07 Aug 2020

Rajah & Tann Asia wins FT Innovative Lawyers Award 2020 for leadership in IT strategy and recognised among Top 20 most innovative firms in Asia Pacific

Rajah & Tann Asia (RTA) has won the FT Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers 2020 award for its RTA DNA project, a massive undertaking that successfully aligned baseline IT standards and support across 10 law firms in ASEAN’s largest legal network. Rajah & Tann Singapore was also ranked among the top 20 most innovative firms in Asia Pacific, the only Southeast Asian practice on the list. This is the seventh consecutive year that the firm has made it to the FT list of most innovative firms in Asia Pacific.

The award was announced Thursday (6 August) evening at a live virtual event. RTA was one of five finalists in the category on “law firm strategy.” A total of 28 law firms in the region competed in six categories of awards that honour firms that successfully use technology and data to modernise, stay relevant and make an impact.

The RTA DNA project was borne out of the need to ensure that as the 800-fee earners in the RTA network collaborate more intensively, they are able to maintain the same high quality of service standards across different jurisdictions despite the fact that member firms are independently constituted and separately regulated.

The quest was for a unified network with DNA (device, network and applications) in sync and a holistic approach to addressing issues concerning security, data access control, hardware infrastructure software applications and firm policies across the RTA network.

“It is uncommon for a legal network of independent firms to embark on a project that contemplates a comprehensive road map to unify baseline standards. This requires stakeholder approvals on financial, legal and technical compliance at various levels,” RTA said in its submission.

A cross-border technical team worked together to conduct a complete study of IT support functions across RTA and proposed a road map for the ambitious journey.

The outcome: it is now easier and quicker to roll out new tech-enabled solutions, increase mobility of documents as well as remodel methods of reaching out to clients. For example, within weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak, R&T was in a position to launch several initiatives to facilitate work from home arrangements. These included automated digital invoices, a new platform for clients to sign e-contracts, and another one to allow support staff to access documents and files remotely. RTA also succeeded in getting legal software compliance for all 10 countries.

Making his pitch in the final round of the competition, RTA Vice-Chairman Patrick Ang noted that “whatever we say about technology, about AI, at the end of the day people is still key to our business.”

He added that lawyers in RTA are increasingly having to learn to work with non-lawyers, more so after Rajah & Tann Technologies bought into a technology firm as part of a wider strategy to stay relevant in a digital economy and provide client with tech-enabled solutions.

Mr Ang who is also Managing Partner of Rajah & Tann Singapore, explained: “What has changed in our strategy and approach is that we are learning to think less like lawyers, act less like lawyers and be prepared to take some risks.”

The change has not been easy since lawyers are by training, “people who work on precedents, based on what has happened in the past and are averse to risk. We thus have to take what we know about law and integrate it with technology,” he said.

The FT Innovative Lawyers Award is an extension of a 15-year collaboration between London’s Financial Times and RSG Consulting to produce special reports that rank and award the legal profession, both law firms and corporate law departments, on innovation. The 2020 reports for Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America, look more closely at leadership, the future of work, the client-lawyer relationship and social responsibility.

Previous FT award winners from Rajah & Tann include Rajesh Sreenivasan, Partner and Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications, who was voted one of the top 10 pioneering legal tech innovators in the region in 2018, and Steve Tan, Partner and Deputy Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications, who won in the same category the following year. Rajah & Tann Singapore was also named the 2016 FT Most Innovative Law Firm in ASEAN and ranked among the top 25 most innovative law firms in Asia-Pacific in 2019, while Rajah & Tann Technologies won for being most innovative in the business of law in 2018.

About Rajah & Tann Asia – www.rajahtannasia.com

Rajah & Tann Asia brings together leading law firms and lawyers in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, with each offering the highest standards of service to locally-based clients while collectively having the capability to handle the most complex regional and cross-border transactions and to provide excellent legal counsel seamlessly across the region. With over 800 fee earners, all working towards one shared goal, we are lawyers who know Asia and who give our clients home advantage.