By TAY PECK GEK
MULTI-DISCIPLINARY accounting firms namely PwC, EY and Deloitte may have to brace themselves for more competition, this time from regional legal network Rajah & Tann Asia's technology subsidiary. It is not only equipping its ten-member firms with tech capabilities, but also offering multi-disciplinary solutions to counterparts and non-law firms.
Rajah & Tann Technologies (R&T Technologies) - a wholly-owned and independent unit that was established in the first quarter of this year by law firm Rajah and Tann Asia - recently acquired an 18-month-old legaltech startup LegalComet for an undisclosed amount to up the ante on its offerings.
R&T Technologies director Rajesh Sreenivasan told The Business Times in an interview that the firm in fact hopes to counter competition from leading accounting firms that are beefing up legal services to evolve into one-stop shops for businesses.
Mr Sreenivasan is also the head of the technology, media and telecommunications team at Rajah & Tann Singapore, a Big Four law firm here and a member of Rajah & Tann Asia.
He said: "Now we are in the position to say that we can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Big Four (accounting firms) as we are in a position to provide a full suite of tech-enabled legal services.
"That's how we compete in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region. All we ask is a level playing field and it's then up to us to respond with a holistic multi-disciplinary solution."
Former deputy chairman of WongPartnership Rachel Eng set up her own firm, which is part of PwC's global legal network.
Another Big Four accounting firm, EY, added Atlas Asia Law Corporation to its global network when Evelyn Ang left her position as senior partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson to start Atlas Asia Law.
In August, Deloitte became the latest Big Four accounting firm to offer legal services, as part of a move towards becoming a one-stop shop for clients.
Mr Sreenivasan said the acquisition of LegalComet will help R&T Technologies "make a leap forward in delivering legaltech services and solutions to clients across the region, and in strengthening our market position".
Before it was acquired, LegalComet was offering legaltech advisory services such as electronic discovery (e-discovery) and forensic technology, which includes data acquisition and preservation, recovery of deleted data and passwords, cyber breach investigation, as well as mobile and cloud forensics.
Its artificial intelligence-driven solutions allowed litigators and arbitrators managing large amounts of evidence to sieve and extract specific data from mountains of documents.
All LegalComet's businesses, revenue pipelines and assets will be transferred over to R&T Technologies following the acquisition.
LegalComet founder Michael Lew, a qualified digital forensics investigator, became R&T Technologies' chief operating officer.
Mr Sreenivasan described R&T Technologies as "agnostic" - it does not only serve Rajah & Tann Asia, but also targets its suite of solutions at other law practitioners including in-house counsel as well as non-legal corporations.
Its services encompass data breach readiness and response, cybersecurity, e-discovery, a virtual law academy, as well as other legaltech services.
The establishment of R&T Technologies, which is housed in co-working space aimed at innovators Collision 8 in High Street Centre, is also a response to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon's call for the legal profession to step up in legal technology, said Mr Sreenivasan.
R&T Technologies is a new vehicle for Rajah & Tann Asia to adapt itself and provide new legal delivery models and deliverables to meet clients' demands in the digital economy. This would be done by deploying technology to augment legal processes and deliverables.
R&T Technologies is open to creating a unified technology platform for the legal sector too.
"We have had many discussions with various law firms. Many of them recognised that working together may be the right way. The PwCs, EYs etc, have deep pockets. Collectively, the legal sector has extremely deep pockets as well. If we are able to look at syncing together, maybe facilitated by a company like R&T Technologies, that would be one way to achieve this.