Updated: Mar 23, 2020
Launched in 2019, Konexo, a division of Eversheds Sutherland promises to be the future of the alternative legal and compliance services market. We spoke with Mardi Wilson, Head of Legal Resourcing of Konexo in Hong Kong who gave us an inside look into Konexo and share with us her views on legal innovation in Asia.
Q&A with Mardi Wilson, Head of Legal Resourcing, Hong Kong at Konexo, a Division of Eversheds Sutherland
What is Konexo and why have Eversheds Sutherland Launched this?
Konexo is a division of Eversheds Sutherland. It is the firm’s global alternative legal and compliance service provider. Konexo provides managed services, interim resources and advisory/consultancy services to in-house legal teams. It currently has operational bases in the UK and Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia (in the latter two cases operating through unregulated wholly-owned subsidiaries)) and will shortly launch in the US. The legacy brand ES Agile, established in Asia in 2015, is now part of Konexo.
The legal market is evolving at pace. There is increasing interest from our clients in legal technology and the use of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). Eversheds Sutherland have been operating in the ALSP market for the last eight years through our consulting business, which has grown significantly over this period – 38% growth in the 2018/19 financial year.
Konexo is the next stage in the evolution of our consulting business. In May 2019, three well-established and fast-growing teams were brought together - ES Consulting, Corporate Secretarial and Volume Insolvency Services. Konexo provides brand clarity to our clients, differentiating alternative legal services from traditional legal services, and a platform to compete effectively and increase market share in the US$10billion ALSP market.
How does Konexo add value to the legal market?
Unique in the market in that Konexo provides clients with connectivity to Eversheds Sutherland, we also offer a breadth of services from traditional legal services, to a wide range of alternative legal services, effectively creating a ‘one stop shop’ for clients. Konexo can also service clients globally through its hubs across the UK, Asia and shortly, the US. We recently opened a managed service office in Kuala Lumpur (through an unregulated wholly-owned subsidiary) which means that we’re able to service clients’ needs for certain work types more effectively within the Asian time zone.
The breadth of Konexo alternative legal services includes a full managed service offering, interim resourcing business and consulting arm – all of which are well-established services within Eversheds Sutherland with credible performance and experience.
As opposed to simply using lower cost locations for cost arbitrage purposes, Konexo has an established track record of using cutting edge robotics and AI, working with best-of-breed technology providers. Konexo provides clients with multi-disciplinary teams for their specific project needs (technology specialists, regulatory consultants, project managers, data analysts, management consultants as well as lawyers and paralegals).
How well has legaltech been received in the Asia market?
There is interest, and a lot of it. Sixty three percent of senior in-house legal professionals believe legal technology can increase operational efficiency, according to research carried out by Konexo in 2019. Mindsets have moved on from scepticism, with 96% of saying that legal technology will improve the working environment. It appears most lawyers have overcome the fear of robots taking over their jobs. The question now is how to go about implementing legal tech.
We’re regularly speaking to clients across Hong Kong and Singapore and the collective opinion is that if legal teams aren’t already looking at how to use technology, they will be.
There are probably three types of approach that we’re seeing. The first are clients who are actively pursuing technology solutions in their legal teams. They often have dedicated people in their teams who are looking at and trialling different technology platforms. It’s not just big global clients with lots of resource who are starting this journey with technology, it is also the smaller companies who can be more nimble in looking at different solutions to legal resource challenges. Legal teams are realising that in the long term, more headcount is not always the right solution but supporting the team through technology can make it a more efficient function within the business.
The second approach we see are the clients and the legal teams who want to know what is developing and what products are available, but are not yet committing spend to legal tech solutions. The pace of change is fast and what might be the right solution now, might not be right in two years’ time.
The final approach are the clients who are using tech-enabled suppliers - both alternative legal services as well as law firms and the Big Four consultancies. Like the clients who are waiting for technology to develop or stabilise, this group may not want to purchase or be tied to a specific legal technology platform. However, clients can take advantage of the upsides of technology adoptions through the best-in-class technology and the process efficiency that suppliers have crafted their offerings around. By deconstructing the workflow and using suppliers for specific tasks, clients can gain the time, and therefore cost savings, that they are looking for through legal technology solutions.
Managed services work can include routine legal work - standard contracts, NDAs, but also upcoming regulatory or business changes and repapering exercises. As the work is usually some form of standard output and has higher volumes of workflow, these alternative legal services, like Konexo, are a big investor and user of technology and process to drive efficiency for clients. Technology we use includes the latest document automation tools, case management systems, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Are we seeing differences in adoption rates between Hong Kong and Singapore?
It’s difficult to measure the adoption rates of technology, but there is strong interest in both markets. When we’ve asked clients about their use of technology, only a small percentage say they are medium/ high users of technology. The overwhelming majority would call themselves low or low/ medium users of technology. However, if you ask if there are plans to invest in technology in the next 12 months, the vast majority have answered yes or maybe.
What we have seen is that there is a higher level of engagement and assessment of legal tech in the Singapore legal sector as opposed to Hong Kong. In part, this may be attributed to the drive from the Singapore government, and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority in turn, pushing for and supporting change and adoption of technology. There has been activity regarding technology in Hong Kong with the Law Society but it is less vocal, they may be waiting to see how legal tech develops before making any kind of push for adoption in the market.
Technology-led managed services, one of the services provided by Konexo, has seen particular interest from clients for the benefits it gives in-house legal teams. By outsourcing standardised repeat, high volume work, legal teams can free themselves up for the more complex, value add legal work making their roles more strategically aligned to the business. In-house legal teams also benefit from using the latest technology solutions, without being tied to a specific platform. Working alongside this, we often see clients engaging with advisory/ consulting services to work with in-house legal teams, helping them to navigate the vast number of technology platforms on the market and to narrow this down to what is best suited to the client.
What are the major challenges for businesses in Asia looking to adapt to legal technology? and do you have any tips on how to overcome this?.
Implementation of technology is often seen as a lengthy and costly exercise. Legal teams want to be sure they are going down the right path with the right legal tech solution before committing to any particular technology platform. The secondary issue is that with an evolving legal tech landscape, and no off-the -shelf solution which can solve all problems, it is often easier for conservative legal teams with limited budgets to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. Another challenge is that legal tech projects can be lead from outside the region so Asia legal teams may have little say until later in the process.
Legal tech is often seen as the solution for any inefficiencies that legal teams are dealing with. In-house legal teams should also have a good look at their processes and how they deliver legal work. Through the advisory work that we’ve done with clients, we’ve found that sometimes there are big inefficiencies in processes like taking instructions from the business.
It can also be beneficial to engage your IT team –there may be some quick wins in using existing technology within the business. Working with your IT team may help move things from manual processes to a tech-optimised solution and could be quicker than implementing a bespoke platform.
For more information about Konexo, please contact,
Mardi Wilson, Head of Legal Resourcing of Konexo in Hong Kong