In just three taps of your finger you could have a curry or burger winging its way to your home. With the rise of technology and the growing desire for ultimate convenience it is no surprise that food delivery companies like Uber Eats and Deliveroo have grown exponentially in recent years. Across Asia, these companies have rapidly gained a foothold and just recently, it was announced that Deliveroo would be building on its success in Singapore by introducing Plus, a subscription service which allows unlimited food delivery – this answers demand as the food delivery app has revealed more than half of its customers in Singapore order three or more times every month.

The gig economy, is still considered a disrupter in many sectors, including transport (Uber, Grab) and hotels (Airbnb) but these companies are rapidly becoming integrated into the business world and people’s normal, everyday routines.

But does this also apply to professional services and the legal profession in particular?

For businesses, there is certainly growing demand for a more agile legal resource across Asia and this is where legal consulting is gaining traction. Increasingly, businesses don’t want to maintain a large in-house legal team – this can be expensive, and depending on the sector, there is not always a need for a large amount of specialist legal support. Some factors can impact this, and the business may feel the need to upscale their level of legal support. One reason to grow the legal team is, of course, an uptick in work – this can stem from factors internally – e.g. an in-house lawyer leaves or retires, or it can come externally – e.g. a change in legislation which requires significant modifications to how the business operates.

For example, in April next year, Singapore is due to see a large-scale overhaul of its employment laws – the salary cap will change, meaning higher-paid members of staff who were previously not protected by the Employment Act will now have certain employment benefits such as paid sick leave. The laws around how data is stored and protected is also an area which is evolving across Asia and requiring businesses to pay close attention to their own policies – often requiring specialist legal advice.

For sectors already used to using contractors in other areas of their business (construction or energy for example), contracting out legal services is already normalised – culturally, they’re used to using external support. For other sectors, we’re certainly seeing more companies looking to change how they use lawyers and putting an increased reliance on legal consultants.

So, on the business side, the legal gig economy is taking steps forward, but what about for the lawyers providing these services?

Societal evolution means that more lawyers are looking to work in a different way – there is more of a focus on maintaining a healthy work life balance and the traditional 9-6 working day is no longer accepted as the status quo. Technological evolution also means that the gig economy is possible for a lawyer – cloud-based IT systems and strong internet connections means lots of work can be completed remotely.

But the challenge remains in Asia for the legal sector. Although many lawyers recognise the benefits of working more flexibly, actually taking the leap to either work in a more agile way at their own firm or as a legal consultant is not happening as readily. Despite the ability to work flexibly and the acceptance it is a good idea, The Randstad Workmonitor revealed that 76% of Singaporeans agreed with the statement: “At my employer, we still work in a traditional manner; everyone works at the office during opening hours.”

However, where one sector leads, other inevitably follow and with more and more businesses becoming used to using flexible resource to ensure their companies remain agile, it is only to be expected that more and more lawyers will start to consider working in a different way. Whilst the gig economy isn’t the norm in the legal world just yet, signs certainly point in this direction.

Posted by Matthew Kay

Matthew Kay is Director of Vario, from Pinsent Masons

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