In Conversation: Per Hoffman, Vice President and Head of Legal Affairs and Sourcing,
North East Asia, Ericsson
Before making the move to Beijing four years ago, Per Hoffman held roles in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He reflects on the pace of change in his new home.
Asia is a very impressive part of the world where people are generally more technologically driven. It is this drive that motivates companies to continuously innovate. Asians are generally early adopters of tech, and customers are very advanced when it comes to embracing new technology.
When I compare Asia to Europe everything is on a much larger scale. The pace of innovation is unprecedented. Technology is being embraced across Asia, but it is China that is leading the way in technological innovation and development. The pace of development in China is particularly interesting.
For example, when it comes to moneyless payments, China is the most advanced market in the world. I rarely need to carry a wallet anymore as everything can be paid for via a mobile phone. Beijing is one of the biggest startup hubs for tech companies and a leading place for AI technology, research and development. Generally, the consumer and enterprise markets are massive, and therefore the potential for developing and implementing tech is apparent.
Ericsson has an established presence in China, where it occupies nearly half the market for mobile systems. In recent times, Ericsson has strengthened its market share by winning 5G contracts with three major operators in China.
The importance of technological innovation has been cast into the spotlight in recent months. Legal teams across Asia have embraced standardised technology to remain connected. We are using Microsoft Teams and SharePoint products. These platforms provide a collaborative area, where teams across the region can work together, for example to review documents. We are considering introducing a new e-billing system when working with our external law firms. From a contract management perspective, we have various repositories for sales and sourcing agreements.
Today, there are contract databases where you can search for templates and find various clauses. The next step will be AI based search engines, where the platform is itself intelligent and an evolving algorithm informs the search results. It is quite amazing to think about the opportunities associated with AI when applied to legal work. We will eventually be able to predict problems before they arise; we will know if something may cause an issue in a contract before finalising a deal.
Despite all the advantages brought by legal tech, going completely digital this year has not always been an easy task. Technology cannot replace the atmosphere of a meeting room or the human connections shared between individuals. Working remotely also makes it more difficult to introduce new employees into an office. You learn a lot from seeing how members of a team behave and react to others.
Nevertheless, technology can also be used to bring legal teams together. Managing legal operations across five countries means video conferences and meetings are crucialPreviously, we spent a lot of time travelling to meet internal stakeholders, customers and suppliers. Travelling would take up a significant amount of time. But since the pandemic, people have adjusted. One positive is that meetings are typically condensed and well prepared. In this sense technology has driven efficiency, or at any rate it has led to people using their time more effectively.
As we look to the future, technology is expected to play a key role in improving legal services, and within the next five years artificial intelligence will play a significant role in transforming the legal profession. As thing stand, it is rarely used by legal teams, but the potential this technology has is revolutionary.