28th November 2023

Having reached and crossed the halfway point of the year, we are forced to admit that the post-pandemic global economic recovery is not all it was cracked up to be, held back by, among other things, mounting inflation on the back of 22-year high US interest rates, slumping exports due to weakened global demand, and trade policies driven not by business rationale, but by geopolitics and protectionism.

With tightened budgets and firmer regulation, companies are compelled to reconsider their strategies, objectives and business relationships, sending ripples throughout the legal ecosystem. Law firms are not exempted from the reshuffle, and for them the race is on to prove their value.
CBLJ 2308 Prologue

What are the top qualities that enable a law firm to stand out today? Our cover story, The X Factor, unravels this mystery by tapping into the insights of leading general counsel from a variety of industries. As testament to the growing sophistication of the legal market, there is no mad grab for the lowest bidder, and GCs continue to put long-term quality above immediate interests. However, harsh realities have made price a more sensitive issue, tendering a more prevalent practice and flexible fee acceptance a much-desired trait.

Financial pressure on law firms should not be understated. Hard Knocks, our annual deep dive into the legal market, featuring 88 leading firms this year, painted a bleak picture in 2022, with median revenue of both law firms and lawyers recording significant declines. Firms, on the other hand, remain high-spirited, albeit tinged with a modicum of caution, as they devise alternative routes to growth and expansion.

Keen knowledge and a broad perspective in both legal and business matters remain lawyers’ strongest irreplaceable asset. In Smart Moves, managing partners and senior practitioners, both at home and abroad, offer their views and advice on a number of top corporate concerns in these uncertain times, ranging from data regulation, technological sanctions, and positive signals of an upcoming stimulus package.

The value of in-house counsel is likewise put to the test, especially when businesses expand beyond national borders. In Broadening your counsel, GCs across Asia discuss the importance of knowledge interchange with peers, tips for effective team management, and challenges faced by the considerable number of Chinese companies targeting the Southeast Asian market.

Finally, we tackle one of most defining questions in the industry this year: how will artificial intelligence transform legal practice? In Legal AI’d, Sharyn Ch’ang, PwC’s Asia-Pacific NewLaw director, after comparing the skillsets of lawyers and AI, envisions a future where generative AI augments, but not replaces, lawyers and legal professionals.