Crossover Community Roundtable for SME Law Firms
In November 2019, the Working Group on InnoTech Law Hub (the “Hub”) and the Working Party for SME Firms (the “SME Firm Working Party”) co-hosted, at the Law Society function room, the first joint community roundtable on law and technology. The event aimed to address the difficulties of implementing technology in small medium sized (“SME”) law firms, which is an issue central to the Law Society’s Technology Roadmap. Over 30 partners and associates from SME law firms attended to contribute to the possible implementation of technology into their practice.
The event kicked off with a short speech by Mr. Simon Ip, Chairman of the SME Firm Working Party. Ms. Careen Wong, Council Member and Vice-Chairlady of the SME Firm Working Party, provided an overview of overseas reports on technology adoption by legal practitioners, including England and Wales, and the need to establish a community of small medium sized law firms interested in leveraging technology in their practices. Mr. Sebastian Ko, Chairman of the Hub and member of the InnoTech Committee, introduced past initiatives of the InnoTech Committee and the Hub, including the Access to Justice and Belt & Road Justice Hackathons, and the recent partnership with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park.
There were 3 rounds of small-group breakout discussions. The first of which was designed to chart how participants conceptualise innovative technologies (“innotech”). The participants showed awareness of software designed to improve precedent know-how, discovery processes and provision of sample agreements. However, the participants also expressed “cost-benefit” concerns, including the needs to upskill staff, hiring new staff experienced with innotech, obtain support from partners, and update / upgrade regular software and hardware.
In the second round of discussions, participants were asked to list out 3 areas where their professional practice and management could be improved by innotech. These included better solutions for recording time and billing, document storage and management, and legal research. Participants expressed needs for solutions that adapt to human error and that auto-generate and check documents for mistakes.
The final round of discussions centred on the advantages of Hong Kong as a jurisdiction to become a leader in the development of innotech. As a professional association, the Law Society of Hong Kong aims to promote development of innotech that would meet the needs of solicitors. Participants expressed high demand for basic software, signalling ample opportunity for innovators to test their solutions. They also asked about the Law Society of Hong Kong’s Software Directory and Selection Guide for law firms, which can be accessed at this link: https://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/mem/download/attachment.asp?issue=19-176a1.pdf
The event has been a fruitful sharing, among other things, the results of the 2019 Innovation Value Chain Survey (a detailed analysis can be found here: http://www.hk-lawyer.org/content/survey-results-innovation-priorities-law-society-members). We would like to thank all participants who joined the Roundtable and the event organisers. We look forward to feedback from participants and Law Society members on their technology needs, and to continuing collaboration with the SME Firm Working Party.