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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.

Conferencing Through COVID-19

Reading time: 10 minutes

Written by Jennifer Lim and Irene Ng | Edited by Josh Lee

Authors’ Note: This article is a follow-up to LawTech.Asia’s earlier article on remote working, which can be found here.

Introduction

The recent global pandemic centering around Covid-19 has foisted large-scale digitalisation upon the legal industry. It has pressed firms, courts and clients to adopt remote working, practically forcing all lawyers to virtually turn “in-house” (pardon the pun) overnight as law firms react to government regulations by implementing “work-from-home” measures. 

The legal industry should not shy away from embracing technology, and should in fact use this as an opportunity to rethink its models for operating and delivering services.. In this regard, the Singapore Courts have taken digital transformation in their stride, enabling hearings, pre-trial conferences, and even commissioning to be conducted via video-conferencing. Courts in the region, such as Malaysia and Australia, have also adopted similar modes of digital transformation and formulated their own Standard Operating Procedures and handbooks.

As a follow-up to LawTech.Asia’s earlier article on remote working (which focused on business continuity plans for law firms in general), this article seeks to focus on introducing practical strategies to optimise one’s use of  video-conferencing tools. This article first examines strategies for optimising our workflow in the context of video-conferencing, before doing a comparison of certain common technologies.

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

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.

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: 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.

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)

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”)? 

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: 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. 

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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