03:45 PM Ms Pulara Somachandra (Trainee Research Associate, SMU Centre for Commercial Law in Asia)

    Jones Day Professorship of Commercial Law Lecture 2021: The Legal Innovation Agenda - Pre, During and Post COVID


    On 17 November 2021, Professor Daniel Martin Katz (Chicago-Kent College of Law) delivered the Jones Day Professorship of Commercial Law Lecture 2021 entitled ‘The Legal Innovation Agenda - Pre, During and Post COVID’. The online lecture drew over 360 registrants from more than 10 jurisdictions.

    Associate Professor Pasha Hsieh (Associate Dean (Faculty Matters & Research), SMU Yong Pung How School of Law) gave the welcome remarks, following which the Honourable Justice Aedit Abdullah (Supreme Court of Singapore) delivered the opening address. In his Honour’s address, he noted that technology has challenged lawyers, academics and judges over the world to re-think the way they work and how they can better serve the interests of clients and the wider community of users and stakeholders within the legal system.

    Professor Katz began his lecture by sharing that the burst of the housing bubble in 2008 had led to a new era of finance and catalysed many pivotal ideas. It accelerated innovation, and more specifically legal innovation which Professor Katz traced through the 3 phases - pre-COVID, COVID and post-COVID.

    He explained that before COVID there had been a lack of operational excellence, and the focus was on selling subject-matter expertise alone. However, as we moved into the 2010s, there was an exponential need to combine operational excellence with subject-matter expertise. The ideas themselves were bigger than law and included an overlap between law, finance, technology and a plethora of other adjacent topics. Legal complexity and legal risk management grew both on the statutory and regulatory sides and saw a higher interdependency between the two. This led to the productivity revolution which Professor Katz said could be broken down into 4 areas: leveraging data and A.I. techniques to create legal tech software, using process improvement and project management methods to streamline legal workflows, sourcing legal talent and solutions from a much wider set of providers, and solving legal industry access to capital challenges.

    However, during COVID, many corporations cut their budget to preserve the enterprise and many people also struggled with the move online. The market chaos brough an abrupt halt to funding but quickly made a K-shaped recovery which saw record amounts of funding following soon after. Professor Katz observed that there were 5 themes in legal innovation that surfaced post-pandemic, notably, the rise of hybrid organisations, the march of legal complexity, the economical change in A.I. and software, the digital transformation also known as the 4th industrial revolution and finally, moving from a point solutions era to enterprise legal management platforms.

    Professor Katz suggested that hybrid organisations and the legal labour market would make investments in collaborative technologies in a bid to stimulate the office environment at home, and firms would actively pursue ways to bring down the cost of the technologies utilised and look for an economic substitution for labour. Whilst large investments have been put towards these, he predicted that they would consolidate later as we phase out of the pandemic given the time taken for the investments to bear fruit.

    The lecture was drawn to a conclusion with a fantastic panel discussion between Justice Abdullah, Professor Katz and Mr Mauricio F. Paez (Partner, Jones Day). It was moderated by Associate Professor Hsieh. The role of technology in the administration of justice, legal education and the development of the legal innovation agenda around the world, including Singapore and Asia, were some of the exciting topics discussed by the panellists.

    The event was co-organised by Jones Day and the SMU Centre for Commercial Law in Asia. A video of the lecture is available here.


    * This blog entry may be cited as Pulara Somachandra, “Jones Day Professorship of Commercial Law Lecture 2021: ‘The Legal Innovation Agenda - Pre, During and Post COVID’” (7 January 2022) (

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