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Legal Technology in Singapore: Second Edition

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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: Alice Namuli Blazevic, Partner at Katende, Ssempebwa & Company Advocates

Reading time: 5 minutes

Interview by Lenon Ong, Elizaveta Shesterneva | 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 the next 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 Alice Namuli Blazevic, a Partner (Head of Technology and Innovation) at Katende, Ssempebwa & Co Advocates, Kampala Uganda.

She specialises in technology and the law with a keen interest in artificial intelligence, blockchain, cryptocurrencies, cybersecurity and data protection. Her background is in public-private partnerships, infrastructure projects, project finance, mergers and acquisitions. She is an award winning lawyer, international speaker and author. She is the chairperson of the Uganda Legal Tech Network and the co-founder of the Legal Innovation Hub. She is also the founder of a mentorship programme for young lawyers and law students called “Coffee With Alice”. She has hosted several legal tech conferences such as the World Legal Summit and the Development Sprint (Legal Hackathon) in Uganda, just to name a few.

At TechLaw.Fest 2019, Alice will be speaking about the “Innovation Journey in East Africa” on 5 September 2019, 4 pm (GMT+8).

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Legal Hackers APAC Summit 2018 – A Summary

Reading time: 7 minutes

Written by Cai Xiaohan | Edited by Josh Lee

From 16-17 November 2018, LawTech.Asia co-organised the Legal Hackers APAC Summit together with SG Legal Hackers and the Singapore Academy of Law. This saw over twenty Legal Hackers chapter organizers from at least ten different countries in the Asia-Pacific region converge in Singapore to discuss the latest developments in law, technology and innovation in the APAC region.

The APAC Legal Hackers Summit 2018 welcome page. (Image credit: Legal Hackers Singapore)

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Legal Technology in Singapore

Reading time: 1 minute

Written by Amelia Chew, Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen, Josh Lee Kok Thong, and Tristan Koh

The LawTech.Asia is proud to publish the first-ever detailed outline of the legal technology sector in Singapore (as far as we are aware)!

This article is 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. It is hoped that this article will be a helpful piece for legal professionals, legal technologists and law students to have a bird’s eye-view of legal technology in Singapore, and to assist in the building of a thriving legal tech community in Singapore. 

While intended to be extensive, the article does not purport to be exhaustive or authoritative, or to express the position of any particular organisation or initiative. This article will be a “living document” that will continue to be updated as more news comes to the fore.

To access the article, click here!

At the outset, 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.

#LexTech18 Quick Chats: Dipesh Sukhani, Advisor to ServisHero

Reading time: 3 minutes

Interview by Utsav Rakshit | Edited by Amelia Chew

Organised by Malaysian legal tech startup CanLaw, LexTech Conference 2018 is an APAC-wide regional legal technology conference taking place from 25 to 26 October 2018 in Kuala Lumpur. LexTech Conference 2018 aims to drive legal tech adoption in the region and strengthen the regional legal tech community. In the lead-up to LexTech Conference 2018, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing to you regular interviews and shout-outs covering prominent individuals who are involved in the conference.

LawTech.Asia spoke with Dipesh Sukhani, Advisor to ServisHero and Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Indorse, about smart contracts. Dipesh will be speaking on a panel titled “Macro Trends and Practical Applications of Smart Contracts in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)”.

What is stopping us from adopting smart contracts extensively?

There are two key factors hindering the adoption of Smart Contracts in our day-to-day life: (1) The scope of Smart Contracts; and (2) awareness. Let me dive into each of them.

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#LexTech18 Quick Chats: Aditya Shivkumar, Resolve Disputes Online (RDO)

Reading time: 3 minutes

Interview by Jennifer Lim, Josh Lee, and Ong Chin Ngee | Edited by Josh Lee

Organised by Malaysian legal tech startup CanLawLexTech Conference 2018 is an APAC-wide regional legal technology conference taking place from 25 to 26 October 2018 in Kuala Lumpur. LexTech Conference 2018 aims to drive legal tech adoption in the region and strengthen the regional legal tech community. In the lead-up to LexTech Conference 2018, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing to you regular interviews and shout-outs covering prominent individuals who are involved in the conference.

LawTech.Asia spoke with Aditya Shivkumar, Co-Founder of Resolve Disputes Online (“RDO”), about smart contracts and online dispute resolution (“ODR”) – a topic that Aditya will be speaking on at the LexTech Conference.

What are smart contracts, and what sort of transactions can it be used for? How specifically do you think smart contracts can be applied in ODR?

Smart contracts are not your conventional paper-based contracts. It actually consists of lines of code. There are multiple coding languages for smart contracts, such as Solidity or Bamboo (if one is executing a smart contract on the Ethereum network). Smart contracts utilise blockchain technology. The former is the front-end, while the latter is the back-end. 

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2018 UNCITRAL Emergence Conference

Reading time: 5 minutes

Interview by Amelia Chew & Ng Sock Cheng | Edited by Irene Ng

Interview with Luca Castellani, Secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group IV (Electronic Commerce)1

The Emergence Conference 2018, jointly hosted by the UNCITRAL Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific and the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI), took place on 25 July 2018 in Singapore.

