Unobjectionable improvements

Law firms use technology to enhance their service


MAY 2021 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters

The legal profession is considered to be at very low risk of being replaced by automation and artificial intelligence (AI), but that certainly does not mean that it isn’t benefitting from the advances being made in technology today. Emerging technological trends are allowing lawyers to give their clients better service than ever, even during a pandemic.

Good counsel

But, first, clients need to choose a firm that’s right for them, with expertise and experience in relevant fields. Businesses outside of Japan that are looking for assistance with their Japanese branches, for example, might turn to Charles Ochsner, head of Kellerhals Carrard Tokyo and adviser to Swiss consultancy firm CHPM.

“We focus on facilitating communication between a company’s headquarters abroad and their Japanese subsidiary,” he says. “Recently, we have been helping our clients work through the complexities of Japanese subsidy legislation, particularly in connection with the recent reduction of employees’ working time.”

Specialist firms can often offer some of the best legal advice. This can be especially true when it comes to some of the novel challenges that emerged during the pandemic.

Hirayama Law Offices is a boutique competition law firm that handles a variety of competition law matters for both domestic and international clients,” says Dr Kentaro Hirayama, managing partner. “During the Covid-19 pandemic, competing businesses suddenly had to work together to address supply shortages of certain products, a situation that raised certain questions relating to competition law. I advised my clients on how to mitigate the potential risks posed by anti-competitive cartels.”

Next-level lawyers

The global spread of Covid-19 introduced a number of logistical challenges for law firms, as well as new legal questions. Hirayama is among the many lawyers who are relying more on technology to advise clients as efficiently as possible during this time.

“Online conferencing tools are increasingly being used between clients and attorneys due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says. “I believe this will be of benefit to clients, as they will be able to schedule meetings regardless of where they are, and I will be able to advise them more quickly than before.”

Renowned Magic Circle law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has made integrating its legal expertise with technology a central part of its offering.

“We operate a legal tech lab in Berlin to develop client-centric technical solutions, including AI. This has been particularly helpful for our work defending a major client against mass claims,” says Tokyo-based partner Jochen Ellrott. “For example, an app we developed allows our lawyers to agree on intricate settlements in court within client-approved parameters.”

A set precedent

Though the increased use of technology to communicate and manage cases may have been driven by the pandemic, many, including Ellrott, expect these changes to last even after it subsides.

“The ubiquity of online meetings will certainly persist despite growing fatigue,” he says. “Virtual meeting platforms have made it easier to connect clients to experts from across our global network, enabling them to benefit from the full breadth of our service offering without needing to use inefficient and damaging air travel.”

The growing embrace of digital solutions promises better and more individualised service for clients.

“People’s mindsets are changeable, and they tend to progressively accept new technologies. Adopting new technologies ourselves has helped us to further improve our personalised approach to helping our clients,” says Ochsner of Kellerhals Carrard Tokyo and CHPM. “We are open-minded about the new tools available, while always keeping confidentiality at the forefront of our minds. We believe these new tools will remain widely used after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.”

Technology may never replace the legal profession, but it will continue to help lawyers raise the bar in terms of the quality of service they can provide.