Singapore

We speak with Alex Smith, innovation manager at Reed Smith, about rethinking legal services in Asia.

Alex Smith Reed Smith Legal Inno'Tech Forum SingaporeAlex Smith is Reed Smith’s first innovation manager. He heads up a physical and virtual programme of client-centric idea-generation and rethinking of legal service design.

Smith will be speaking at the upcoming Asia Legal Inno’Tech Forum in Singapore on March 14. We asked him a few questions about his thoughts on legal innovation in Asia.

Are there any differences you see in factors driving innovation within legal departments in Europe and Asia?

There are a number of core themes that resonate within legal departments in Europe and Asia, ranging from the need to strategically align functions around disruption, be it from technology, new business models or agile revolution; quality and value, including efficiency of legal work and automation; and around collaboration and cross-functional teams.

As you might expect though, there are slightly different dynamics around change in each region or location. The Singapore government is a strong driver behind the legal industry’s adoption of technology innovation. Singapore Academy of Law’s (SAL) recent launch of the Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP), which aims to bring together lawyers, technopreneurs, investors, academics, and regulators and encourage the adoption of technology and drive innovation, demonstrates the city’s commitment to modernising legal services.

Identifying clear differences in the approach between regions is difficult, however. Many law firms, legal teams and companies now are international and as such have global pulls and strategies that are adopted from other jurisdictions which inevitably have somewhat differing approaches to legal innovation.

At Reed Smith, we take a global approach to innovation but are contextual to our local environment. We recognise that technology is an enabler, not a creator of innovation and that we should connect innovation to empathy, understanding, listening and creativity to bring quality business solutions, not just legal answers.

What groundwork does a legal department need to do to start their innovation journey?

Innovation is contextual to what you need to achieve. Starting an innovation journey is less about outlining your strategy and more about defining your purposes and vision. As a legal department, it corresponds to the dynamics in your business too — redefining your team’s role may actually be easier if your business itself is changing due to market pressures. Once you have established your mission, it is about enabling your people to have the time and creative skills to be curious in finding new ways to achieve the mission.

Making the first step is often hard as there is a tendency to overthink innovation, having clear strands of innovation to focus on is key — for example focus on efficiency separately from new high growth initiatives. Focusing on the user — whether that be an internal business person or a client — and understanding them, the way they work and what makes them tick, allows you to not only solve problems but also design solutions that help both them and you. At Reed Smith we take the approach of starting small and, along the way, find ways to experiment and measure progress.

What are some of the universal challenges to legal innovation you see everywhere?

Culture and change management continue to be two notable challenges to legal innovation. The legal sector has been quick to look to technology to drive innovation. However, while a shift towards technology may suit other sectors, an over reliance can pose threats and challenge to ours by distracting us and our clients from what really matters.

Despite certain perceptions in the media about lawyers and their behaviour, ultimately, we are problem solvers. It is what we are best at. The issue at hand is identifying which problem needs solving. In order to truly understand the problem that needs solving, we believe that innovation techniques such as empathy, insight, understanding, co-creation and established approaches like service design, are superior to solely relying on technology. Prioritising these approaches, and coupling them with a problem-solving mind set and the support of technology, is how legal teams can really add value for clients.

Another challenge that has been facing legal innovation is a lack of external professionals entering the sector. The answer is not just start-ups and legal tech; instead, the sector needs to house a healthy variety of skills to create multi-disciplinary teams in order to truly drive legal innovation.

What are you looking forward to at the Legal Inno’ Tech Forum?

I am looking forward to discussing Reed Smith’s people-centred approach to innovation. We prioritise listening and empathy when it comes to understanding our clients’ problems, and then co-create solutions to resolve them.

Personally, I am looking forward to gauging how dynamic and energised the region is by change and to understanding what issues and techniques are being prioritised in given the prevalence of legal technology and innovation.


