03 May 2018

Legalpreneurs Spotlight - Sebastian Ko

Published on 03 May 2018

Embracing the T-shaped lawyer – and legal innovation with soul

Sebastian Ko, Regional Director and Senior Legal Counsel of integrated legal technology provider Epiq, believes innovation in law will bring about transformational change – and solve long unresolved problems in the law, such as access to justice.

“Innovation and technology feed a culture of change in our profession,” said Sebastian. “With the rapid growth of technologies relevant to legal practice, such as text mining and analytics, the legal market for advanced technology solutions is becoming increasingly sophisticated. This in turn drives market-wide change. We see this in the impact of eDiscovery on litigation and disputes resolution practices and the professionals who work in these areas.”

As a science and law graduate, Sebastian is particularly well-placed to understand the intersection of law and technology. He also holds a Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford, and enjoyed an award-winning legal career before moving to legaltech.  

“Innovation is integral to my career, and it’s the life blood of a technology solutions provider. We cannot survive, less thrive, without being innovative.”

As Regional Director and Senior Legal Counsel of Epiq, Sebastian oversees the review and expert services for Epiq across Asia Р­which includes China, Japan and India Рand supports in-house legal matters.

“We are one of the largest eDiscovery and legal technology providers globally, so we have to keep on top of the latest technologies. A big part of this is to help clients manage their Big Data in cost-effective and legally defensible ways with A.I. and cloud-based solutions while ensuring local and cross-border data protection compliance.”

Sebastian lives and breathes legal innovation. He is the convener of the 2018 Access to Justice Innotech Law Hackathon, Hong Kong, and a member of the InnoTech Committee of the Law Society of Hong Kong.

He believes legal innovation should lead the profession to consider how business and operational models could be improved, and how this in turn could offer better value and efficiencies for users of legal services.

“This could lead to transformational changes to perennial challenges associated with finding relevant and appropriately skilled lawyers, reducing barriers to conducting legal consultation and promoting privatised justice and ADR, especially in multi-nationals and the banking sector.

“However, there are many barriers to legal innovation for the general public, including regulations on professional conduct, the malpractice insurance system, billing model and firm structure and legal education model.”

“Legaltech could also be a highly divisive factor between those lawyers and clients who have effective access to the technologies and those who do not.”

Sebastian also cautions against missing the opportunities for access to justice that legaltech offers.

“Legal innovation is currently very focused on cost efficiency and efficacy, especially around helping lawyers do their jobs better and client self-services. It’s vital that we not forget that technology in law must operate in robust ethical frameworks so that the legal system can achieve its goals of promoting strong of rule of law and access to justice. Legal innovation needs a soul.”

Sebastian has big predictions for the next decade of legaltech.

“The legal profession will transform rapidly from a knowledge profession to a data-driven profession. It should face many challenges that might rock the foundations of the rule of law, such as smart contracts, A.I. regulation and code-as-law issues. It must also cope with legal, regulatory and compliance challenges arising from the exponential growth of Big Data. For example, in the era of Big Data, electronic data is exploding in volume, variety and velocity of transmission. This results in surging demand for eDiscovery and compliance monitoring services. Automation and scaling of straightforward, repetitive legal services and increasing sophistication of analytics will be key enablers of legal innovation.”

With change comes growth.

“These complex issues should lead to new jobs, departments and business models within firms and legal departments. We are already seeing the rapid growth of New Law providers, legal operations roles and law firms investing in legaltech research and development. The profession should also become better acquainted with cyber security and data protection in light of increasing threats of data breach and leaks.”

For lawyers looking to stay on the right side of legaltech history, Sebastian advises training and adaptation to a tech-driven profession.

“Training on core competencies, backed by sustained investment in innovation initiatives, are critical to help professionals adapt to technological disruptions. However, disruption can arise in diverse ways, so we need to provide regulatory sandboxes in the legal profession to foster innovative solutions. Organising and attending activities such as design sprints and hackathons on legal innovation and legaltech are good ways to (a) become trained in new domains of knowledge and exposed to professionals in other disciplines; (b) cultivate interest individually and organisationally; and (c) test ideas in safe environments that might germinate into real products or services.

“These activities could incubate innovative mindsets around particular themes, such as access to justice, and help grow communities of emergent fields, such as blockchain and computational law. In a corporate context, they could even be great recruitment opportunities.”  

To forge the future of law, it is imperative that lawyers and technologists work closely and share a deep understanding of their mutual impact.

“IDEO’s Tim Brown popularized the term ‘T-shape person’ to denote individuals with not only deep expertise and skills in one field but also the ability to work with experts in other disciplines and apply the knowledge of fields other than their own. I believe T-shaped lawyers will increasingly play a critical role in our profession.

“While new lawyers should polish their legal skills, their careers would be well served by learning and practising cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration skills. Update your technological knowledge and skills, and join activities prepared by organisations such as the Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI). Above all, be creative, curious and brave to embrace change.”

As a CLI Legalpreneur, Sebastian believes the CLI has a crucial role to play to help the legal profession navigate and respond to digital disruption.

“The CLI is a well-established platform providing innovative education, research and a global legaltech network for the legal profession. Its Distinguished Fellows are leaders in legal innovation and legaltech. By sharing their knowledge and skills, they can help members develop an innovative mindset and become ‘legalpreneurs’ to champion innovation in their organisations and communities, leading to healthy systemic transformations.”


If you're interested in attending a Centre for Legal Innovation event, we are holding a Certification workshop on the topic of Legal Project Management. Register now if you would like to add the unique skill of Legal Project Management to your skill set.