International Law Associations Roundtable on Legal Innovation

On 6 November 2019, the Working Group on the InnoTech Law Hub of the InnoTech Committee (“InnoTech Law Hub”) held a community roundtable for representatives of the Law Society of Hong Kong and overseas law associations to exchange insights on legal innovation (“Overseas Roundtable”). 13 representatives from the Law Society of England and Wales, the French National Bar Council, the Malaysian Bar Council, the Law Society of New South Wales, the Law Society of Singapore, and the Dongguan Lawyers Association together with representatives from the Law Society of Hong Kong attended the roundtable. The InnoTech Law Hub has convened five other community roundtables in 2019, focusing on innovation issues relating to private practitioners, in-house lawyers, legal academics, young members, and small and medium-sized firms.

The InnoTech Law Hub presented the results of the "2019 Innovation Value Chain Survey", which was conducted among members of the Law Society of Hong Kong (“the Survey”). The response rate of the Survey was comparable to those of other surveys conducted by the Law Society, and the respondents’ backgrounds were diverse and representative. The survey results showed various levels of resource commitment to innovation by legal teams, which led to an interesting discussion in the Overseas Roundtable. In the survey responses, most private practitioners relied on software vendors for technological support, while some relied on external consultants. By contrast, most in-house lawyers relied 

on internal professional help, such as project managers and legal operations specialists, and only some relied on external consultants. There are significant numbers of respondents who either: are unaware of their enterprise approach to adopting technological solutions; have adopted no solution in the past 12 months, or have no plan to adopt any solution in the next 12 months. A comprehensive analysis of the Survey was published in “Survey Results: Innovation Priorities of Law Society Members” (Hong Kong Lawyer, December 2019).

During the Overseas Roundtable, representatives from overseas law associations shared their innovative initiatives and experiences. Everyone agreed that implementation is very challenging, and the key to success is to ground strategies on practical solutions and stakeholder consultation. Several law associations have committees, like the InnoTech Committee, dedicated to innovation and technology issues, and some have even hired permanent teams of 10 to 25 professionals to staff innovation projects. The adoption of technologies, including e-filing, e-hearing, and e-conveyancing, by overseas judiciaries and government agencies, have provided a top-down impetus to innovation projects among certain foreign legal professions. Attendees were grappling with the development of suitable policies on data protection, cloud storage, and client confidentiality, especially where third-party data processors and vendors were involved. Attendees also highlighted other common areas of concerns among their members, including funding and budgeting of innovation projects; and finding appropriate expertise.

The insights shared in the Overseas Roundtable showed that lawyers overseas had adopted a diverse range of approaches to innovation initiatives, considering the various international and domestic drivers in effect in each jurisdiction. The InnoTech Law Hub has studied these insights in the further implementation of the Law Society Technology Roadmap, and in rolling out the Law Society’s joint programme with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park Global Acceleration Academy. In 2020, the InnoTech Law Hub will continue to enhance the legal profession’s technological competence by further developing our community of innovation champions and understanding our members’ priorities and needs for innovation.

Reported by Sebastian Ko and Joyce Chow, respectively Chairman and member of the Working Group of the InnoTech Law Hub, InnoTech Committee.

Representatives from seven jurisdictions exchanging ideas on legal innovation.