Legal Inno tech Forum Legaltech Singapore

Alex Smith will be speaking at the Asia Legal Inno’ Tech Forum in Singapore on the March 14, 2018. The forum is open to all legal professionals to attend — limited seats are available (free for in-house counsel). Register Here.

Tags: Legal Innovation, Reed Smith
Related Articles by Firm
Clasis Law (India) Newsletter August 2015
Analysis of the revocation of a company's drug patent and other key court rulings and updates on corporate and commercial matters
Foreign Banks Allowed to Operate in Myanmar
After more than 50 years of banning, the Central Bank of Myanmar has issued the first final licenses allowing four foreign banks to operate in Myanmar.
Tanzanian Draft National Energy Policy of 2015
Highlights on the ongoing and upcoming industry developments with focus on the transition of the energy sector since the introduction of the Big Results Now! campaign
Mineral Rights Available in Tanzania
Overview of the mineral rights available in Tanzania, with specific focus on the various categories of mineral rights
The Legal Framework of the Aviation Sector in Tanzania
As attention turns to Tanzania’s trade and energy opportunities, the spotlight has fallen upon the nation’s infrastructure. This update focuses on the capabilities and issues of the Tanzanian aviation sector.
Oil price volatility - Offshore oil storage
Are there any legal concerns with tankers being used for floating storage?
Oil price volatility - risks and opportunities in 2015
While many companies can weather the oil price slide and volatility, some industry players face a real risk of insolvency.
India: Union Budget 2015
A bullet-point overview of changes in Direct Tax, Indirect Tax and Goods and Service Tax in India in light of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s first full-year Budget…
Prohibition against transfer of personal data outside Hong Kong
Section 33 of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO) prohibits the transfer of personal data to places outside Hong Kong, except in circumstances specified in the PDPO.
Security of payment under FIDIC contracts: more secure, for now
The High Court of Singapore recently handed down an important judgment in relation to the enforceability of Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB) decisions under the FIDIC forms of contract.
Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill passed as Ordinance in India
The long-awaited Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill has become a provisional law in India. The Bill amends the Insurance Act (1938), the General Insurance Business (Naturalisation) Act (1972), and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Act (1999).
SICC: now open for business
On Monday 5 January 2015, the Singapore International Commercial Court ("SICC") was officially opened...
Myanmar insurance update
Clyde & Co partner Michael Horn recently visited Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon and reports on the current state of the insurance market...
Launch of the online mining cadastre transactional portal
Plus, a summary of the key mineral rights available in Tanzania; and, a look at the manner in which mineral rights can be transferred.
Restrictions imposed on holders of mineral rights
This briefing looks at some of the restrictions imposed on holders of mineral rights in Tanzania by the Mining Act 2010
Draft local content policy for the oil & gas industry in Tanzania
The first draft of the long-awaited local content policy for the oil & gas industry in Tanzania has now been published by the Ministry of Energy and Minerals ...
Tanzania: Revocation of mining licences
The Tanzanian government recently announced the cancellation of a total of 174 mining licences. This mining update examines the key continuing obligations imposed by the Mining Act upon mining licence holders.
Mining Development Agreements
In this month’s mining briefing we look at Mining Development Agreements (MDAs) and the role that they play in the mining sector in Tanzania.
The Tanzanian railway system: current legal framework
The railway system of mainland Tanzania has a total track length of 3,676 kilometers (km) with two separate networks, run by two separate organisations ...
Related Articles
China bans iPhone sales over Qualcomm dispute
A court in Fuzhou has moved to block sales as part of a long-running battle between Apple and Qualcomm.
Transforming busy lawyers into business leaders
Trevor Faure provides a proven approach to improve legal services in his new book.
Biggest US IP firm to open in China
Fish & Richardson has won approval to open a representative office in Shenzhen.
Related Articles by Jurisdiction
Latest Articles
The thing about … Carl Im
The brains behind eYulchon talks to Patrick Dransfield about his algorithmic approach to corporate compliance ...
New anti-money laundering law
The new law introduces subtle but important changes to the AML landscape in the UAE.