In-house technology in Asia Pacific: zero sum gain

Legal tech is becoming big business in the Asia Pacific region, so much so that the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) has opened a legal tech accelerator. But much of the industry’s focus remains on selling to law firms. For GCs and in-house legal teams, making sense of the myriad systems can be a daunting task.

It is no surprise then that GCs would like to see law firms doing more to help them make sense of the market. While more than half of respondents to our survey (62%) said their external firms were using technology to deliver legal services, under a quarter (23%) said their firms had offered to share information on how technology might benefit their legal team’s operations.

‘Law firms need to demonstrate the value to in-house teams of adopting technological solutions’, noted one respondent, a Hong Kong-based legal manager at an international consumer goods company. ‘Right now, I think the focus of law firms is using technology to improve their bottom line rather than creating value for clients.’

Another respondent, an Indonesia-based head of legal at a large insurance provider, added: ‘It would be great if the external firm could also offer the service of helping in-house teams find the right legal tech solution for their team. They are often far more aware of the trends and services being used in the market so this would really help us understand things.’

Given the clear client demand, it is surprising that law firms are not seeing the opportunity here. Then again, law firms themselves may have a lot to learn. Just 22% of respondents were satisfied with the technology being used by their external firms.

Law firms should take this dissatisfaction seriously – 94% of respondents said it was important for law firms to keep up with new technologies, while 59% said they had started assessing their firms’ use of technology as part of their formal panel review process.

The incentive for law firms is clear. While legal tech is often seen as a disintermediator, disruptor or challenger to the established order, it does not have to be treated as a zero-sum game. As Susan Cattell, senior legal operations manager at Australian financial services company AMP, notes: ‘Clients and law firms have to work together to ensure the right tech solutions have been put into place and that they benefit both parties.’

GC magazine teamed up with World Services Group to survey over 100 of Asia Pacific’s leading general counsel. We asked them about everything from the impact of Covid-19 on the legal team’s efficiency to their use of AI, how they find the right software, and their expectations of outside counsel when it comes to technology. For more, go to