Ario Rachman is Legal Counsel of deugro Indonesia, a highly specialized freight forwarder with a strong focus on turnkey logistics solutions for industrial projects. In this Q&A interview with Asia Law Portal, Ario provides his perspective on NewLaw and Legal Technology and their impact on the general counsel’s office in general, and Indonesia in particular. He also provides advice for law students aspiring for a career in-house.
As you know there’s been much discussion about automation and technology being used to improve the efficiency of the corporate general counsel’s office. What’s your perspective on this?
I think it will help a lot, particularly in the general counsel’s office where resources and specialty are sometimes limited. Some automation is needed for regular contracts which do not include any significant changes for such things as space rental for office branches, for example. This would increase response times for client inquiries.
In some cases, automation cannot replace actual lawyers and drafters who are able to interpret specific situations when drafting contracts. Technology cannot perform what actual lawyer-humans do, such as social issues assessment, negotiating with local authorities, etc. Therefore, my opinion regarding automation and technology that is widespread in the legal industry nowadays is that it’s really helping to reduce the cost of legal services, improving response time and efficiency. But legal business still needs a human touch that probably shall not be replaceable in the next decade.
Some NewLaw firms like Axiom and Lawyers on Demand (LOD) have been seconding experienced lawyers into the general counsel’s office in Asia in recent years. Have you seen this trend reaching Indonesia?
From my experience, this wave has not hit Indonesia — yet. From my perspective, the secondment model is popular in most of the start-up companies, especially those that have been flourishing in the last 5 (five) years. But for major brick and mortar companies in Indonesia, I have never heard of this trend expanding into this sphere – at least in the transportation/freight forwarding industry. Indonesia’s legal market I believe is still focused on evolving around BigLaw providers and not yet focused on NewLaw providers.
What advice do you have for law students seeking a career in-house?
I believe they should familiarize themselves with a general counsel’s office with an internship prior to graduating. Internships help bridge the theory learned in university, with application in the workplace. However, most law students appear more attracted to working for major law firms. They tend to look for internship as private practice lawyers, not in-house counsels.
While the role of private practice lawyers and corporate counsels seem similar, there are different characteristics to these roles. Most private practice roles tend to carve out specialties and emphasize individual performance of the legal expert, finding new challenge and knowledge daily.
Conversely, in-house roles tend to be slow and similar legal issues are experienced daily. In the context of the corporate counsel role, there is increasing demand for legal generalists, honed leadership skills, the ability to manage people, often beginning with a small legal team and then working up to divisional level in large companies. From my standpoint, these environments create different roles for lawyers in private practice versus lawyers working primarily in-house.
My advice, therefore, is for law students to pursue not only private practice internships, but also seek an internship at a company if you are considering a future in-house role. Additionally, extra-curricular activities in university such as the students’ senate or something similar may give you a bonus in knowing and understanding organizational charts, decision-making processes and last but not least, how to manage and lead people.