At Rajah & Tann, digital is a critical part of the future for the legal sector

 |   Singapore News Center

Ong Ba Sou, Director of Technology; Rajesh Sreenivasan, Head of Technology, Media and Communications; and Leong Lu Yueh, Deputy Head, Funds and Investment Management at Rajah & Tann discussing how technology can be introduced to improve the legal workflow

In today’s business environment, disruption has become the norm for every industry, and the legal sector is no exception. Along with the rise of office automation and the use of communications and productivity software, there is a wave of legal technologies sweeping across the sector offering intelligent tools to assist with the review of legal documents. This is putting pressure on the legal sector to be more efficient and responsive in the digital age.

While adopting new technologies to drive greater efficiency and responsiveness is a clear-cut way ahead for most firms, Rajah & Tann – one of the largest legal networks in Southeast Asia and China with over 1,000 lawyers and staff across the region – decided to take a step back and look at technology strategically before going full steam ahead to digitally transform the firm.

“Digital transformation is a critical part of the future, not just for Rajah and Tann, but for the legal profession as a whole. What we’re seeing here is not the early days where one can just buy a piece of software or hardware and install it. It’s a question of looking at technology strategically to see how it can be introduced to improve the legal workflow and processes,” said Rajesh Sreenivasan, Head of Technology, Media and Communications, Rajah & Tann.

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“By studying our own existing legal deliverables – the way we interact with clients and the way we work together as a firm – as well as asking how can technology change and make us more efficient, how can it help us bring the cost of providing legal services to a more manageable level, and how we can use technology in a way that improves our work flow, this will help us to bring in technology in ways that will make the lives of our lawyers much better than they were before,” added Sreenivasan.

Streamlining the document-heavy legal workflow with Office 365

Map of R&T footprint across Asia
Rajah & Tann’s footprint across 10 different countries in Asia

Operating in 10 jurisdictions across Asia, Rajah & Tann faced a number of logistical and operational challenges in a bid to work efficiently to deliver consistent and high-quality services to clients across borders. This mooted the company to look at leveraging the cloud, as well as software with the ability to help its team of lawyers work across borders while integrating into the legal workflow.

With the legal workflow being very document-heavy, Rajah & Tann wanted a productivity solution that is built on a secure foundation that can be easily integrated with its current document management solutions and other plugins, in order to convince its lawyers to move away from paper and towards a digital future. Hence, they turned to their IT partner, Alfa Connections for a suitable solution.

“When Rajah & Tann wanted to move to a cloud solution, we collectively looked at options that had the ability to preserve data for an infinite period of time, and the ability to enable staff to communicate with internal and external parties via instant messaging (IM). With Microsoft Office 365’s Litigation Hold that enabled the company to preserve their data and allowed customers to perform eDiscovery in the event of legal action being taken, it emerged as the ideal solution for Rajah & Tann. Additionally, its Skype for Business communication tool enables employees to communicate with internal and external parties, making them more productive and facilitating communication and collaboration,” Alfred Wang, Solutions Consulting Manager at Alfa Connections.

Moving to Microsoft’s Office 365 was hence the first step that the firm took to enable its staff to work better and more efficiently with various third parties, while improving the legal workflow.

OneNote Application on an Ipad
Sreenivasan using OneNote in the Office 365 productivity suite to consolidate his notes and thoughts for a customer meeting

Improving communications and enhancing collaboration across borders

Beyond document integration, Office 365 also gave Rajah & Tann’s lawyers and staff the ability to communicate with internal and external parties more efficiently across platforms and devices through Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams, enhancing the ability of the firm to operate more effectively across teams and geographical borders.

“Because Office 365 is in the cloud, my lawyers and my staff can access it from anywhere on any device, which offers a whole lot of work flexibility for them to access their emails, read their documents and do more on-the-go. Within Office 365, we also use the Skype for Business tool very extensively to communicate with our clients and for our internal meetings with fellow colleagues,” Ong Ba Sou, Director of Technology, Rajah & Tann.

Staff using the Skype for Business on a laptop
Rajah & Tann staff using Skype for Business within the Office 365 productivity suite, to communicate more efficiency with their colleagues, customers and partners

Leong Lu Yueh, Deputy Head, Funds and Investment Management, Rajah & Tann, recalled a recent example when the Office 365 platform enabled her to be more responsive to her team members while on a business trip. “My team could send me screenshots of what they needed me to review and I could respond very quickly through Microsoft Teams,” she said.

“Additionally, the multi-platform abilities of Office 365 were great as I’ve got Android devices, iPad, iPhone and Windows 10 laptops. Hence it was easy for me to pick up any one of my devices at any point in time and continue from where I’ve left off before. I also liked being able to access attachments much faster through the Outlook mobile app, switch between email and the calendar on mobile and open documents using the mobile Office apps. Once, when I was on vacation, I actually drafted a letter for a client on an urgent basis while standing on the streets of Tokyo, which was pretty amazing for me. Hence, the experience has been great for me so far,” added Leong.

Microsoft Teams app on a mobile device
Leong responding to her team members using Microsoft Teams while on-the-go

Digital transformation unlocks new opportunities for multi-disciplinary services

With Office 365 now forming the productivity backbone of Rajah & Tann, this paves the way for the firm to discover fresh new ways of using technology to change the way it provides legal services in the future – the first of which is the setting up of Rajah & Tann Technologies.

As a separate, standalone unit that brings together both lawyers and technologists, including people such as cybersecurity experts, e-discovery experts and more to come up with brand new solutions, new revenue streams, as well as multi-disciplinary areas of work that never existed before for the company, Rajah & Tann Technologies is poised to be the new kid on the block that leads the firm’s charge into the age of multi-disciplinary services.

”We feel that this is the next step – the age of multidisciplinary services with legal and technical expertise combined into one. This is how legal services will transform and continue to stay relevant in Singapore and internationally,” Sreenivasan concluded.