting room or the human connections shared between individuals. Working remotely also makes it more difficult to introduce new employees into an office. You learn a lot from seeing how members of a team behave and react to others.

Nevertheless, technology can also be used to bring legal teams together. Managing legal operations across five countries means video conferences and meetings are crucialPreviously, we spent a lot of time travelling to meet internal stakeholders, customers and suppliers. Travelling would take up a significant amount of time. But since the pandemic, people have adjusted. One positive is that meetings are typically condensed and well prepared. In this sense technology has driven efficiency, or at any rate it has led to people using their time more effectively.

As we look to the future, technology is expected to play a key role in improving legal services, and within the next five years artificial intelligence will play a significant role in transforming the legal profession. As thing stand, it is rarely used by legal teams, but the potential this technology has is revolutionary.

Greg Chew, general counsel and chief legal officer, Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Legal innovation is not only about technology, but the way lawyers operate. Most lawyers used to see an in-house role as a way of having better work life balance – this has changed and so have the expectations around them. To be a legal innovator you need to be a solution provider. Technical expertise is a given, being a solution provider is the next step, and the final and more significant part of legal innovation is being a thought leader.

Even though Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU) is a public funded university and a charity, we have leveraged our digital tools very significantly.

When I joined NTU two years ago we were getting contract approvals through email or manually by paper, with several signatories required at the executive committee level. We retooled Adobe Sign, our e-signing platform, to use it, in parallel to e-signing, as an approval workflow system. We were able to do this by using existing licenses, and the new process has been extremely successful and well received.

The lesson is that legal innovation doesn’t always mean spending a lot of money.

The second tool we implemented is Convene, a piece of board management software. We transformed our governance architecture by migrating, as of late 2019, our resolutions, meeting minutes, and corporate instrument documents to this platform. Previously, these documents were circulated by emails. This is still fairly novel for a lot of organisations, and possibly for universities which tend to be slower to adopt certain technologies. We wanted to demonstrate that we could move ahead despite this.

Greg Chew

In most organisations, if you need IT support you log a ticket, and someone will get back to you to say “got your ticket”. We realised we could leverage this system as a workflow tool, not only to track case assignment to, or workload of, our legal officers, but to better understand data analytics – the quantity and quality of the work we’re doing. For this we used a platform called ServiceNow, an enterprise workflow tool.

This system was not ordinarily meant for that purpose, the employees that use it are IT, housing and facilities, the construction team etc. but we leveraged on the platform and licences that were already there. We have now gone digital for legal support requests.

We also embarked on legal process outsourcing (LPO) to handle growing contract demands, which you might think would be based in Asia but is in fact based in Europe. Legal innovation is not confined to home locations, especially with our current global situation.

In future we will look to implement a chatbot for legal help, so questions like “How do I get my contract approved?” and “Where do I get a template for this NDA?”  can be processed. NTU has about 10,000 staff at the University and is the number 47 ranked institution in the world according to recent rankings. We want robust systems and processes that match our research and academic standards and ambitions.

Legal tech challenges lawyers to add value beyond what they ordinarily do. The things we were spending a lot of administrative time on are now being absorbed by legal tech, so we really need to show the value that we add. In the context of new legal tech coming in, we would rather preserve headcount and leverage technology than grow headcount, but at the same time, we want to upskill team members so we don’t have to deal with rightsizing when the time comes.  We can say we will invest more in technology instead of hiring more people and add skills we don’t have today.

As lawyers we can still be very traditional in our mindset; we see ourselves as subject matter experts and are typically conservative going into fields we don’t know. Some of the Singapore law firms are now realising there’s a gap in the market and have now started to set up companies as spin offs from their own law firms. They’re limiting those companies to legal tech, with set up of legal tech tools which they can offer to their clients.

But what we need to do as a profession is explore how we work in adjacent fields that are not necessarily related to our subject matter expertise. Over time automation and AI tools will get better, so the question is, what is the gap the lawyer has to fill? Those who are very specialised (like tax lawyers) will continue as before. But what does the other type of lawyer do? What’s different about them? I think they’re the ones who will define the future of lawyering.