Technology: Promises and perils


“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed,” wrote science fiction author William Gibson, most famous for coining the term cyberspace. While this may be true about all technology, it couldn’t be truer about the use of technology in law and, in some sense, it applies as well to the use of law in technology.

CBLJ June2021 issue cover imageLegal service providers have been laggards in adopting technology, and technology law has lagged behind the advances in the sector.

In this issue, we tackle the vexing problems of law and technology from all sides.

The taming of tech, our cover story, analyses how the massively successful big tech outfits in China are being reined in as the nation tightens its control over the data these companies manage – or may fail to manage.

The rapid progress of a recent series of top-down legislative and administrative efforts targeting leading internet platforms on antitrust and data compliance, however, has surely kept the market jittery.

It is clear that tighter controls are intended for companies that have until now enjoyed virtually limitless operational freedoms. And as suddenly as regulatory reforms have evolved, experts say none of this is unexpected.

In this issue’s Market Watch, we spoke to some of the biggest legal technology firms to chronicle the impact of the pandemic on tech adoption, and how it is changing the legal process. Technology adoption among established law firms has been a snail-paced road to reform for ages, but things are different in China.

While Chinese legal tech companies are leading innovation, this article looks at our law firms’ unique approaches to the adoption of technology. It also weighs up the drivers for legal technology and the opportunities and challenges that law firms face when buying tech tools, offering practical advice for ensuring the safety of sensitive documents and data.

In GC Confidential, two prominent general counsel (GC), Liu Tiehu of Gaw Capital and Huang Yiyun of Autoliv China, offer their candid views on where you need to be to have your legal department working at optimum for your company and its people.

While Liu highlights the need for GCs to master their dual roles – legal and business – to bring benefits for their company, Huang discusses why it is essential to break down the distance between legal and all other departments.

Taking a closer look at China’s regional legal markets, we head to Zhejiang, home to China’s Silicon Valley, Hangzhou, for our Cityscape section. The province is at the heart of the country’s innovation drive. With the blistering growth of this region’s private enterprises, Zhejiang’s legal market is among the hottest in the country. And the dominance of local law firms makes the market a hard nut to crack for the big national outfits.

Our annual Women in Law series has become a popular read over the years due to the personalities we feature and the enlightening stories they share, some boldly inspirational, others emotionally charged.

The legal profession has long been subject to criticism for its entrenched “boys’ club” mentality, but women lawyers, more than ever, are enjoying independence and self-determination in both their personal lives and professional careers. However, in the Asian legal landscape, gender disparities persist.

Our feature offers the personal stories of five leading women in law from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines, drawing on a wealth of their experiences. On offer are advice, experience and encouragement for the ones who follow.