Peter-Connor-smallPeter Connor, founder and chief executive of AlternativelyLegal, will be a guest speaker at the first Legal Inno’Tech Forum, Asia in Hong Kong on June 8.

During a career of challenging the status quo and coming up with new and innovative approaches to the practice of law and compliance, as well as working in a wide range of legal and business roles with different players in the legal industry, Peter Connor now looks at legal and compliance differently — through the eyes of the business — and tries to find opportunities to apply technology and process improvement to develop and implement innovative solutions.

We asked him about his journey and how he sees the future of in-house legal and compliance teams.

In-House Community: What was the genesis and inspiration behind AlternativelyLegal?

I decided it was time to do something different after more than 25 years living and working in Hong Kong, Sydney, Silicon Valley, England and Switzerland in APAC and EMEA general counsel roles, head of global compliance, and recently VP of technology products at a compliance firm. I formed AlternativelyLegal to do what I love most — helping in-house lawyers innovate and change the way they work. I do that in two ways. First I provide alternative consulting and training for in-house legal teams under my Everything But The Law programme. Secondly, I help legal and compliance teams to develop and implement cost-effective compliance programmes and I also offer a unique alternative to traditional online compliance training courses. It’s called Trouble Traps videos and, unlike traditional courses, corporate employees actually find it engaging and interesting.

IHC:  What are the challenges faced by in-house counsel in these dynamic and changing times?

It’s pretty overwhelming for lawyers right now. On top of meeting the day-to-day demands of their business colleagues, most lawyers realise that they need to do something to follow and cope with the waves of change in the industry, and to lead change for their legal team and organisation. But even if they can create the time to do that, there is very little practical guidance available especially from anyone with real-world, global in-house experience at innovation and change. That’s also why I developed the Everything But The Law programme — to help fill this void and to provide a vision and framework for legal team change, together with training on the essential skills and knowledge.

“Departments tend to be in varying stages of what I refer to as innovation and change maturity. Very few departments have evolved to Change 3.0, where the focus will be more on enhancing effectiveness by changing the way individual lawyers work”

IHC: Which are the key areas that legal practice is changing?

Perhaps the first key point to note is that the gap between the way lawyers work in firms and in legal departments is widening and will continue to do so. I’ll confine my comments to in-house lawyers as that’s the focus of my work now.

Clearly the legal industry ecosystem in which in-house lawyers work is changing dramatically. However, in my experience working with in-house teams all over the world, what I find interesting, but not surprising, is that change at the department and individual lawyer level is variable and lags the industry level change.

Departments tend to be in varying stages of what I refer to as innovation and change maturity. Most departments have implemented Change 1.0, where the primary focus is on cost and initiatives include outside counsel rationalisation, spend management, use of non-legal professionals and sometimes LPOs [legal process outsourcers]. Many departments have progressed to Change 2.0, where the focus is more on efficiency and streamlining work, especially in the contract area through process and workflow improvement, automation tools and e-signature/approvals. Very few departments have evolved to Change 3.0, where the focus will be more on enhancing effectiveness by changing the way individual lawyers work — what they do and how they do it — to provide more value for business colleagues. Change 3.0, together with the expanding roles of in-house lawyers beyond traditional legal advice and the contracting tasks as a result of automation and other trends, is what will increasingly drive significant change in the way individual lawyers work.

IHC: What are the key areas that in-house counsel require training?

As a result of the evolution in the work that you will do, and other factors, you will need new skills in addition to traditional legal skills and general business, leadership and soft skills. I refer to these as ‘non-traditional’ skills and they include process improvement, technology, risk management, design thinking, project management, business partnering and change management. I am currently writing an article — that I will share with In-House Community members — on these skills and why they are needed.

“In-house lawyers need, at a minimum, to develop a technology plan
and an ability to decide whether technology is the best solution and, if so, what technology”

IHC: You have challenged external counsel to be ‘software providers’ — what do you mean by that?

You’ll have to come to the Legal Inno’Tech Forum to hear the full story! In short, firms and others will, for various reasons, increasingly provide software for clients to use. That means that in-house lawyers need, at a minimum, to develop a technology plan and an ability to decide whether technology is the best solution and, if so, what technology. They also need to decide whether to develop it internally, use existing technology or source it externally and, if so, from whom. But perhaps the most novel idea that GCs are keen to discuss with me is how in-house departments can, and should, become software businesses. That is something I will elaborate on further at the forum.

IHC: Are there specific challenges to the delivery of legal services in emerging markets? 

Beyond the obvious cultural and language challenges in emerging markets, in-house lawyers are expected to be extremely business oriented and, at the same time, minimise compliance risks which are perceived to be greater than in other markets. It is possible to meet those seemingly conflicting expectations but to do that you need a clear understanding of how to effectively business partner and how to develop cost-effective compliance programmes.

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There will be limited seats available at the inaugural Legal Inno’Tech Forum, Asia on June 8 in Hong Kong. For more information on the gathering, please click here or contact Rahul Prakash at [email protected]

See also: Innovation, technology and process, process, process …

Peter-Connor-smallCurrently based in Sydney, Australia, Peter Connor has experienced all sides of the legal industry: with one of the largest law firms in the world; in-house with prominent IT multinationals in a chief compliance role and in various regional general counsel roles; and in a VP business role with a small tech-enabled compliance firm. He formed AlternativelyLegal to share his experiences, knowledge, skills — and some specific innovative products — to help individual lawyers, legal departments, law firms and other legal and compliance service/product providers innovate and succeed in the rapidly changing legal industry.

Visit his website at www.alternativelylegal.com

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