As 60% of the world’s new internet users are now located in the Asia-Pacific region, the intersection of the internet and legal services in Asia is becoming more important every year. Notably, as Siam Legal Tech Center details on their website, the ASEAN region has in recent years seen “double digit growth in all digital segments including internet penetration, social media usage and mobile connectivity”.
As a result, online legal services in the region have blossomed – with legal tech startup entrepreneurs making significant headway in developing ground-breaking new technology-driven platforms to help facilitate legal efficiency for lawyers and greater access to legal services for consumers.
At the same time, law firms and barristers’ chambers continue to adapt and change to meet the challenges of these new competitors and the new normal in legal services delivery.
881 Billion USD is invested annually in Asia-Pacific region infrastructure on a large variety of projects in energy, bridges and roads, high speed rail, airports and more. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) alone represents 9 Billion USD invested in almost 50 projects, as Jocelyn Oh of TMF Group details in Mondaq.
With these major regional trends in mind, here’s the 2020 edition of Asia Law Portal’s annual 30 people to watch in the business of law in Asia:
- June Low, Founder, EasyLaw, Petaling Jaya, Kota Damansara, Malaysia – In 2016, Low founded EasyLaw. The app is now used by 1 out of 4 lawyers in Malaysia. In an interview with Asia Law Portal, she detailed the story of this remarkable legal startup and what inspired her to pursue a career in legal tech.
- Itaya Ryuhei, Founder & CEO, MNTSQ Ltd, Tokyo, Japan– Established in November, 2018 to develop “LegalTech as social infrastructure of the future” – MNTSQ now provides law firms with legal due diligence efficiency services. In October, 2019, MNTSQ Ltd parent company PKSHA Technology Inc announced a strategic alliancewith elite Japanese law firm Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu.
- Izwan Zakaria, Managing Partner, Izwan & Partners, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Izwan Zakaria founded Izwan & Partners in 2019, where he made a bold decision to focus exclusively on providing legal advice to technology companies, startups, and investors. He describes what makes representing technology companies and startups different from other brick and mortar companies, in this recent interview with Asia Law Portal.
- Aman Abbas, Co-founder and CEO, Commwiser. New Delhi, India — Commwiser is a Delhi-based consultancy focused on public relations and law firm marketing. Abbas’ two decades of experience in public relations and communications in professional services includes work with Amarchand Mangaldas, India’s largest Law firm and Big4 accounting firm KPMG, as the Head of Corporate Communications. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Abbas analyzed the state of the business of law in India.
- Irma Surya, Founder and CEO, Plato, Jakarta, Indonesia – In 2018, Irma Surya founded PLATO, a “one-stop-shop legal platform” focused on helping small businesses navigate Indonesia’s legal landscape. A lawyer with extensive experience assisting businesses expand in Indonesia, Surya detailed what inspired her to found PLATO and what’s in store for the company’s future in this recent interview with Asia Law Portal.
- Katherine Thomas, CEO, Free Range Lawyers, Perth, Australia – Free Range Lawyers was founded in 2019 to help empower remote working lawyers and law firms seeking flexible work arrangements. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Thomas details the inspiration behind — and the future plans for — this groundbreaking legal services company.
- Alex Solo, Co-founder at Sprintlaw, Sydney, Australia – In 2017, lawyer and entrepreneur Solo co-founded Sprintlaw, a tech-enabled legal startup based in Australia – whose focus is providing cost effective and efficient legal services to small businesses and startups. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, he explains the inspiration for Sprintlaw’sfounding and what they have planned for the future.
- Kailash Panday, Founder, LexpertEase, Nepal – LexpertEase is Nepal’s first and only legal tech platform. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Panday explains the firm’s focus and what inspired its’ founding, how technology is impacting Nepal’s legal market, LexpertEase’ local and international services offer and its’ goals for the future, the focus of his own legal practice, and what inspired him to become a legal startup entrepreneur.
- Lee Shih – Managing Partner, Lim Chee Wee Partnership, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Lee Shih is a veteran dispute resolution lawyer and a noted legal blogger. He is a co-founder of TheMalaysianLawyer.com and regularly provides unique analysis on the business of law in the Malaysian legal market on Twitter.
