Senior partner Julian Clark believes the future looks tricky for mid-tier law firms. His solution is to bring consultancy and technology into the fold to offer clients a range of regulatory and risk advice
US-based Mission Secure has linked up with InceMaritime to provide cyber threat hunting and incident response to Ince’s clients. This will be followed by sanctions due diligence using machine learning.
INCEMARITIME, a wholly-owned subsidiary of London-listed Ince Group, is tackling an uncertain future for mid-tier law firms by pushing into the consultancy and technology space.
Led for the past 10 months by senior partner Julian Clark, InceMaritime has been created to bring legal, consultancy and tech expertise to clients under one roof.
First to come alongside is US-headquartered Mission Secure, which provides operational technology protection, including cyber threat hunting and incident response.
“Cyber security is one of the industry’s greatest challenges. The threat level and sophistication of hackers increases every day. Many shipping companies do not fully appreciate the seriousness of the issue they face.”
- Julian Clark, Ince
“Cyber security is one of the industry’s greatest challenges,” Mr. Clark explained. “The threat level and sophistication of hackers increases every day. Many shipping companies do not fully appreciate the seriousness of the issue they face.”
He warned that the new IMO requirement, combined with the devastating impact of a cyber-attack, was a serious burden for those engaged in vessel operation.
“Of most concern is the fact that even if they are compliant with the latest IMO (International Maritime Organization) regulation as well as other industry cyber security guidelines, the reality is that they will not be sufficiently protected, particularly from OT (operational technology) cyber-attacks.”
- Rick Tiene, Mission Secure
“Shipowners and managers need to move beyond just basic compliance, and away from a tick-the-box approach to cyber security,” said Mission Secure Vice-President Rick Tiene.
“Of most concern is the fact that even if they are compliant with the latest IMO (International Maritime Organization) regulation as well as other industry cyber security guidelines, the reality is that they will not be sufficiently protected, particularly from OT (operational technology) cyber-attacks,” he said.
The Ince brand has pedigree in maritime law. This has been strengthened by a move into consultancy with a presence in Abu Dhabi, Cyprus, London and Hamburg. Mission Secure launched InceMaritime’s expansion into the fields of regulation and risk through technology.
A wholly owned subsidiary was the best way to achieve this expansion.
“It’s a challenge for a regulated law firm to launch that [consultancy and technology] product. The non-shipping partners of a standard 50-100 partner law firm wouldn’t see the opportunities; and from a regulatory standpoint, the partners would argue that they are a law firm, not a tech firm of a corporate,” Mr. Clark commented.
“Lawyers don’t know tech, and developers of tech are not lawyers or consultants. My solution was to bring them together in a single phone call.”
Mr. Clark said he was close to rolling out a proposal that would use artificial intelligence to address sanctions. This would offer due diligence in relation a shipowner checking before fixing a cargo, a bank ensuring they are not making payments to a sanctioned entity, and a charterer or trader making sure they are trading with the right people.
“If a client does find themselves with the fleet on a sanctions list, I could provide OFAC with everything they need to know about this fleet very quickly to show they are not a sanctions risk, and should be de-listed,” he outlined.
Beyond that, he is planning to use sensor technology to focus on the facts of a laytime or demurrage dispute, reducing the number of disputes, avoiding litigation and cost, and getting swift solutions. Then he plans to explore the advantages of blockchain applications to address small claims and insurance procedures, tracking dangerous goods cargoes, and assessing crew medical records.
“Anywhere there is a tech solution that addresses regulatory and risk issues attaching to the industry and coming to the market with a solution we can manage under one roof,” Mr. Clark told Lloyd's List.
“You don’t need a consultant or a separate lawyer or tech provider. We’ve done that job for you on the back of the Ince brand. So rather than you having to conduct a beauty parade of 12 tech providers, we have done that job for you.”
Mr. Clark is inspired by the Maersk approach to business, where traditional operating boundaries are pushed aside. “If Maersk can do that, why can’t we?” he asked.
“If we sit in an ivory tower thinking the world’s client base will still come to us for legal advice, we’ll wake up one morning to find we have no work. We must be innovative.”
He believes other law firms will follow, although there will be regulatory hurdles to overcome from the partnership structure.
“Covid has encouraged all law firms to consider their future. While the larger firms are likely to do well because of the breadth and depth of their expertise, and small niche firms focused on swift contractual work without the bells and whistles will also survive, the mid-tier law firms have most to lose,” he predicted.
“I think the mid-tier will struggle. There’s an increasing raft of regulation plus difficulties with renewals, at a time when professional indemnity insurance premiums for law firms have gone through the roof.
“These firms will go one way or the other. I believe law firms must become full-fledged solution providers and consultants."
Read the original article, InceMaritime adds tech to legal and consultancy expertise.