Interview by Amelia Chew & Wan Ding Yao | Edited by Josh Lee

TechLaw.Fest 2018 will take place from 4 to 6 April 2018 in Singapore, bringing together the movers and shakers in the space of Technology Law and Legal Technology. In the lead-up to TechLaw.Fest, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing to you regular interviews and shout-outs covering prominent speakers and the topics they will be speaking at TechLaw.Fest. 

This week, LawTech.Asia sat down for a chat with Cherilyn Tan, Founder and CEO of Asia Law Network. Cherilyn will be conducting a Legal Tech Primer Session titled, “What works for you? Professional Networking, Client Management and Business Development Platforms”.

In your view, what goes into building a brand or a reputation?

Brand and reputation are two separate things. To build a brand is to be consistent in building and executing something. When it comes to building a reputation, it’s what you want that brand to represent. If you are consistently delivering the same mission, vision and values, then that goes towards your reputation. Your brand can be good or bad, depending on what you’re consistently doing, but your reputation is what you stand for.

For us, it has always been access to justice. We consistently deliver things that are in line with our mission and vision and we are responsible for what we put out there. We are responsible to our users and whoever uses our services.

You’ve turned Asia Law Network into a successful platform for connecting people with legal services. When you first started out as an entrepreneur in the legaltech scene, what were some of the challenges you faced in building a brand for Asia Law Network and how did you overcome them?

It’s always difficult to build something that is totally new in the market, even though what we are building is something that already existed in other parts of the world 20 years ago. When we first started, the challenges included the fact that the market did not understand the greater mission and plan and lawyers weren’t sure what the risks of adopting legal tech might be.

Our mission is to build an ecosystem for the provision of legal services that included every single stakeholder – law firms, regulatory boards and the users. In order to better understand how law firms are structured and how legal services are provided, we had to do research into what the world was doing and how Singapore was faring relative to the region. Based on this research, we were then able to determine how to position ourselves in the industry.

Here at Asia Law Network, we strive to be open and collaborative, to give more value than we take. This is something we have communicated consistently from the start, in our pitches to regulatory bodies and to our clients. We have built a trusted network of legal professionals and that’s why people turn to Asia Law Network as the first port of call when they are seeking legal advice.

Are there any companies out there that you would encourage people to take inspiration from when trying to build a solid brand identity?

Cloud-based email delivery platform Sendgrid has a good brand, with great values. I think that people make brands, and what people stand for makes a huge difference. The team resonates a lot with Sendgrid, whose values are Hungry, Honest, Humble and Happy!

In terms of law firms with a good brand, I would say that the advisors on Asia Law Network’s board, such as Taylor Vinters Via and Withers KhattarWong, are good examples. They are not afraid to experiment in their approach to marketing. In some law firms, all the partners need to agree on a piece of marketing collateral before it can be produced, which can really slow down the process.

Are there technology tools available today that you wished were available when you first started Asia Law Network?

It’s not so much the unavailability of tools as much as the unavailability of good programmers. 

While legal technology companies around the world had already been building their tech around APIs (application programming interfaces) since the 2000s, the kind of collaborative mindset and environment between lawyers and technologists wasn’t available here.

Then, three years ago, we had wanted to build our system entirely on APIs but there was a lack of tech talent in the market. It was only last year that we finally rebuilt our entire system on APIs to allow for easy collaboration across different jurisdictions as well as partnerships. This has really enabled us to fulfil our commitment to being open, collaborative and inclusive.

Marketing a business today is about leveraging various channels in different manners.

What are the channels that law firms should leverage on to communicate their brand?

Law firms should definitely try all channels to communicate their brand. Marketing a business today is about leveraging various channels in different manners. For example, we use LinkedIn to push out articles which may help the professionals in terms of managing risks in the workplace, whilst we use Facebook to push out events that may be more personal or light-hearted. Events are then used to help lawyers get “face-time” with their potential clients, so they may know them more than where they graduate from and which year they graduated.

One client from Korea was really excited to meet one of our lawyers because he has been watching her on our social media channels, like a celebrity!

In Asia, there is still a lot of emphasis placed on building trust and having face time. Our research shows that people are unlikely to seek legal advice over LinkedIn as they want to meet the lawyer first. This is because they cannot differentiate a good or bad lawyer online. We have managed to successfully bridge that gap.

Even for us from the beginning, my team and I spent a lot of time meeting with lawyers at their offices to build our connections. This is something that we do even to this day – build trust. After you have managed to establish trust through meeting somebody in person, you can then leverage on technology to maintain that relationship.

This piece of content was jointly produced by LawTech.Asia and the Singapore Academy of Law.

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