- Roy Ang – Head of Business Development & Marketing (Asia-Pacific), WithersWorldwide, Singapore — In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Ang explained how he helped quadruple the media mention of Withers and its partners in Singapore within 4 years, the importance of publishing for legal business development and marketing professionals, what inspired him to pursue a career in legal business development and marketing, the key challenges and opportunities for law firms in the Asia-Pacific region from 2020 onwards, and his advice for anyone aspiring to a career in legal marketing and business development in the Asia-Pacific region. In April, Ang authored: Executing your law firm business development plans during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Zia Mody, Founder and Managing Partner at AZB & Partners, Mumbai, India — Founded less than 25 years ago with 12 lawyers, AZB & Partners has grown to more than 450 lawyers practicing in offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Pune. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Mody outlined the history of the firm, opportunities for foreign investors in India, her thoughts on the country’s competitive legal market and how law students might prepare for a future legal career.
- Sreypeou Chaing, Managing Partner, CSP & Associates and Legal Advisor, Cambodia Startup Advisers, Phnom Penh, Cambodia – In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Chaing detailed the current startup environment in Cambodia, including what venture capital investors should be thinking about when investing in Cambodian startups, the work of Cambodia Startup Advisors, and the changing competitive climate for law firms in the country, including the impact of legal tech.
- Rieke Caroline, Founding CEO, KontrakHukum, Jakarta, Indonesa – KontrakHukum, as Indonesia Tatler reported, is “a digital platform focused on protecting the business-legal side of small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Rieke Caroline explained in Tech in Asia that she founded KontrakHukum “with the aim[of making] legal services more reachable to…society at large, thus in the long run [helping make] legal services…[not something that’s] viewed as ‘exclusive’”.
- Daniel Lui, Co-Founder, LawTech Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia has long been a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in the legal services sector in the Asia-Pacific region. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Lui explained the state of legal innovation in Malaysia in 2020.
- Zolzaya Mundur, CEO, Codelex LegalTech, Mongolia – Codelex is a legaltech company focused on augmentation, enhancement & streamlining of legal practice. Its’ projects include: -eLawyer.mn: First practice management software for the Mongolian market; -www.lexub.com: A lawyer-to-lawyer document marketplace; and -CodeLex (Phase I): Sentiment-based court decision prediction system. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Mundur explained: “The end-goal intent of Lexub is to create the largest library of real legal document examples, across jurisdictions, languages and categories.”
- Aparna Bundro, Director of Practice Development, DesVoeux Chambers, Hong Kong – In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Bundro explained how her background as a lawyer helped her transition into legal marketing and business development, the difference between marketing for a barrister’s chambers versus a commercial law firm and the current state of marketing and business development for barristers chambers.
- Hoang Minh Duc, Special Counsel, Duane Morris, Hanoi, Vietnam – Author of Vietnam Startup Law blog, he recently explained to Asia Law Portal what unique opportunities and challenges Vietnam offers to startups and venture capital investors – and what the Vietnamese Government is doing to help encourage Vietnam’s startup ecosystem.
- Narae Lee, General Counsel of Blockchain Accelerator Blockcrafters, and Organizer of Seoul Legal Hackers, Seoul, Korea — In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Lee explained the current state of legal entrepreneurship in South Korea and the role of Seoul Legal Hackers in that ecosystem; the current state of blockchain in South Korea, legal tech and legal entrepreneurship as an alternative career path; and how the practice of law in South Korea will be changed by technology over the next ten years.
- Kert Stavorn, Founder, Siam Legal Tech Center, Bangkok, Thailand – In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Stavorn explained the current state of legal tech and innovation in Thailand, including what inspired the founding of the Siam Legal Tech Center and its’ mission, what the Siam Legal Alliance Blockchain Portalis and its recent launch at the World Justice Forum at The Hague, what inspired him to focus on legal tech and startups, his background as a lawyer with Interchange Legaland his thoughts on legal blogging as a regular blogger at Jungle Technologist.
- Sacha Kirk, Co-Founder & CMO, Lawcadia, Brisbane, Australia – Kirk explained in a recent interview with Asia Law Portal what inspired Lawcadia’s founding, its’ services offer, the details of its’ recent funding round, its geographic focus and future goals, the unique role of the legal startup CMO, her predictions for the future of legal startups in the Asia-Pacific region, and advice for aspiring legal startup entrepreneurs.
