Interview with Albert Liu of Alibaba on the future and need of legal technology


Albert Liu, vice president and deputy general counsel of Alibaba Group


What do you think legal departments in Asia need to understand about technology?

I think what legal departments really need to understand is that technology is rapidly becoming something they absolutely have to implement. It is becoming a competitive advantage. The benefit of technology brings the legal department to be able to analyze and present the added value to the legal department, removing a lot of the administrative stuff that associates might be working on, so they can work on or value-added stuff so they can feel like they are growing as an attorney. Also, the importance of having technology is to help with risk management as lots of the regulatory compliance pressure on legal departments.

What do you see as the big moments ahead for legal tech 2019?

For 2019 and maybe for the next couple of foreseeable years, one of the big trends that we’re starting to see is governmental regulation on big data on large companies. We feel that obviously keenly at Alibaba being a large multinational company, legal tech also will need to evolve and innovate to help legal departments address the need to manage risk and compliance needs of the company. That means in terms of new tools that really allow lawyers and general counsel to have a broad view of the risks the company are facing, maybe in multiple jurisdictions, and to be able to track that and see on a rolling updated basis.

I think those tools today maybe are not as well developed as some of the traditional tools like contract management or digital signature for contracts. But I think that need will be there in the next few years and I suspect that legal tools will develop to meet that need.

One of the interesting categories of legal tools that we focus on is what we call business supporting or business impacting legal tools that is working with our e-commerce business. In our business, we see tens of thousands of small claims and litigation cases between buyers and sellers that operate on our platform, and we sort of get dragged in as a marketplace. So we developed, working with the business and the PRC courts a litigation resolution, a platform that allows these buyers and sellers to resolve their dispute on our platform with us serving as an intermediary mediator or a facilitator. That has the blessing of the court system because they also do not want to be flooded with tens of thousands of these small cases.

So this platform really addresses both legal department need to manage those small litigations but also helps the business to manage that caseload. A second example is a set of tools we developed to track all the contracting parties that we enter contracts into and then tying that system into credit check systems and litigation check systems so we can start to understand the contracting party risk and the third party risk. In the future, if we were to do a new agreement with these parties, the system allows the business and finance to see what the true risk of the counterparty is. That is what we call a business support tool.

This interview was conducted during the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) inaugural APAC Meeting at the Island Shangri-la, Hong Kong, on 11 April. More than 240 in-house counsel delegates attended from locations across the Asia-Pacific region including Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, India and the Philippines. Read our coverage here