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Libra: Highlighting Regulatory Challenges for the Future of Cryptocurrencies

Reading time: 14 minutes

Written by Jaye Tan (Associate Author) | Mentored by Ong Chin Ngee | Reviewed by Ian Lee

LawTech.Asia is proud to conclude the second run of its Associate Author (Winter 2019) Programme. The aim of the Associate Authorship Programme is to develop the knowledge and exposure of student writers in the domains of law and technology, while providing them with mentorship from LawTech.Asia’s writers and tailored guidance from a well-respected industry mentor.

As part of a partnership with the National University of Singapore’s alt+law and Singapore Management University’s Legal Innovation and Technology Club, five students were selected as Associate Authors. This piece by Jaye Tan, reviewed by industry reviewer Ian Lee (Lead Investigator, Merkle Science), marks the second thought piece in this series, and examines the regulatory challenges of cryptocurrencies.

Abstract

In June 2019, Facebook announced that they were launching their own cryptocurrency Libra Coin under the Libra Association. Already facing governmental scrutiny over privacy issues over the social network, the announcement exacerbated intense attention from not only United States lawmakers and politicians, but the general public. On 23 October 2019, Mark Zuckerberg was subject to over six hours of questioning – elucidating the key concerns lawmakers have with regard to the regulation of cryptocurrencies. These regulatory challenges are not unique to the US, but apply worldwide to regulatory authorities dealing with the budding technology. With the legislation of the Payment Services Act, Singapore has set a regulatory framework which may be the leading framework for countries to adopt going forward.

TechLaw.Fest 2019 – Charting the Course of Disruption in Law and Technology

Reading time: 9 minutes

By Lenon Ong, Sanjana Ayagari, Elizaveta Shesterneva | Edited by Josh Lee

As part of our strategic media partnership with the Singapore Academy of Law, LawTech.Asia once again has the privilege of being appointed as media partner for TechLaw.Fest 2020. As the programme line-up for TechLaw.Fest 2020 begins to take shape, LawTech.Asia brings our readers back to TechLaw.Fest 2019 to provide a timely recap on all that happened, as we look forward to what is shaping up to be a momentous and memorable TechLaw.Fest 2020.

In its second year in this form as a large-scale conference, TechLaw.Fest 2019 was held on 5 and 6 September 2019, and saw over 1,500 legal professionals, technologists, entrepreneurs and regulators converge to engage in critical conversations about the future of technology law and of the legal industry. 

Given the numerous conferences, exhibitions, pitches, launches and meetings all happening over 48 hours of adrenaline and excitement, this article aims to share some of the key themes and memorable moments that emerged across both days of Singapore’s (and arguably Asia’s) signature law and technology conference.

The entrance to TechLaw.Fest, just before the start of an adrenaline-fuelled two days.

What should the post lock-down legal industry look like?

Reading time: 5 minutes

Written by Josh Lee | Edited by Jennifer Lim

Much ink has been spilt about how COVID-19 has changed and disrupted the legal industry. A search on Google turns up numerous articles on how COVID-19 has done overnight what no law or policy could: forced lawyers to adopt a fully-digital mode of doing businesschanging court practices (to the extent that even being called to the Bar is now a digital occasion), and forced law schools to turn to AI invigilators to deter cheating in stay-home exams. Perhaps the clearest sign of the times is to hear practicing lawyers confide that for once, they get to spend more than 7 hours of their day at home.

Legal Tech-ing Our Way to Justice

Reading time: 10 minutes

Written by Jasmine Ng (Associate Author) | Mentored by Andrew Wong | Reviewed by Yap Jia Qing

LawTech.Asia is proud to conclude the second run of its Associate Author (Winter 2019) Programme. The aim of the Associate Authorship Programme is to develop the knowledge and exposure of student writers in the domains of law and technology, while providing them with mentorship from LawTech.Asia’s writers and tailored guidance from a well-respected industry mentor.

As part of a partnership with the National University of Singapore’s alt+law and Singapore Management University’s Legal Innovation and Technology Club, five students were selected as Associate Authors. This piece by Jasmine Ng, reviewed by industry reviewer Yap Jia Qing (Founder, Emerging Tech Policy Forum), marks the first thought piece in this series, examines how legal technology can be better used in Singapore to improve access to justice.

Introduction

From the ubiquitous presence of virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, to the achievements of Google’s DeepMind technologies on facial recognition and machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and other data-based technology are a growing part of everyone’s lives. Technological advancement has also made a huge impact on the legal industry. In his speech at the Opening of the Legal Year 2019,[1] Singapore’s Chief Justice, Sundaresh Menon CJ, recognised technology as a key driving force of the seismic changes to the legal industry’s operating environment. 

