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Facing the challenge

IMAGINE having a will drafted for a mere US$69 (S$95), instead of $3,000 or more at a law firm. That is possible in the United States with online legal services such as Legalzoom, which bypass traditional law firms to provide legal services to consumers.

Presenting that as an example of an industry-wide disruption, Ms Eliza Tan, Managing Director of LegisComm, said previous outsiders to the industry have been eyeing a slice of the pie, starting with the low-end jobs that smaller firms take on.

However, they could also ask serious questions of bigger firms, should customers choose to go with these new players in an "Uberised" market where such firms provide a better experience, she added.

While experts at the Think Big Leadership Series discussion believed that Singapore still has some ways to go before consumers would embrace such online services, they also warned that these disruptive entrants could one day cause professional services firms to worry about their bottom lines.

Diversification, according to Ms Tan, could be a way to not just survive the disruption but also emerge as a success from it. This meant going into areas that traditional law or accounting firms may not already be in, she noted.

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For example, small accounting firms have expanded their consultancy services as audit revenue shrinks. Besides what they do traditionally, they have also provided financial advisory for mergers and acquisitions, managed cyber risk and even resold or provided cloud-based accounting services.

At the same time, law firms have provided compliance solutions, intellectual property asset advisory, strategic advisory and also invested in other companies dealing with communications, events and training.

One of the tips that Ms Tan offered is to improve the quality and speed of the professional advice offered, by having quicker access to research and improved collaboration with other partners.

It is important to invest in technology to be more efficient, she said, so one could stay in the competition despite the changing circumstances.

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