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As law firms look ahead to a future when COVID-19 is contained, many in leadership positions have taken the past year to reevaluate the way they work and the role technology plays in their organisations. Rama Tiwari, who was appointed chief executive of the Singapore Academy of Law earlier this year, offers advice about planning for the future.

 

ALB: The past year has been one of significant change for almost every industry. As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, what should lawyers and law firms be prioritising?

TIWARI: I see three key areas. First, know-how of laws in Asia. As intra-Asian trade grows, legal professionals, whether they are in-house, or practising will be in greater demand to structure deals and manage disputes. As such, they will need to build and keep current expertise to navigate cross-border legal know-how.

Second, leverage tech solutions to drive productivity. The pandemic has shown the importance of technology in doing business and managing clients/stakeholders. As companies’ step up their digitisation initiatives, businesses will look towards counsel to do the same. Counsel should consider opportunities to leverage technology to improve productivity by using technology to drive better collaboration with stakeholders as well as do routine, repetitive and low value-add work.

Third, deepen knowledge of business/industry. Clients and business stakeholders do not want to spend time explaining the industry and related business issues. They expect business solutions to drive their business goals. They are expecting lawyers to be strategic business partners to resolve business problems. To be effective business partners, lawyers need to be knowledgeable about the various business and operational models (and corresponding issues) of the industries they specialise in. In line with our mission, we will support the legal community with these. For instance, starting this year we will be shoring up Asian legal content on LawNet for law firms and in-house departments this year so that they get the knowledge they need. Beyond just increasing content, we’re also enhancing our search algorithms to make it easier than ever to discover relevant content so that counsel are more productive. We are also rolling out online learning linked to the Legal Industry Framework for Training and Education (LIFTED) competency framework in partnership with LinkedIn Learning to allow counsel to obtain actionable learning to assist them to be better business partners and obtain a better understanding of technology to drive productivity.

ALB: What are the common mistakes firms make when it comes to technology?

TIWARI: I feel firms focus on technology rather than people and processes. People are always the key to driving change. We need to understand the difficulties being faced by teams and whether these are mindset or process issues. Many factors drive mindset issues. The key is to motivate, enable, empower, and reward teams to improve and/or automate processes. Understanding whether technology purchased can provide solutions to existing problems. As we assist law firms to get tech-enabled, we often discover that they are not utilising the full potential of existing software purchased. For example, in our Lighten Up! programme, we try not to propose new technology tools and help lawyers make the most of existing tools or freeware.

We need to understand the difficulties being faced by teams and whether these are mindset or process issues... The key is to motivate, enable, empower, and reward teams to improve and/or automate processes. 

--RAMA TIWARI

ALB: What do you hope to achieve during your time in the role?

TIWARI: I am very fortunate to “inherit” a very strong organisation. SAL has a good internal team, a strong backing from the board and is supported by key members of the profession, both in the public and private sectors. Over the last 30 years, SAL has laid a strong foundation for the development of the legal sector in many areas: legal research, legal education and training, mediation, publishing, etc. I hope to continue this good work done and build on these strengths: to be in a position to enable future-ready, trusted legal professionals, which is why we have embarked on our journey of transformation and digitisation. That is my multi-year goal for SAL.

 

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