LawTech.Asia

Asia's Leading Law & Technology Review

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

Reading time: 13 minutes

Written by Louis Lau | Mentored by Josh Lee | Edited by Lim How Khang and Josh Lee

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.

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Open Source Development of Legal Technology

Reading time: 8 minutes

Written by Danielle Sim | Mentored by Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen | Edited by Jameson Dempsey, Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen, and Amelia Chew

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 Danielle Sim, reviewed by industry reviewer Jameson Dempsey (Residential Fellow at the Stanford Centre for Legal Informatics), marks the first thought piece in this series, and deals with the issue of open source development of legal technology.

Danielle would like to extend her heartfelt thanks to Jameson Dempsey, Alexis Chun (Legalese), Amelia Chew and Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen (LawTech.Asia) for their invaluable and helpful guidance in the writing of this piece.

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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.

TechLaw.Fest 2019 Quick Chats: William Deckelman, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of DXC Technology

Reading time: 7 minutes

Interview by Andrew Wong, Ong Chin Ngee, Lenon Ong | Edited by Josh Lee

TechLaw.Fest 2019 will take place from 5 to 6 September 2019 in Singapore, bringing together the movers and shakers in the space of law and technology. In these few weeks leading up to TechLaw.Fest, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing you regular interviews and shout-outs covering prominent speakers and the topics they will be speaking at TechLaw.Fest.

This week, LawTech.Asia received the exclusive opportunity to interview William Deckelman, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of DXC Technology. William will be kicking off Day 2 of TechLaw.Fest 2019 with a thematic lecture on security and connectivity.

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TechLaw.Fest 2019 Quick Chats: Jerrold Soh, Singapore Management University

Reading time: 8 minutes

Interview by Nisha Rajoo and Andrew Wong | Edited by Josh Lee

TechLaw.Fest 2019 will take place from 5 to 6 September 2019 in Singapore, bringing together the movers and shakers in the space of law and technology. In these few weeks leading up to TechLaw.Fest, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing you regular interviews and shout-outs covering prominent speakers and the topics they will be speaking at TechLaw.Fest.

This week, LawTech.Asia received the exclusive opportunity to interview Jerrold Soh, a Lecturer of Law in the Singapore Management University (“SMU”) School of Law. Jerrold is also a co-founder of Lex Quanta, a Singapore-based legal analytics startup, in which he leads data science research and development.

At TechLaw.Fest 2019, Jerrold will be speaking on a panel titled, “A Review of the State of Legal Innovation in the Asia Pacific”, which features leading thought leaders who will be discussing the State of Legal Innovation in the Asia Pacific (“SOLIA”) 2019 Report, for which Jerrold served as the Chief Editor.

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Disruptive Legal Technologies – Is Ethics Catching Up?

Reading time: 6 minutes

Written by Alvin Chen and Stella Chen (Law Society of Singapore)

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the August 2018 issue of the Singapore Law Gazette, the official publication of the Law Society of Singapore. Reproduced with permission.

In December 2017, DeepMind, a leading AI company, sent ripples through the AI world when it announced that it had developed a computer program (known as “AlphaGoZero” or “AlphaZero”) which learned the rules of three games – chess, Shogi and Go – from scratch and defeated a world-champion computer program in each game within 24 hours of self-learning.1 What was remarkable about DeepMind’s achievement was the program’s “tabula rasa” or clean slate approach which did not refer to any games played by human players or other “domain knowledge”.2 Yet, DeepMind’s program was able to develop an unconventional and some say, uncanny,3 methodology in surpassing current computer understanding of how to play the three games.

