33 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – AUGUST 2023 ROUNDTABLE It’s clear, also, that the market is moving rapidly. suppliers are ‘GenAIing’ their products while, on the risk side, noise continues around IP concerns, in particular copyright and the safe use of any generated text. We assembled a GenAI Evaluation Team earlier this year to rapidly survey, evaluate and safely test GenAI products emerging in the market that are suitable for legal work. Jenkins: Ashurst already uses AI tools in our newLaw digital and data solutions, including scanning documents and filtering content. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT have the potential to influence the way lawyers work in the future significantly. We recently ran an “AI Challenge” to engage staff across our global network to come up with innovative ideas for the use of AI tools, offering a cash prize for the winning entry. We received a great response, with close to 200 submissions across the firm. Three shortlisted participants from around the world have been chosen to work with Ashurst’s digitisation experts to prepare a business case and short presentation for the firm’s executive team for consideration. Sieker: Innovation has always been an integral part of Baker McKenzie’s DnA. As the original legal disruptor, we have been piloting OpenAI’s GPT series and other large language or foundation models since well before the release of ChatGPT when other firms and industry players started to take notice. There is no doubt that AI will have a transformative impact on the legal industry. In our view, the real opportunity is to combine machine learning with other things like prompt engineering, enterprise data, web data mining and expert validation, and to join all these things up in a workflow focused on generating solutions for clients. Robertson: We recognise that technology is essential for our firm’s growth and have been investing heavily in legal technology for the past few years to enable our people to work flexibly, with the right tools to support their needs. For instance, we partnered earlier this year with the digital estate planning platform WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM Zenplans to offer our clients a secure place to hold their digital information and share it with family members and executors as needed. We are currently piloting the use of this system in the UK, aiming to make it available across other offices in the future. We believe that AI will play a critical role in the legal sector, and we are looking closely at the needs of our clients and how the current generation of AI tools might help us meet them more efficiently. Equally importantly, we recognise that there are risks to consider and mitigate when adopting AI, including data privacy and security (especially with sensitive client information), bias (if the data the AI tool uses is biased/inaccurate), and overreliance on AI. ALB: What is the firm’s growth strategy for the Asian market in the next five years? Are their sectors/practice areas that are of particular interest? D’Agostino: Our Asia practice has achieved a great deal in the past three years – through talent development and key hires and strengthening our highly valued associate firm network. We’re now well-placed for further growth, and our ambition is for the region to contribute to 20 percent of the firm’s revenue by 2027. From here, that means investing smartly but boldly in people and practices – in Southeast Asia and Japan to match our China presence, and our priority areas of private capital, energy transition and tech. Jenkins: While we anticipate growth across the globe, Asia has been identified as a priority region for investment. We have grown our revenue in Asia by nearly 10 percent year-on-year over the last five years, and are planning to see this type of growth continue. Strengthening our platform in Asia and expanding in line with client demand will be a continued focus in the year ahead. Sieker: Asia continues to be a bright spot amid the economic slowdown in the West. The region’s role as a manufacturing powerhouse has benefited ASEAN, particularly markets such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, which businesses see as alternative manufacturing hubs as they gravitate toward a “China plus One” diversification strategy. We foresee that Southeast Asia will continue to be a key investment destination, not only for ASEAN countries but also for other economies such as the U.S., Japan and China. We expect that China and the Greater Bay Area (GBA) will continue to be a major area of focus for many businesses, particularly those in the financial services, technology, healthcare and real estate sectors. We have reorientated our firm to ensure we are supporting businesses as they seek opportunities across this vast area. The fintech and energy transition momentum continues to pick up pace in Asia, benefiting our financial services, funds/investment management, projects and sustainability practices. Another growth area for our firm is regulatory compliance, where rising regulatory enforcement and increased demand from consumers and investors to focus on related issues are propelling companies to seek outside counsel to help them comply with changing requirements and disclosure obligations. Robertson: Our aim is to grow our Asia revenues from currently over a 1/5th of total global revenues and profits to around a 1/3rd of total global revenues and profits. Hence, our focus in Asia is to grow our existing offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo with a focus on hiring lawyers for private capital and serving families, family offices, funds, founders and fiduciaries in the digital and physical worlds. Key sectors in the Asian market, such as technology, real estate, international litigation and arbitration, as well as restructuring and insolvency, will remain front and centre on Withers’ radar. Withers is also focused on Withers tech, our global venture capital and technology legal practice serving disruptors and innovators in the technology and life sciences sectors. The firm will bank on its expertise in domestic and international tax. Over 40 percent of our partners (over 220 globally) are international tax specialists.