- Maria Sagrado, Partner, Makarim & Taira S., Jakarta, Indonesia – In December, 2019, Sagrado told Asia Law Portal: “For Indonesia, Mr. Jokowi Widodo [in the second round of his presidency] remains committed to continuing the Government’s infrastructure development program until 2024, [where] we can expect the development of road, railway lines, airports and ports, as well as power plants in different areas of Indonesia in the coming years…All these projects may be well supported by the plan of the Government to revise the Investment Negative List that would give more room for foreign investment in various sectors…”
- Queenie Chong, CEO and Co-Founder, Memori, Brunei– Online legacy planning platform Memorihelps customers engage certified professionals to write their wills. Chong told Biz Brunei that: “Memori was set up to democratize the legacy planning space which has traditionally been expensive and difficult to navigate”. Memori plans to scale their business in Brunei, Singapore, and Malaysia, where an estimated 33 million adults are without a will. E27 reported in 2019 that Memori raised an “undisclosed amount of funding…from members of an Asian royal family”.
- William McLaughlin, Managing Member, BDRoundtable, Bangkok, Thailand – In February, 2020, McLaughlin launched BDRoundtable, a private online community for legal marketing and business development professionals. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, McLaughlin detailed what inspired BD Roundtable’s creation and what’s in store for its’ future. He also provides his unique insights into current challenges facing legal business development and marketing professionals in Thailand and the ASEAN Region.
- Rob Green, Chief Executive, GRM, Hong Kong – GRMwas born in Hong Kong in January 2009, when Rob Green, GRM’s CEO, moved to Hong Kong from the Cayman Islands, with no prior knowledge of the city or the Asian legal market. In the middle of the global financial crisis, GRMwas born. The aim was to offer the very best service to senior legal professionals who expect the best service and a tangible experience. They now work as one team, all 3 offices (Hong Kong, London, and Cape Town) working seamlessly on every mandate and job seeker, and 75% of their staff now work remotely, keeping their own hours. This approach has transformed their business from a profitability standpoint, which has, in turn, allowed them to pass those savings onto their clients, by way of fee reductions and flexibility on payment terms.
- Deborah Barker, Managing Partner, Withers KhattarWong LLP, Singapore – In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Barker explained the firm’s strategy of full financial integration, how a recent merger has created international synergies, the firm’s place in Singapore’s legal market, how it is adapting to the local ultra-competitive legal services environment, and the dispute resolution landscape for multinational companies in the Asia-Pacific region in general and Singapore in particular.
- Grace C.G. Yeoh, Partner, Head of Corporate/M&A and Energy, Natural Resources & Green Technology practices, Shearn Delamore & Co, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Yeoh provided insight into how to build a successful law practice in Malaysia, with advice for law students on their future careers – as well as her analysis of Malaysia’s M&A deal-making environment, and what opportunities the country holds for foreign investors.
- May Ng, Partner, DLA Piper, Hong Kong – In December, 2019, Ng told Asia Law Portal: “In 2020, we expect that infrastructure investments in the Asia-Pacific region will continue to grow despite the global economic slowdown. As many mega projects within the region (including those under the Belt and Road Initiatives) have reached or are reaching completion coupled with the political uncertainties and changing climate, we also expect a high level of infrastructure dispute in the region in the coming year. As projects continue to grow in scale and complexity and involving parties from different jurisdictions and background, we expect that international arbitration will continue to be the forum for resolution of infrastructure disputes within the Asia Pacific region.”
- Jason Arteche, Owner and Founder, Legal Tree, Quezon City, National Capital Region, Philippines — Legal Tree is a legal tech startup and social enterprise with the goal of making legal services simple and affordable. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Arteche explained what inspired him to found the company, the state of legal technology in the Philippines, and what’s in store for the future.
- Cassandra Lee, Partner, Thomas Philip, Advocates & Solicitors, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Lee focuses her practice on general litigation, corporate & commercial disputes, bankruptcy & insolvency, contracts, partnership disputes, and contentious probate. Lee is active on Twitter, where she provides regular updates on the business of law in Malaysia, as well as general musings on life in the context of being a partner in a Malaysian law firm.
- Ellery Sutanto, Co-CEO, Intelllex, Singapore — INTELLLEX was founded in 2015 in Singapore with the aim of helping law firms create intuitive knowledge platforms. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, Sutantoexplained how the company began, it’s vision for the future of legal services, and it’s expansion beyond Singapore. He also provided his unique insight into the Singapore legal market and advice for law students aspiring to a career in legal technology.