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This year’s FT Innovative Lawyers Report for Asia-Pacific 2021 was recently published; it features the most future-ready law firms, and here is what stood out for me in the report.

Where lawyers in many countries lagged behind, Australian firms have consistently been as innovative as the most progressive firms in the UK. So, it’s not surprising that they continue to excel in this area, with Australian firm King & Wood Mallesons rising to the top of the Asia-Pacific ranks.

Trends in Australian legal practices

Legal practices and in-house departments around the globe experienced an accelerated digital transformation along with their companies, while lawyers experienced pressure to keep up with business innovation.

In addition to the challenges of working remotely, lawyers continue to encounter increasingly complex challenges such as climate change, labor rights, and cross-border deals through geopolitical tensions. Plus, firms have been pressing their lawyers to work more collaboratively and across disciplines.

There is rising internal pressure on lawyers to cut costs and shift from billable hours due to changing client demands. This is driving the digital automation of many routine legal tasks, enabling lawyers to be more deliberate in their advice.

Plus, clients expect lawyers to understand their business sector more deeply before working with them to ensure efficiency when providing legal services and counsel.

Law and technology in Australia

The FT's report cited many examples of Australian firms and in-house legal departments leveraging technology to meet these challenges while driving efficiencies:

King & Wood Mallesons was cited as a prime example of lawyers racing to keep up with the pace of business innovation while working around COVID-19’s accelerated digital transformation. During that time, they created the legal standardisation required for the first digital bank guarantee in Australia. Lockdown safety measures prevented the use of paper guarantees, so the firm worked with Lygon, a consortium of three top Australian banks, to create a digital version utilising blockchain technology. The result is a new business model for the issuance of guarantees. Plus, the time it takes to issue a guarantee is now a single day where it used to take an entire month! This multidisciplinary project engaged lawyers of differing specialities working with bankers, data scientists, and digital engineers.

Sara Rayment, a lawyer who trained at King & Wood Mallesons before setting up her legal design law firm in Australia, helped make legal documentation easier to understand and more consumer-friendly by leveraging technology.

Chevron Australia created a “tech café” model similar to Apple’s Genius Bar. The café went virtual during the pandemic, giving employees easy access to experts while working remotely.

Effective knowledge management is key to success

For all of these requirements and examples to go smoothly, based on the FT report and my extensive experience, effective knowledge management and automation are essential.

Easy access to knowledge across specialities and the entire organisation is key, with minimal time spent searching for specific information, examples, or subject matter experts.

Secure sharing and communications, both internally and between collaborating organisations, is important to avoid miscommunications and keep everyone in the loop at all times.

Plus, easy access to information, even after someone leaves the team, is critical, so legacy or historical knowledge is never lost.

Law firms and in-house legal teams who leverage technology to facilitate effective knowledge management gain a competitive advantage while working at peak efficiency.

If you enjoyed this report, you might also be interested in the research we conducted into Making Knowledge Work.

About the author

Gianni Giust

Based in Brisbane, experienced senior business leader, Gianni Giust lead's the iManage business in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for working closely with the thriving regional iManage partner community and a rapidly growing regional customer base