Technology drives nearly every aspect of our lives, and the legal sector is not spared from the continually evolving tech space. Technology’s integration with conventional law practices, especially through the global pandemic, touches every aspect of the legal business, from law firms and corporate legal departments to boardrooms and courtrooms.
In a February 2021 article, “The Use, Issues and Policies of Legal Technology for Lawyers and In-House Counsel,” LawTech Asia Co-Founder Josh Lee wrote that “disruptions, by their very nature, are uncomfortable, but technology can help legal professionals improve in the delivery of legal services. It would be prudent for lawyers and in-house counsel to consider legal technology and assess whether the promised efficiency gains could outweigh the costs of adoption.”
While we will talk about ways how to increase technology adoption, but we should also be mindful of the Asia Pacific geography. It is the largest continent with diverse cultures and languages. Most of the Legal Tech solutions focus on developed economies and are developed considering the western legal market. Although, most Asian countries have English as their medium of education. The developers however need to be mindful of the language diversity and jurisdictional flexibility.
Most of the legal technology vendors expect that lawyers should be tech-savvy so that legal departments maximise the usage of the technologies. Tech-savvy by definition has also evolved in the last two years to involve adaptability to embrace legal technologies and departments emphasise on the importance of innovations to solve client issues.
As wisely as it is said “survival of the fittest” for the evolution of the species, new tech literacy for the upcoming law workforce becomes an imperative affair. The conventional law studies give a solid understanding of the framework of how the legal system works and the technology gives the ease of accessing and making use of a plethora of information in an efficient way, thereby reducing the costs.
Digital Skills at the forefront
Different law schools in the Asia Pacific region are already a step ahead of their counterparts and working in line with U.S. and UK schools. These schools are developing a pool of tech lawyers and imparting relevant digital skills to them. Apart from equipping graduates with relevant skills, this will also seed a progressive mindset.
According to the Legal Industry Technology and Innovation Roadmap from the Government of Singapore, strong efforts are already seen, which involves:
- Cross-Disciplinary Curriculum Industry Partnerships: NUS has in place three relevant minors in Business Analytics, Computer Science, and Information Systems that law students can complete; students may also pursue electives from other faculties. SMU has also recently introduced a university-wide core curriculum, including mandatory technology primers for law students. For students desiring deeper interdisciplinary study, SMU has also recently launched a BSc in Computing & Law.
- Industry Partnerships: NUS is exploring collaboration opportunities with industry partners such as Clifford Chance. Through the Centre for Computational Law, SMU has partnered with the Supreme Court to develop new access-to-justice models aided by technology. SMU has also partnered with SAL’s Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) to provide research and teaching opportunities. Such partnerships will help expand the scope of LegalTech application within the profession.
- Research Capabilities: NUS has established a Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and the Law (TRAIL). SMU has also set up two law and technology centres: the Centre for AI & Data Governance and the Centre for Computational Law. Such research helps deepen understanding of technology and its possibilities.
As the legal industry continues to evolve and a ‘new normal’ emerges, technology will be a driving force. The question remains, how are we going to be future-ready?
The following groups would see updates in training relating to the requirements of future law:
- Corporation/ Law Firms
- Legal Tech firms
- Law Schools
- Law Students
- Corporation/ Law firms sit at the top of the hierarchy where most of the legal tech is utilised and consumed. An excerpt taken from the Lawtech Asia states that today, legal technology employed by law firms and corporations can be viewed in terms of baseline and advanced technology to aid in contract drafting, streamline workflow processes and promote business innovation. In Singapore, the vision of how legal technology could apply to the industry was spearheaded by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL). Its Legal Technology Vision called upon legal professionals to be part of the disruptions that the sector will face.
- Legal Tech firms, which are at the helm of exploiting Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Predictive Analytics to create future-ready software for the law fraternity in aid to further streamline the workflow have the potential to bridge the gap through imparting systematic training to the existing and the future workforce. Software Subscription based approach to the law firms to make law tech products more accessible to the workforce and equip them with the latest practices in law technology. Governments in South East Asia may give subsidies to the small and medium law firms for implementing such technologies as given by the Government of Singapore.
- Law School, which is the first point of contact for any aspiring lawyer, is where the law tech could be incepted at the preliminary stage of a lawyer and could be utilised for future deployment.
Additionally, region-level awards and talk shows also help intrigue law graduates and aspirants to look at innovative ways to upskill them.
Legal technology has definitely disrupted the legal profession. Though challenges (such as trying to retain the “human touch” of the lawyer) exist, the future remains bright. As seen in the Legal Industry Technology and Innovation Roadmap launched by Minister Edwin Tong in October 2020, Singapore is making a conscious effort to promote innovation through:
- plans to provide law firms with practical solutions;
- an affordable and secure cloud-based avenue for legal technology; and
- infusing technology with the local law school curriculum so as to train technologically aware lawyers.
Although technological disruptions to the legal profession are here to stay, by embracing these disruptions, legal professionals can increase their productivity and keep delivering high-value work.
Authored by: 3NServe
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