The conference took stock of emerging global and regional developments relating to the harmonization and convergence of international trade and commercial law, with a focus on their impact on regionalisation, especially for Asia. It provided a platform for experts and scholars to examine the impact of these developments and to consider various areas of political interest for UNCITRAL and ABLI from a regional perspective.

We sat down with for a chat with Luca Castellani, a legal officer in the Secretariat of the UNCITRAL, where he discharges the functions of secretary of UNCITRAL Working Group IV (Electronic Commerce) and promotes the adoption and uniform interpretation of UNCITRAL texts relating to sale of goods and electronic commerce.

What are your views on the discussions held at the Emergence Conference today?

This is the third such conference we’ve had and the first of its kind in Singapore. The goal of this conference is to elicit new views on different aspects of international trade law and international business transaction laws. I find it very interesting and particularly useful that many of the presentations are related to current developments in business and law. These presentations are welcome as they are not mere speculations and have practical application in the real world.

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Joint Call For Papers Law x Technology: Transforming the face of the Law

Reading time: 2 minutesTechnology disrupts for the better of those prepared. Legal practice is hardly impervious to the implications that technology brings. The advent of blockchain and machine learning technologies is an opportunity, and a potential cost if not pursued. Conversely, the use of technology is equally subject to legal regimes and institutions. Developing a sensitivity to the mutual interaction of the two forces is of utmost urgency as governments and peoples search for a firm footing.

The Singapore Law Review (“SLR”), Asia’s oldest student-run legal publication, and LawTech.Asia, Southeast Asia’s foremost law and technology review, are collaborating on a special issue of the Singapore Law Review journal and LawTech.Asia online publication on the theme “Law x Technology: Transforming the face of the Law”.

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The Power and Pitfalls of Smart Contracts: A Recap

Reading time: 4 minutesWritten by Chelsea Chan | Edited by Amelia Chew & Irene Ng

LawTech.Asia had the privilege of being a media partner for TechLaw.Fest 2018. The inaugural TechLaw.Fest held from 4 to 6 April 2018 saw the convergence of legal professionals, technologists, entrepreneurs and policy makers, conversant and passionate about Technology Law and Legal Technology, coming together to discuss the future of Singapore’s technology scene. This article summarises one of the panel discussions held on 5 April 2018 titled “The Power and Pitfalls of Smart Contracts”.

The discussion was chaired by Joyce A. Tan (Joyce A. Tan & Partners); and the panel comprised of Ashton Addison (CEO and Founder, Eventchain.io), Sopnendu Mohanty (Chief Fintech Officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore), Hirofumi Aihara (General Manager of Digital Innovation, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group), Tomasz Kurcyzk (Digital Transformation Director, AXA Singapore) and Stella Cramer (APAC Head of Technology & Innovation, Norton Rose Fulbright).

After the introduction by Joyce Tan, Ashton Addison elaborated on the basics of a smart contract and potential technological pitfalls. A Smart Contract is an agreement converted into a small piece of software, which stores the rules and terms of the agreement and when met automatically executes exactly how it was coded. The appeal of a Smart Contract lies in its automation and that it is fully transparent, so the code reflecting contractual terms can be seen by anyone regardless of privity to contract. However, bugs in the code may lead to loss of funds. Further, large transactions are currently not possible since Ethereum can only handle 13 transactions per second, potentially creating a significant backlog if applied to current business transactions.

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UNCITRAL E-Commerce Law 2.0: Blockchain and Smart Contracts

Reading time: 10 minutesGuest Post by Irene Ng

Irene Ng is a Fellow at the Stanford-Vienna Transatlantic Technology Law Forum and a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Vienna. On March 17, 2018, Irene shared about how UNCITRAL e-commerce texts can interact with blockchain and smart contracts at the Computational Law & Blockchain Festival, Singapore Node. The following post is a summary of her presentation and answer to some queries that were asked.

1. What is UNCITRAL?

UNCITRAL stands for the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law. It is the main body of the United Nations that aims to promote trade amongst states through modernizing and harmonizing rules for international commerce. UNCITRAL has undertaken work in a wide range of commercial law issues, such as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), arbitration and conciliation, investor-state dispute settlement reform, electronic commerce, insolvency law, security interests and international sale of goods.

2. What are UNCITRAL E-Commerce Texts and how are they related to Singapore’s e-commerce laws?

In the field of e-commerce, UNCITRAL has released four texts in the last two decades or so. The first legislative text was the Model Law on Electronic Commerce (1996). Subsequently, UNCITRAL released the Model Law on Electronic Signatures (2001), the Electronic Communications Convention (2005), and, more recently, the Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (2017). These texts intend to facilitate e-commerce transactions by establishing rules to allow the electronic equivalent of paper-based documents to be legally recognised, thereby removing obstacles encountered by the use of electronic means.

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