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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.

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

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.

Clifford Chance launches Automation Academy to empower the next generation of lawyers

Reading time: 5 minutes

Interview by Lenon Ong | Written by Amelia Chew | Edited by Josh Lee 

In November 2019, Clifford Chance announced that it was launching the Automation Academy, a training programme designed to give trainees and lawyers a foundational understanding of how to automate legal contracts and other tasks using a no-code platform. The LawTech.Asia team sat down with Laura Collins Scott, Innovation Lead at Clifford Chance, and her team to learn about the firm’s approach towards training lawyers for the evolving legal industry. 

Laura Collins Scott, Innovation Lead at Clifford Chance

Legal Design For The Future of Law

Reading time: 9 minutes

Written By: Marc Chia | Edited By: Jennifer Lim Wei Zhen, Andrew Wong

What is legal design?

Legal design is the application of human-centred design approach to the problems and challenges of the legal process. While it is commonly associated with using technology to alter and advance the delivery of legal services, legal design goes beyond its relationship to technology. It entails a re-thinking of existing processes to maximise and optimise outcomes.

It is not the easiest thing in the world to explain legal design. Indeed the Legal Design Alliance’s Legal Design Manifesto is a multi page document explaining the attitudes, purposes and approaches to legal design. Other prominent pieces of literature include Professor Margaret Hagan’s book “Law by Design” and articles by organisations focusing on legal design as a service such as Dot and Lexpert to name but a few.

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.

Launch of South East Asia’s first LegalTech movement

Reading time: 2 minutes

Guest post by ASEAN LegalTech

The LegalTech segment has now moved into the mainstream consciousness of the legal market across Asia and in particular the South East Asian region. While the global LegalTech narrative is dominated by mature legal markets like Australia, Europe and the USA, there is no shortage of LegalTech startups building innovative solutions across the ten countries that compose the Association of South East Asian Nations (“ASEAN”). 

ASEAN LegalTech (“ALT”) was formed in May 2019 with the aim of connecting LegalTech pioneers, thought leaders and enthusiasts to promote and build the LegalTech ecosystem in the South East Asian markets. One of ASEAN LegalTech’s goals is to provide a voice to the emerging market to inform discussions with regulators who are in the early stages of determining how to regulate LegalTech.  

New Regional Association Unites Region’s Legal and Technology Innovators

Reading time: 3 minutes

ALITA is the first Asia-Pacific organisation to inclusively bring together regional stakeholders to promote innovation and technology for legal services. 

A new international association to promote the development and adoption of legal innovation and technology in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) was launched on Thursday September 5, 2019.

Held at TechLaw.Fest 2019, an annual law and technology conference in Singapore, the launch of the Asia-Pacific Legal Innovation and Technology Association (ALITA) was officiated by Justice Lee Seiu Kin, a Supreme Court Judge of Singapore and Chairman of the Legal Technology Cluster of the Singapore Academy of Law. 

The official logo of ALITA.

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