The Rise of Asia-Pacific NewLaw Firms: A History


Times are changing within the global legal market, and for the consumers of legal services it is definitely for the better. With the now wide range of service delivery options available to clients of all shapes and sizes (from individuals & SMEs to MNCs and banks) it is now definitely a buyer’s market. Cognatio Law is the latest NewLaw evolution in Hong Kong, offering flexible legal and compliance resources, along with a fresh business platform for both clients and consultants.

The term “NewLaw” was first coined by Eric Chin back in 2013 as a stark contrast to BigLaw, after much study of the disruptive innovation taking place during that time within the legal services industry. "BigLaw" is a US legal services industry nickname for the nation’s largest law firms. The definition of NewLaw was provided by Jordan Furlong and Sean Larkan-- see box below.

"New Law" Defined

"Any strategy, structure, model, process, or way of delivering legal services that represents a significantly different approach to the creation or provision of legal services than what the legal profession traditionally has employed."

- Jordan Furlong and Sean Larkan, Edge International

Hong Kong saw its first NewLaw firm appear in 2011 and with the arrival of Cognatio Law in early 2018, there are now 6 in total operating here. What exactly is a NewLaw firm though? Read on:

Originally Eric Chin used the term NewLaw to describe the business model of the USA based alternative legal services provider Axiom. Up until the early 2000s, most companies had limited choices in terms of their access to and choice of legal resources. They would primarily utilise their own in-house legal team (if any) and then the bulk of the legal work would generally get outsourced to outside law firms. Today those same companies have access to a wide range of legal services providers when it comes to assessing and managing their legal resourcing needs. During this same period, NewLaw firms have also evolved and expanded their business offerings to include online legal services, Legal Process Outsourcing (LPOs) and LegalTech platforms.

NewLaw firms can be very beneficial to a company’s bottom line, often representing significant cost savings over a traditional law firm – especially with the ever constant of internal headcount & budget cuts and increased workloads. Lawyers and consultants, such as those employed by Cognatio Law, are able to be engaged without increasing a company’s employee costs or adding to their permanent headcount. Employee overheads such as compulsory social security payments, statutory sick leave and public holiday entitlements are carried by the NewLaw firm.

If your team is facing an increased legal and compliance workload or struggling to meet implementation deadlines imposed by supranational and local regulatory authorities such as the SFC (HK), SFC (US), FSA (UK) and the EU, then engaging a company like Cognatio Law is a smart and efficient way of helping you meet these deadlines effectively and efficiently.

Cognatio Law was established in 2018 by NewLaw industry veteran Lesley Hobbs, with co-founder Tim Fawcett in response to the growing demand for flexible lawyers in Hong Kong.  Lesley Hobbs is a leading business development professional within the APAC in-house legal community. A qualified solicitor in England and Wales, Lesley was instrumental in setting up Hong Kong’s 2nd largest NewLaw firm back in 2013.  If you are in need of additional legal and compliance resources in Hong Kong, it is time to engage the services of Cognatio Law. Please contact us today to inquire further.

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Lesley Hobbs