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Meet the law firm of the future

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Much like many other industry sectors, legal is being radically transformed by ICT. NERUSHKA DEOSARAN and ROB OTTY believe that those firms that don’t keep up with technology do so at their own peril.

The traditional model of a law firm is in a state of disruption and the future law firm will be driven by leaders who understand technology, efficiency and innovation.  The legal sector is changing rapidly and will continue to transform rapidly.

The law firm of the future:

➢ has lawyers who understand technology.

➢ promotes an innovative mindset.

➢ has an improved organisational structure and business model.

➢ creates new roles, businesses and functions.

➢ delivers innovative products and services to clients.

➢ is efficient and cost-effective.

The deregulation of legal services in England and Wales in 2011 gave birth to organisations like Riverview Law and RocketLaw that have been disrupting the established legal services industry with innovative offerings to clients in competition with traditional law firms.

The Law Society of England and Wales Future of Legal Services report 2016, mentions the following five drivers of change in the legal services market:

1. Globalisation: global and national economic business environments

2. Buyer behaviours: how clients buy legal services

3. Technology: technological and process innovation

4. Competition: new entrants and types of competition

5. External investment: wider political agendas around funding, regulation and the principles of access to justice

The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) published the Legal Technology Future Horizons report in 2014 highlighting how information technology (IT) is critical to the survival and future growth in the rapidly changing and highly competitive legal services industry.  IT will no longer only be used to provide back-end support to lawyers but to develop client-facing products and services, as well as to improve internal efficiencies.

As these two industries combine, the challenge for the legal industry is to keep up with the fast pace of change that the tech industry is accustomed to.  The challenge for the technology industry is to understand law firms and identify how technologies can be utilised in the legal environment.  The combination of these sectors also gives rise to opportunities for new roles within a law firm, breaking the traditional hierarchy.  For example, a lawyer who can program would be a valuable addition to a law firm.

The Horizons report shows that artificial intelligence is a potential game-changer for the industry with 88% of respondents agreeing that the checking of content and structuring of legal documents will be performed by artificial intelligence software.  Law firms should innovate by using technologies such as big data analytics to process large amounts of data or by using project management techniques to streamline processes to offer increased value to clients.

Law firms should be developing client products and subscription services in addition to providing the usual bill-by-the-hour advice.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel 2020 Legal Services report predicts that there will be “less involvement by lawyers in many of tasks that until now have made up their staple diet”.

There will be greater self-lawyering, use of online services, entry of unregulated businesses and expansion of services of regulated providers, such as accountants and banks.  The Altman Weil 2015 survey of law firms found that the second largest threat to law firm business, after new non-lawyer entrants, is clients’ use of technological tools that reduce the need for lawyers and paralegals.

“If a business is not reinventing itself to adapt to changing market conditions then it is likely it will go into decline or be taken over by those that are better adapted to the new environment.  This statement is no less true for law firms than for any other business,” Says the Law Society of England and Wales Future of Legal Services report 2016.

At Norton Rose Fulbright, we are developing alternative methods of delivering traditional legal services to our clients, including the use of artificial intelligence applications.  We have a global Project 2020 covering a number of initiatives aimed at modernising our global business for the future.  We have also freed innovative lawyers from billable time to focus on developing and delivering the creative thinking and products our clients expect.

* Rob Otty is managing director and Nerushka Deosaran is senior associate and business development manager of Norton Rose Fulbright. Follow them on Twitter on @Rob_Otty and @NerushkaD

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Rain, Telkom Mobile, lead in affordable data

A new report by the telecoms regulator in South Africa reveal the true consumer champions in mobile data costs

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The latest bi-annual tariff analysis report produced by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) reveals that Telkom Mobile data costs for bundles are two-thirds lower than those of Vodacom and MTN. On the other hand, Rain is half the price again of Telkom. 

The report focuses on the 163 tariff notifications lodged with ICASA during the period 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018.

“It seeks to ensure that there is retail price transparency within the electronic communications sector, the purpose of which is to enable consumers to make an informed choice, in terms of tariff plan preferences and/or preferred service providers based on their different offerings,” said Icasa.

ICASA says it observed the competitiveness between licensees in terms of the number of promotions that were on offer in the market, with 31 promotions launched during the period. 

The report shows that MTN and Vodacom charge the same prices for a 1GB and a 3GB data bundle at R149 and R299 respectively.  On the other hand, Telkom Mobile charges (for similar-sized data bundles) R100 (1GB) and R201 (3GB). Cell C discontinued its 1GB bundle, which was replaced with a 1.5GB bundle offered at the same price as the replaced 1GB data bundle at R149. 

Rain’s “One Plan Package” prepaid mobile data offering of R50 for a 1GB bundle remains the most affordable when compared to the offers from other MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).  

“This development should have a positive impact on customers’ pockets as they are paying less compared to similar data bundles and increases choice,” said Icasa.

The report also revealed that the cost of out-of-bundle data had halved at both MTN and Vodacom, from 99c per Megabyte a year ago to 49c per Megabyte in the first quarter of this year. This was still two thirds more expensive than Telkom Mobile, which has charged 29c per Megabyte throughout this period (see graph below).

Meanwhile, from having positioned itself as consumer champion in recent years, Cell C has fallen on hard times, image-wise: it is by far the most expensive mobile network for out-of-bundle data, at R1.10 per Megabyte. Its prices have not budged in the past year.

The report highlights the disparities between the haves and have-nots in the dramatically plummeting cost of data per Megabyte as one buys bigger and bigger bundles on a 30-day basis (see graph below).

For 20 Gigabyte bundles, all mobile operators are in effect charging 4c per Megabyte. Only at that level do costs come in at under Rain’s standard tariffs regardless of use.

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Qualcomm wins 5G as Apple and Intel cave in

A flurry of announcements from three major tech players ushered in a new mobile chip landscape, wrItes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week’s shock announcement by Intel that it was canning its 5G modem business leaves the American market wide open to Qualcomm, in the wake of the latter winning a bruising patent war with Apple.

Intel Corporation announced its intention to “exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices”.

Intel said it would also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business, sharpening its focus on a market expected to be dominated by Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

Intel said it would continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, but did not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020. In other words, it would no longer be supplying chips for iPhones and iPads in competition with Qualcomm.

“We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan. “5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property. We are assessing our options to realise the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”

The news came immediately after Qualcomm and Apple issued a joint announced of an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, along with a six-year license agreement, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

Apple had previously accused Qualcomm of abusing its dominant position in modem chips for smartphones and charging excessive license fees. It ordered its contract manufacturers, first, to stop paying Qualcomm for the chips, and then to stop using the chips altogether, turning instead to Intel.
With Apple paying up and Intel pulling out, Qualcomm is suddenly in the pound seats. It shares hit their highest levels in five years after the announcements.

Qualcomm said in a statement: “As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics released a report on the same day that showed Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia will lead the market in core 5G infrastructure, namely Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, by 2023 as the 5G market takes off. Huawei is expected to have the edge as a result of the vast scale of the early 5G market in China and its long term steady investment in R&D. According to a report entitled “Comparison and 2023 5G Global Market Potential for leading 5G RAN Vendors – Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia”, two outliers, Samsung and ZTE, are expected to expand their global presence alongside emerging vendors as competition heats up.

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