With this changing landscape in mind, the Singapore Judiciary has taken steps to maintain Singapore’s position as a progressive, adaptive and forward-looking judiciary.[2] Digitalisation is now a key pillar of Singapore’s legal system transformation efforts, which is in line with the Digital Government Blueprint in support of the Smart Nation initiative.[3]These developments are to be welcomed, as they tackle concerns about access to justice (which have been  increasing in the wake of rising inequality). With this context in mind, I will analyse how technology is being used in our legal industry, and how the benefits of legal technology can be better harnessed to improve access to justice.

Out-of-office: Preparing your firm for a remote-working future

Reading time: 8 minutes

Written by Josh Lee | Edited by Jennifer Lim, Andrew Wong

Introduction

The outbreak of the CoViD19 epidemic has had a chilling effect on many. The virus’ continuous spread after the Lunar New Year holidays meant it continued to make its presence felt even as businesses re-opened for work.

Anticipating a worsening of the global health situation, businesses are beginning to prepare themselves for an extended period during which business operations could be impacted. “Business continuity” has become a widely-mentioned theme, with many organisations beginning to implement drawer plans to reduce physical interaction. These plans could include telecommuting and working through remote-workplace tools. For example, the Hong Kong government asked some of its staff to work from home to reduce human-to-human contact. MNCs like DBS, Rio Tinto and UOB have also activated work-from-home plans.

In the legal industry, while established and technology-focused law firms with the necessary infrastructure may be able to make the switch relatively seamlessly, other firms may find it more challenging to do so. This is in particular so for firms that have yet to see a disruption to business of the scale similar to that seen during the SARS or swine flu epidemics.

Notwithstanding the doom and gloom, it remains prudent to take a long view of the present situation, and to see the silver lining in the clouds. While it may appear at first blush to be troublesome to begin implementing business continuity plans, the present generation of telecommuting and remote-workplace tools are more than capable of sustaining businesses for extended periods of time. In fact, the present situation might prove to be just the encouragement for more firms to begin switching permanently to a nimbler, telecommuting-based structure, with communication driven primarily by remote-workplace tools. Indeed, this is the first (and critical) step to the implementation of “virtual law firms” – law firms that work nearly-entirely remotely without the need for a dedicated office space. 

Focusing on remote-working, this article covers the following points:

  1. The benefits of a remote workforce;
  2. The telecommuting tools needed to enable and maintain a remote-working environment; and
  3. Other considerations needed to ensure a successful transition into permanent telecommuting.

Postponement of LawTech.Asia’s Birthday Bash

Reading time: < 1 minute

Dear Partner, Reader, Friend,

We would like to sincerely thank you for your unwavering support for LawTech.Asia and for our upcoming Birthday Bash. In light of the present national health situation in Singapore, however, we regret to inform you that we will be postponing the Bash temporarily, and we apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.

We have not made this decision easily. We arrived at it primarily with the health and wellbeing of all our guests, speakers, participants and friends in mind. We also considered this in light of the recent raising of the public health alert status, as well as latest advisories from the Ministry of Health to avoid large group and communal activities. 

Our team is currently assessing when next to hold the Bash — hopefully in a few months, when the present health situation eases up. On this note, we would like to express once again our heartfelt thanks for the immense support that has been shown to us. It means a lot, and makes us resolved to ensure that when we hold this with-community, for-community Bash again, it will be even bigger and better.

We end with this note — that just as our community must stand together to advance legal innovation, we too, must stand together against this common test. We believe that we can, we will, and that our community will be all the more stronger for it.

And we look forward to seeing you again when that day comes. In the meantime, thank you for your continued support of LawTech.Asia and please continue to stay tuned for more posts and updates on LawTech.Asia.

With Asia, for Asia,
LawTech.Asia

To Our Partners: LawTech.Asia’s 3rd Anniversary Birthday Bash

Reading time: 2 minutes

[Editors’ Note: Please note that LawTech.Asia’s Birthday Bash has been temporarily postponed given the present public health situation in Singapore. Please continue to refer back to LawTech.Asia’s website for updates.]

The Epistemic Challenges Facing the Regulation of AI

Reading time: 8 minutes

Written by Tristan Koh and Josh Lee

The regulation of artificial intelligence (“AI”) has been a hot topic in recent years. This may stem from increased societal awareness of: (a) the possibilities that AI may deliver across various domains; and (b) the risks that the implementation of AI may cause (e.g., the risk of bias, discrimination, and the loss of human autonomy). These risks, in particular, have led renowned thought leaders to claims that AI technologies are “vastly more risky than North Korea” and could be the “worst event in the history of our civilisation”.

