Technology does not define innovation.

Titus Rahiri was interviewed by the amazing Terri Mottershead and was featured in Centre for Legal Innovation's Q&A. Read the full article here: Technology does not define innovation, says KorumLegal CEO Titus Rahiri. 

Innovation is more than buying fancy new technology, as KorumLegal CEO Titus Rahiri knows all too well.

Titus was General Counsel during the GFC; like so many, he was pushed to do more for less at short notice. Since then, he has pivoted his decades of experience in private practice, listed companies and startups to launch KorumLegal, a legal solutions company providing a platform for bespoke People, Process & Technology and Managed Legal Services solutions across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. 

Challenging a profession steeped in tradition

“Legal innovation has enabled the founding of KorumLegal,” said Titus. “As a former General Counsel, I was frustrated by the lack of innovative solutions being provided by traditional players – and therefore decided to be the change that I wanted to see. 

“In our early days, we had the support of a small number of forward-thinking clients and a niche legal consultant community who believed in our product and services.  As a start-up, we had to pound the pavement to prove our value proposition in an Asia market that was still very steeped in tradition and where legal innovation wasn’t really at the top of mind.  Since then I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing people and companies who continue to pave the way for legal innovation through an innovative and disruptive mindset and the use of technology.”

Beyond the buzzwords to meaningful transformation

Titus cautions against getting caught up in the buzzwords around legal innovation.

“Many in the industry view ‘innovation’, ‘disruption’ and ‘LegalTech’ as buzzwords with a lot of hype behind them,” said Titus.  “Legal innovation is about doing things differently. Disruption and technology play a part in that, but it’s really about the shift to a disruptive mindset.  It could involve offering a new way of delivering services. It will involve using technology as an enabler.  It’s about being absolutely focussed on customer centricity – creating value in outputs rather than time inputs.” 

Without doubt, Titus expects lockdown to change the law.

“In the current and post Covid-19 climate, legal innovation is going to be even more critical.  While many are currently focused on more pressing priorities of health, financial welfare, political stability and social well-being, Covid-19 will pass and things will be different in the legal industry,” observed Titus.

“Just as the global financial crisis was a turning point in the legal ecosystem, post Covid-19 will require further realignment as traditional ways of doing things are going to come under much needed scrutiny. GCs will increasingly look at alternative legal services providers to meet their demand for less legal spend, better productivity and increased savings for their company and business.”

Transforming innovation from threat to opportunity

“From an organisational perspective, there are effectively three types of innovation: market-creating, sustaining innovation to improve existing services or efficiency gains.

“Depending on which side of the equation you sit, legal innovation can be seen as a threat or an opportunity,” said Titus. “At KorumLegal, we see it as an opportunity and it is one of the main reasons that we exist.  In the current and future Covid-19 environment, gaining efficiency and effectiveness from smart processes and enabling technology should be front of mind for every legal service provider.

Consolidation likely post-COVID

“Technology can play a role in all of these types of innovation but it doesn’t necessarily define innovation,” said Titus. “Having said that, there are a growing number of LegalTech companies coming to market globally with suggestions that the LegalTech industry is worth more than $15.9 billion and increasing.

“There is a strong LegalTech community in Australia, a growing one in New Zealand, and strong players in Singapore and Hong Kong. We’ve been a part of this community.  Pre Covid-19, investment and acquisition in the LegalTech and innovation space was heating up.  Obviously that is likely to taper off as venture capitalists and private equity look to solidify their existing investments and positions. 

“However, it also increases the likelihood of further consolidation in the market.  Forward-thinking and looking companies will tackle this opportunity.”

Whatever the future may hold, people remain at the heart of the law and legal innovation. 

“At KorumLegal we have business verticals across People (flexible legal consultants on-demand), Process & Technology (management consulting for enhanced legal operations) and Managed Legal Services (which combines People, Process and Tech solutions for large scale projects for better value and efficiency),” explained Titus. “People are at the core of all of our solutions.”

Embracing the voice of the customer

“Legal services have long been whatever lawyers said they were,” observed Titus. “Lawyers, not clients, dictated what was required, the timetable for delivery and the blank cheque cost of services. Now, legal services are whatever buyers need to solve business challenges.  Put yourself in the client’s shoes.  And then ask, how can I do things differently and deliver what the client wants? This is what developing an innovative mindset is all about.”

For lawyers to be serious about innovating to remain competitive, they must start with the voice of the customer.

“If your customer wants an easier to use work-product, lawyers should utilise design-thinking principles to develop plain-language tools that empower non-lawyers to be sophisticated consumers of legal services,” said Titus. “This may mean giving your client a flowchart rather than a memo.  If your customer wants cheaper legal services, the challenge for you as their lawyer is to abandon the billable hour and replace it with technology-enabled solutions that are still sold at a profitable price. In the end, innovation is about re-imagining processes to generate value. Value comes from listening to clients and focusing lawyers’ efforts on clients’ demands and value drivers rather than the lawyers’ skills.”

Driving innovation while valuing history

Much of the law’s long vaulted history has been predicated on legal precedent, not innovation.

“However, it is that history and legacy that hasn’t allowed the profession to evolve and adapt as quickly as other industries,” said Titus. “While the need for lawyers will endure, there is now a stronger distinction between the practice of law - provided by law firms - and legal service delivery - provided by alternative legal service providers, NewLaw providers and law companies.  Many law societies and regulators, law schools, legal academics will need to adapt and adopt new thinking and approaches as we evolve. 

“New lawyers entering the profession need to be better equipped with non-traditional legal tools such as technology, data analytics, project and process management, AI and robotics, customer-centricity - skills otherwise referred to as developing the T-shaped lawyer or rocket lawyer.

“One of the exciting outcomes of innovation and disruption in the industry is that there are now more varied career opportunities for new lawyers entering the profession.”

Galvanising the legal profession to innovate

“The work that the Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) has set out to do is very important,” declared Titus. “The CLI’s efforts help galvanise the legal industry and profession forward, propelling innovative direction.

“Similar to the FLIP programme in Singapore, the CLI helps to bring innovators and communities together to work towards a common objective – better customer solutions, better access to justice, more innovative products and services, promoting enabling technologies and most importantly enhancing a collaborative community.

“I think organisations like CLI can also provide insight and awareness to regulators to help move the profession and industry into the new normal.  Together, with other forward thinkers trying to move entrenched mountains for the betterment of the industry, we can influence and create much needed change.”