Event Report — Tech Law and the Modern Lawyer
In our most recent event, Rajesh Sreenivasan, head of Rajah & Tann Technologies, shared his insights of how technology is amplifying and augmenting the practice of law. Rajesh has a rich and distinguished career in providing legal advice to clients in relation to an array of technological areas of law, such as cybersecurity, data protection, cloud computing and digital currencies. As a vocal advocate of the importance of technology within the legal industry, he is keen to drive awareness of the importance of technology in law and to change the traditional mindset that lingers within the industry.
From the outset, Rajesh outlined that legal practice is currently facing several unprecedented challenges. Principally, the resistance presented by legal tradition prevent the easy adaption to technological change. Also, the demands of modern clients are placing significant pressure on firms to move away from time-based billing, with greater expectations on cost effectiveness in the delivery of legal services. Furthermore, this adjustment in client expectations has led to a boom in competition from professional legal service firms and Legaltech companies. Rajesh notes that these pressures place significant urgency on legal practice to adapt and embrace the latest developments in technology.
Against the background of these challenges, Rajesh asks how does the industry deal with such disruption? To answer this, he emphasizes three points: a shift in mindset, the shaking of the foundations of legal tradition, and short-term productivity loss. He asserts that practitioners must seek to change the way they are used to working and, to put it simply, jump out of their comfort zone. This begins with a shift in mindset, to being able to embrace technology as a catalyst for process re-engineering within the legal industry. This will then require courage to break down traditional methods of practicing law. Finally, lawyers will have to accept short-reproductivity losses in order to properly learn and adapt to the latest technological developments.
How is this change to be implemented in practice? Firstly, legal industry regulations need to be augmented and reformed, including the Legal Profession Act, the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015, and the Legal Profession (Law Practice Entities) Rules 2015. He views the updating of these rules as essential to developing Legaltech and allowing it to flourish within the industry. Since technology companies and law firms cooperate in this revolution, regulations on legal practitioners should also extend to technology companies who participate in legal affairs. Secondly, reforms should be implemented to make better use of co-working spaces and cloud-computing applications within the industry. This can be supplemented by profit-sharing arrangements between Legaltechs and law firms, and the strengthening of legal privilege in tech augmented legal services. Rajesh also points out the importance of avoiding conflicts of interests, stating that it would be preferable to prohibit lawyers from holding executive positions within Legaltech firms. Otherwise, Legaltechs might become susceptible to the traditional views of lawyers, eroding their innovative potential.
Within this transition process, Rajesh notes the importance of ‘design-thinking’. This will allow for the application of truly inventive thinking to solving client-related issues. Additionally, it will allow for constant experimentation and reworking of solutions along the way.
As a case in point of his analysis, Rajesh highlighted the success of how legal practice in Asia was currently being innovatively reshaped by technology. The key results have shown how technological instruments are boosting collaboration in law and allowing lawyers to better serve their clients.