A key challenge facing any policymaker creating regulations for AI (or, for that matter, any new technology), however, is the epistemic (i.e., knowledge-based) challenge – policymakers must have domain knowledge in order to be able to sufficiently appreciate the scope, size, degree and impact of any regulation, and be able to propose solutions that are effective and pragmatic.[1]  In fact, it has been recognised in some governments that subject-matter expertise is lacking when policies or regulations are being crafted.[2] To effectively regulate the development and use of AI, it is clear that policymakers and regulators will need to possess a deep understanding of AI technology and its technical underpinnings.

While a full exposition of AI technology in this short article would not be possible, this article sets out some of the key technical features that policymakers and regulators should consider in the regulation of AI. In particular, this piece focuses on neural networks, a key element in modern AI systems. 

A brief analysis of the legal validity of smart contracts in Singapore

Reading time: 13 minutes

Written by Louis Lau (Associate Author) | Mentored by Josh Lee | Reviewed by Lim How Khang

LawTech.Asia is proud to conclude the first run of its Inaugural Associate Author Programme by publishing the works of its Associate Authors. The aim of the Associate Authorship Programme was to develop the knowledge and exposure of student writers in the domains of law and technology, while providing them with mentorship from LawTech.Asia’s writers and tailored guidance from a well-respected industry mentor.

This first run of the Associate Author Programme was a partnership between LawTech.Asia and Singapore Management University’s Legal Innovation and Technology Club. After a thorough selection process, two students were selected as Associate Authors, where they worked on thought pieces with a mentor from LawTech.Asia. Their pieces were each industry-reviewed by a respected thought leader from the legal technology industry.

This piece by Louis Lau, reviewed by industry reviewer Lim How Khang (Assistant Professor at the Singapore Management University), marks the first thought piece in this series, and provides an analysis on the legal validity of smart contracts in Singapore.

Legal Technology in Singapore: Second Edition

Reading time: 2 minutes

Written by Cai Xiaohan, Tristan Koh, Utsav Rakshit | Edited by Josh Lee Kok Thong

In October 2018, LawTech.Asia published the first-ever detailed outline of the legal technology sector in Singapore. It was the result of a months-long project to map out the root, state and outlook of the legal technology sector in Singapore, and furthers LawTech.Asia’s fundamental purpose of improving awareness, knowledge and interest in legal technology. The article was imagined as a “living document” that will continue to be updated as more news comes to the fore.

Much has happened in the legal tech scene in Singapore since then. To encapsulate these developments, LawTech.Asia is proud to present the second edition of “Legal Technology in Singapore”.

Our first edition had argued that Singapore is currently in the midst of a “legal tech revolution”, which began sometime in 2015 and which was spearheaded by the government in Singapore. The past year has seen the government invest even more resources into new initiatives to support legal tech adoption, and this edition of our article has been updated to include the following new developments: 

  1. Recent statements by the Judiciary on legal tech in Singapore;
  2. New assistance schemes to support the adoption of technology in Singapore, such as:
    • Asia’s first legal tech accelerator, GLIDE by FLIP;
    • Tech-celerate for Law by the Law Society of Singapore, which will fund legal tech adoption by law firms;
    • Advancement of legal tech in the State Courts;
    • The establishment of the SmartLaw Guild;
  3. The new creation of legal tech office-holders in public sector institutions; and
  4. The development of tech-related curricula in local law schools.

In this second edition, we also posit that the Singapore legal tech revolution has entered into a new phase: new ground-up initiatives in the legal profession to support legal tech adoption. We suggest that more law firms, law students, and legal tech solution providers have started their own initiatives to encourage legal tech adoption. This new edition of our article covers, in particular, the law firms which have championed legal tech adoption by being early adopters, producing their own technology, or launching their own legal tech incubators / accelerators.

In our first edition of the article, we had also outlined three forces influencing the development of Singapore’s legal tech revolution: the liberalisation and internationalisation of Singapore’s legal industry; the increasing sophistication of clients; and increasing technological capability. In this second edition, we introduce a fourth influence: the progressive changes in Singapore substantive laws. We argue that, as Singapore’s lawmakers introduce progressive laws which encourage, rather than inhibit, legal tech growth, this would also shape the course of the legal tech revolution for the better. Laws discussed include the passing of the Payment Services Act 2019 as well as the proposed amendments to the Electronic Transactions Act.

To access the updated version of the article, “Legal Technology in Singapore”, click here!

As before, the authors wish to express thanks for the innumerable sources of information available online, without which this project would not have been possible. Any mistakes herein remain the authors’ own.

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