Referring to an earlier version of DeepMind’s program (“AlphaGo”) which defeated the (human) world champion in Go in 2016, the legal futurist Richard Susskind considers such innovative technologies to be “disruptive”. In his international bestseller Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future (“Tomorrow’s Lawyers“)Susskind defined “disruptive” as something that would “fundamentally challenge and change conventional habits”.4

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E-Discovery: Artificial Intelligence & Predictive Coding – Discovering the Way Forward

Reading time: 5 minutes

Written by Emily Tan | Edited by Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen, Josh Lee, Maryam Salehijam (Resolve Disputes Online)

Introduction

Cases turn on their facts. Lawyers depend on both the law and the specific circumstances of their client’s case to make a convincing argument for their client. This makes the discovery process, where the available information is sifted through to identify relevant evidence, a crucial step in any case.  

However, discovery is by its nature a slow and laborious process. Countless hours are spent digging through documents, emails and other such sources, searching for the key factors which may make or break a case. This “time-drain” has been exacerbated by the digitalisation of work, which has exponentially increased the volume of documents that lawyers have to analyse. In addition, it is typically the junior lawyers who are delegated to do the discovery task — which explains the television stereotype of young lawyers poring over cartons and cartons of documents late into the night. 

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Hacking Through the Gordian Knot – The LIT Hackathon 2019

Reading time: 9 minutes

Written by Josh Lee | Edited by Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen, Wan Ding Yao

Introduction

It is a classic Gordian Knot. A legal industry that is highly risk-averse, and heavily reliant on precedents and traditional ways of work. Lawyers who are too occupied with work to generate innovative ideas, let alone implement them. Technology that is believed to be too inaccessible and alien to a profession that is beginning to struggle with disruption. All these, with the backdrop of rising costs, inefficiencies (and long hours), and barriers to access to justice.

The legal industry’s solution to this? The hackathon.

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Zegal 2.0: Product Report

Reading time: 6 minutes

Written by Tristan Koh, Utsav Rakshit | Edited by Josh Lee

Introduction

Zegal is a collaborative cloud-based legal technology platform that aims to transform the way legal services, such as document generation and legal workflow management,  are delivered. Formerly Dragon Law, it has come a long way from starting off purely as an automated contract generation software. Today, the platform integrates automated contract generation seamlessly with legal workflow management in the cloud.

LawTech.Asia was given a chance to meet with Zegal Singapore’s Co-founder, Stephan Hablutzel, and view an in-depth product demo of Zegal’s latest product, Zegal 2.0.

Stephan formerly worked as a top-level executive in several MNCs. From his frequent use of legal services in the past, he and the Zegal team have used their deep understanding of common pain points in legal services to create a product that is client-centric. In particular, Zegal makes legal services far more accessible to small and medium-sized companies and eschew the traditional reservation of full-scale legal services for large corporations.

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RDO x LawTech.Asia: International Commercial Courts and the Role of Technology

Reading time: 4 minutes

Written by Maryam Salehijam (RDO) | Edited by Josh Lee

International commercial courts (“ICCs”) have been gaining attention as a new forum for the resolution of commercial disputes. Notable examples include the London Commercial Court, the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts (“DIFCC”), the Netherlands Commercial Courts, and the Singapore International Commercial Courts (“SICC”). There are commentaries and articles that discuss the purpose of ICCs and how they complement arbitration in the international dispute resolution landscape. This article does not intend to wade into that well-traversed discourse. Suffice it to say that ICCs broadly serve the following purposes:

  1. Provide a platform for cases that are better suited for a process that is “relatively open and transparent, equipped with appellate mechanisms, the options of consolidation and joinder, and the assurance of a court judgment”[1];
  2. Allow disputants to avoid problems faced by arbitration (e.g. increasing judicialization and laboriousness in process resulting in delays accompanied by rising costs, unpredictability in the enforcement of arbitral awards, or lack of consistency in arbitral decisions)[2]; and
  3. Facilitate the harmonisation of commercial laws and practices.

As ICCs are a modern development, they have attempted to incorporate modern technologies to enhance their ability to deal with the cross-border, large-scale nature of the cases that they deal with. This article takes a quick look at the following two questions:

  1. To what extent should the adoption of technology be a priority for an ICC? 
  2. Would ICCs be able to leverage the upcoming wave of online dispute resolution (“ODR”)? 

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