By GABEY GOH
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian law firms must adopt technology solutions to better manage and serve their clients, or risk being left out.
"It is timely for local firms to tap into the benefits technology can offer the legal profession," said Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department.
"While it would be a costly exercise initially, it will certainly be worth it in the long run," he said.
Liew was speaking at the launch of LegalTech Forum 2012, a two-day conference and exhibition on the use of technology in legal processes and proceedings, hosted at the Putra World Trade Centre.
The case for technology upgrades has become particularly pressing with the recent passing of the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2012 by the Dewan Rakyat, which aims to liberalise the legal profession and build Malaysia into an international Islamic financial hub.
This means foreign law firms will soon be allowed to open offices here and foreign lawyers can practice in the country, increasing the level of competition for Malaysian lawyers and law firms.
Liew pointed out that when international law firms start setting up offices here, they will bring not just their expertise, but technology as well. "This is why local firms must ensure that they are able to collaborate and compete with these new players," he said.
He said the courts here have already moved to adopt technology solutions, giving the implementation of the court e-filing system in March 2011 as an example.
Change is in the air
The overall environment of the legal industry and mindset of its practitioners is one of comfort, some pundits believe.
"For too long the legal industry has been comfortable in doing things the same way, (so much so) that many don't see the need to innovate," said Joycelyn Ng, managing director of event organiser JFPS Group Malaysia.
But the tide is changing, she said, as demonstrated by the bulk of queries about the LegalTech Forum coming from local firms and practitioners.
"Many of our exhibitors, including Konica Minolta and ServTouch, were delighted at the opportunity to showcase their solutions, specifically to legal practitioners, because there has been no platform for them to do so previously," Ng said.
She shared that the field of data management has been of particular significance. "This technology is especially important for the smaller law firms, which are less familiar with such systems and rely heavily on staff hired solely for maintaining a manual system for storing and tracking documents," she said.
"The need to retain such staff with knowledge on how your company's entire data management system works can turn out to be a costlier exercise than digitising the whole process," she added.
According to her, the inaugural LegalTech event has had much positive response, with global vendors and regional buyers expected to complete transactions worth more than US$20mil (RM60mil) on the premises before it ends on June 15.
Thirty-two exhibitors are showcasing their solutions at the event, and so far some 2,500 visitors have passed through its doors.