Interview by Josh Lee | Edited byHuiling Xie

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

LawTech.Asia spoke with Hannah Lim, Head of Rule of Law and Emerging Markets at LexisNexis (“LN”). Hannah will be speaking on the topic of “How technology will transform the business of law” at LexTech. Picking up on this exciting topic, we ask Hannah about how legal tech can play a pivotal role in shaping the rule of law in emerging markets, and how this interplays with the need to provide better access to justice for all.

What got you interested in the first place in exploring the advancement of the rule of law in emerging markets such as Myanmar?

Before joining LN, I was a corporate lawyer based in Myanmar, which explains my focus on Myanmar. I had been doing Myanmar legal work since 2011 and during my time there, I could really see how important a strong legal system was to society, and how it would affect the man on the street. It was something that I had taken for granted, and my experience has taught me that a robust society with a strong legal system and healthy institutions (such as the rule of law) is something that has to be deliberately built and maintained. It doesn’t materialize on its own and the process of building and maintaining these institutions is not easy. So, advancing the rule of law isn’t just a job for me; it’s closely tied together with my journey as a legal professional.

What I love about my job is that trying to contribute positively to the world is coherent with our business goals. To put it simply – if there is no rule of law, there will be no need for lawyers. People will find alternative means to resolve their conflict, for example with a gun or bags of money. These are alternatives that we prefer did not exist as they tend to favour the “haves” over the “have-nots”. If there is no rule of law and therefore no lawyers, LexisNexis would also have no customers. In this regard, my role in trying to advance the rule of law feeds in directly with our business goals. It is not just a matter of corporate social responsibility, but a matter of corporate identity – we invest in advancing the rule of law because it represents a synergy between the work that we do and contributing to the development of healthy societies. 

What then do you think is the relationship or connection between technology and the rule of law?

Technology advances human capability. Steve Jobs once said that the computer is like a bicycle for the mind.[1] The bicycle has allowed us to travel at speeds we otherwise would not be able to. In the same way, technology allows us to do and create things, and to communicate with and impact people, that we previously couldn’t. So from that perspective, technology can certainly enhance our capability to build strong social institutions to uphold the rule of law. A simple example would be access to laws – with the internet and eJustice systems, laws and case judgements have been increasingly made more accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

However, technology can be a double-edged sword and, as we are witnessing with the 4thIndustrial Revolution, can be disruptive. In doing so, it can disrupt the institutions that had been keeping the rule of law intact. For example, the spread of fake news on social media platforms can undermine social trust and increase tribalism between members of a population. In places where governing institutions are already weak this could lead to fatal outbursts of communal violence. 

Like fire, technology is a good tool but a bad master, and we need to be mindful of the ways the technology we develop can impact communities – especially communities that are different from us and that we are not familiar with. To this end, both the private and public sectors need to work together to make sure that technology is used responsibly. When firms like LN work with governments to develop technology platforms, we have to do so responsibly and be mindful of our ultimate end users: society. For example, we have to ensure that it is accessible to all and that it does not contributing to inequality within a community. 

It is heartening to know that LexisNexis thinks highly of using legal technology to broaden access to justice. What are some of these endeavours in doing so or in advancing the rule of law in emerging markets so far? What are some of the greatest challenges faced?

An example I personally appreciate is the Eyewitnesses to Atrocities App[2] we developed in conjunction with eyeWitness, an NGO that started as an initiative of the International Bar Association (IBA). This was originally developed for human rights defenders operating in war-zones who may find it difficult to document atrocities that they come across. The app allows the user to take photos or videos through the app which can be uploaded to a secure server managed by eyeWitness. This aids in enhancing the admissibility of such evidence to a court of law. There app allows the user to choose to erase any evidence collected from the user’s device for their personal safety.

In terms of what we’ve been doing in our Southeast Asia markets, we’re really looking at supporting access to laws and justice, as well as supporting capacity-building and legal education. And this goes to the point on challenges: the challenges are rarely technological (although the technological issue I run into most often is the lack of internet connectivity – and this relates to the issue of accessibility and equality mentioned above). The greatest challenge tends to be social acceptance and the political will to implement change. As a corporation, we are very mindful of our role in society – we do not have the democratic mandate of society and therefore are not in a position to make policy decisions. As such, while we may have the solutions and the technology, we are not always in a position to implement them, and have to work with the decision-makers who are. As such, it’s a long journey.  

What about the broader area of legal technology? What are your thoughts on the implications of legal technology on both the legal services landscape, as well as the public policy landscape? 

Technological development is, by nature, disruptive. The technologies of the 4thIndustrial Revolution are even more so. There is some concern that legal technology will render lawyers obsolete but that is really not going to be the case. I say this because law really is about the management of relationships and lawyers are the engineers and architects of relationships in society. Because this strikes at the root of what it means to be human, lawyers will always have a role in society. We cannot automate relationships, and what legal tech does is simply to create better tools for these engineers and architects. 

In fact, it is particularly pertinent in these VUCA (volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous) times that lawyers are especially needed to find fair and equitable solutions to the societal challenges caused by such disruptions. This is where legal tech plays a part in supporting this process, by freeing up lawyers’ time from administrative route work, to really focusing on practicing the law. 

Thank you for your insights on how lawyers can use legal tech to help them add value where they can! What are some simple methods/ways legal professionals can use to incorporate legal tech (A.I and Big data) into their daily workflow?

The solutions are already in existence. Have an open mind and see what they can do for your firm. We’re not saying that lawyers need to learn how to code. Just have an open mindset and have conversations with people like us. It’s a two-way street, and we’re looking forward to having that conversation with all of you at LexTech!

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[1]https://www.treehugger.com/bikes/steve-jobs-the-computer-is-a-bicycle-for-our-minds.html

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/08/eyewitness-to-atrocities-the-app-aimed-at-bringing
-war-criminals-to-justice