As Asia begins to open up, the pressure is on for law firms to bounce back strongly with a game plan. And they can count on law firm networks, which have supported their members in reaching across closed borders and tapping into technology solutions to ensure firms can best serve their clients’ needs.
Gordon Vala-Webb, senior advisor, Technology and Innovation at LexMundi tells Asian Legal Business that during the pandemic, law firm networks have stepped up to ensure their clients can function smoothly across these tumultuous times.
“Our member firms — directly and through their inter-connections — have been helping clients deal with the multiple cross-jurisdiction questions that have arisen as a result of COVID-19. Lex Mundi has worked to accelerate firms’ pivot to working fully digitally through sharing experiences and best practices,” Vala-Webb says.
Part of this involved ensuring firms were offered a wealth of tools and information, at a time when traditional ways of conducting business was fundamentally challenged.
“Getting good information on COVID-related legal changes was challenging for everyone — so we added an AI-based technology to our website which assembles in real-time the latest COVID-19 legal updates from our member firms across 150 jurisdictions,” he adds.
“We also launched Equisphere, through which clients can have a bespoke legal team knit together using technology, agile work methodology, and professional account management. Equisphere gives member firms a compelling and differentiating story to tell their clients.”
For those with access to a law firm network, tried and tested reinforcements have remained close at hand throughout the pandemic.
“Every firm has ‘friends’ and/or offices — what makes the difference is the quality of those firms/offices and how well they work together to meet the specific needs of clients across multiple jurisdictions,” Vala-Webb says, adding that network member firms are “of the highest quality.”
In the case of Lex Mundi, this quality is maintained by regular reviews against a published set of service standards.
“With Equisphere, member firms have a way to open an entirely new dialogue with their clients about how these leading firms use technology, agile work methodology, and account management to deliver value. In addition, Lex Mundi supports our member firms with a variety of programs to enhance the firms’ operating excellence such as developing a client feedback capability, training senior associates on cross-border transactions, and being made aware of innovative solutions available in the legal technology marketplace,” he adds.
In Asia, markets are slowly reopening, but every jurisdiction faces a slightly different challenge.
“With COVID, but also other pressures such as geopolitical realignment, clients face a rapidly changing environment with extraordinary complexity. As a result, they need both expert local advice combined with efficient coordination and delivery of those legal services,” says Vala-Webb.
“Simply being a network of firms is not enough,” he says, adding that this was the motivation behind building Equisphere as a tool for clients to design their bespoke international legal team.
“It combines the best lawyers in the jurisdictions that match their unique footprint with collaborative technology, lean-agile work methodologies and professional account management,” he says, noting that this is backed up through “a rigorous selection and membership review process”, in addition with practice standards which outline how clients can expect member firms to work together.
“The priorities in a COVID and — hopefully, soon-to-be post-COVID world — is really an acceleration of previous trends: leveraging digital technologies to enhance the collaboration and coordination of people and work, searching for and applying new models for doing the work itself, and improving the processes for understanding and delivering ‘value’ for clients within their business context.”
— Gordon Vala-Webb, Lex Mundi
As businesses head into a new year — and one where they still face much ambiguity — strategy will be a priority. 2020 may have been about survival, but 2021 will be about rebounding and moving forward. For firms everywhere, the big question, says Vala-Webb, is “how can clients be best served?”
“The priorities in a COVID and — hopefully, soon-to-be post-COVID world — is really an acceleration of previous trends: leveraging digital technologies to enhance the collaboration and coordination of people and work, searching for and applying new models for doing the work itself, and improving the processes for understanding and delivering ‘value’ for clients within their business context,” he explains.
Vala-Webb says that firms will need to hit the ground running in the new year.
“Thoughtfully leveraging new digital technologies and being generally innovative to better meet clients’ needs will be critical for all firms in 2021,” he says.
In response to this climate, Lex Mundi’s focused Technology and Innovative programme is aimed at accelerating the uptake of innovative technologies and techniques by member firms, says Vala-Webb, explaining that this will help firms to build their abilities to innovative “and understanding of the tech options available to them”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly rendered the once common in-person meeting almost impossible in some cases — and in 2020, the term “meeting” typically means online, via Zoom or Skype. But while physical meetings and travel are restricted, legal networks are still supporting firms to improve client relationships.
“The launch of Lex Mundi’s Equisphere provides member firms with a compelling value proposition they can bring to their clients,” Vala-Webb says, noting that the firm’s Global Markets team is working with member firms to ensure clients understand how they can continue to provide top-notch support as the world rapidly changes.
Of course, heightened awareness around digitalisation as a critical capability has been another symptom of the pandemic. Vala-Webb notes that developing new online tools which support clients to understand the risks and legal issues they face around the world has been a focus for the firm.
“There is a set of Global Practice Guides that GCs can tailor a report to their organization’s footprint across various legal topics such as anti-corruption, ASEAN intellectual property, and employment law,” says Vala-Webb.
“The Lex Mundi Horizon Scan Tool allows corporate legal functions to anticipate and proactively respond to regulatory challenges in the jurisdictions where they operate. It provides a risk mapping matched to client’s geographic footprint,” he explains.
Looking ahead to the new year, the law firm network has ramped up collaborative projects — including working with legal services consulting firm Elevate as its strategic advisor.
“Their multi-disciplinary team of legal professionals, business professionals, and technology professionals will be helping us further develop our market position and innovative service delivery model,” Vala-Webb says.
Within this, Lex Mundi is running a “global ‘strategy jam’ using an online ideation platform — focused on younger lawyers and innovators from our member firms — to develop new ideas we can incorporate into our strategic plan and to being to implement in 2021,” says Vala-Webb.
This will involve Lex Mundi using the platform to run a series of innovation challenges throughout the year in order to “tap into the collective creativity of our 22,000 lawyers; we plan to identify new ways for our firms to work together and for new products/services that can delivery greater value to clients. Some of these ideas will be incorporated into Equisphere 2.0 as we work to expand and deepen this offering,” he says.
“And we will be repeating our member-only Innovative Solutions Showcase where member firms are introduced to the rising stars of legal tech and share the best of what they are doing,” Vala-Webb adds.
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