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This article is written by Shringarika Srivastava, pursuing a Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts from LawSikho. The article has been edited by Prashant Bvaiskar (Associate, LawSikho) and Dipshi Swara (Senior Associate, LawSikho).

We are in the era where we are witnessing rapid technological changes worldwide. Technology is taking over every industrial sector. Now how could the legal industry be left out? Involvement of technological resources in the legal industry is of utmost requirement in today’s world especially while going through a pandemic. The sooner we learn the importance of bringing technology and law together the better we can be at producing future ready results. But what is Legal Tech and what kind of services are we talking about here?

What is a Legal Tech Startup

A Legal Tech company is one that offers software that can be used by lawyers to make the work easier and quicker. The purpose of these services is to move past the traditional way of doing the legal work of companies along with in a way that increases the efficiency. Most of such companies are startups offering various types of software that reduces the workload and time consumption and makes it quick and efficient. Suchsoftware solves various kinds of purposes like maintaining, managing, and identification of legal documents. Some software also provides a CRM facility and chat bot facility. And then there are some data security tools. All these things together improve the work efficiency of the law firms as well as in-house legal departments of companies.

Singapore Legal Tech industry

It is a well known fact that the Singapore Legal Tech industry has been flourishing much before the covid came. Legal tech startups have been booming in Singapore the last few years. But when the covid struck it raised the need of innovation in this area. This led to an even greater rise of the Legal Tech startups in Singapore. Multiple opportunities to help these startups grow are also offered by the Singapore government. The Singapore government is calling for innovation in the field of Legal Tech. It highly appreciated the technological innovation in the legal industry. Many experienced technology lawyers working in top firms of the world are moving to Singapore to start their own legal tech firm. They are not alone. Even the young lawyers who want to expand their practice in this area are also driven to enter the Singapore Legal Tech market in some way or the other. 

Few Singapore-based Legal Tech startups to watch out for are:

  1. Alpha Legal Tech

This company is formed by lawyers for lawyers. It offers document comparison solutions which makes the work easier for a legal professional and provides better solutions to time taking cases. This project was Supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and in collaboration with the FLIP, Create+65 which identifies, incubates, tests, and pilots new legal technology solutions to enhance client services.

  1. Rajah & Tann Technologies

This company provides a suite of tech enabled legal solutions like cyber security, e-Discovery, data breach readiness etc. it provides a subscription based software which is being used by almost all the top tier firms in Singapore. This integrated solution service bringing digital services to help lawyers was much needed especially during the global pandemic which gave this company a further push.

  1. VanillaLaw:

This company was started with a policy to keep the work plain and simple so that it is easier to pursue and hence the name Vanilla Law. It is an international boutique law firm that aims at reducing the complexities of legal work using innovative ways. It launched its own web-based platform Vanilla Law Docs, in 2016. Which is an interactive web-based platform that allows their clients to insert relevant information to prepare the first draft of legal documents in return.

Why is Singapore an excellent ecosystem for Legal Tech startups?  

As we saw, given the kind of startups flourishing in Singapore it is evident that the Legal Tech industry had been flourishing in Singapore forthe past few years. The covid pandemic has only given it an extra push. The Singapore Legal Tech industry had already introduced many innovative processes to execute the work more efficiently. The pandemic gave rise to the need of such resources at a mass level and Singapore was ready to offer it. Not just that, but the environment created by the economy at large with the support of the government, Singapore provides major encouragement to such companies bringing in innovation to help the economic growth. Let us look at some of the key factors that make Singapore the best place to form a Legal Tech startup:

  1. Increased number of centres of excellence (COEs):

The country has taken multiple initiatives in the past few years seeing the rising need of digitization in the legal sector. One of such initiatives is the increase in the number of centers of excellence throughout the country especially focused on technological development in the legal sector. This is encouraging more young minds to put their focus on this area and bring in new advancements for the industry to work better. One example of such COEs is the ASEAN Cyber Developments: Centre of Excellence for Singapore, Cybercrime Convention for the Philippines, and an Open-Ended Working Group for Everyone.

  1. Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR):

Technology and innovation roadmap TIR in an initiative launched by Singapore Ministry of Law in 2020. It was developed by the Ministry of Law in close collaboration with the Singapore legal industry in order to encourage technology adoption and innovation. It is a sectoral plan for the coming decade till 2030. TIR is considered to be a game changer for the Legal Tech industry as it is aimed towards bringing in new ways and software solutions to making the technological adoption more accessible throughout the country on a large scale. It is prioritizing such introduction to innovation by curating a long term funding plan. These will include introduction of AI and cyber security software amongst other services.

  1. Future Law Innovation Program (FLIP):

FLIP is another great initiative by the Singapore government in this direction. It is set up by the Singapore academy of Law with support of the Singapore government to encourage engagement of technologically advanced resources by the legal industry throughout the country. It brings together the legal professionals, government bodies, technologists and incubators to to bootstrap new and futuristic solutions for courts, law firms and in-house counsels. The Singapore ministry of law along with the legal industry have also introduced the Tech Celate programme with a budget of $3.68B under which they pay off the 70% first year cost of the firms incorporating technological software in their major work executions. This shows how serious the government is when it comes to making the country a smart nation and has not left behind the legal industry in this process.

Is there a downside?

We need to be practical when it comes to bringing a huge change under a certain industry no matter what it is. Everything has its own drawbacks and challenges and it is prudent to consider them along with looking at the bright side of any opportunity. The challenge in this situation is that learning about such a huge level of technological advancement will take a lot of money and time to learn and research about. Most of the lawyers ate tech savvy and have no relation with it whatsoever. The learning curve will be steep and such advanced technological development will also have to come up with the resources to help the legal professionals get and give training to their associates. 

Another issue that is on top of the minds of the legal professionals right now is that the involvement of technology in the legal sector will mean more cyber security and data protection requirements. This technological revolution will mean that all the legal documents will have to be kept in a digitized manner and most of them will be on the cloud instead of personal storage and the question is how will the data be secured from any beach or leakage at such great level.

But there is no denying that even with certain challenges some big firms are already preparing themselves for this change and some are even trying to build their own software solutions. The spokesperson for Tessaract.io said that the move towards digitalization will only continue with the emergence of more areas that need solutions. “There is an increasing preference to promote interoperability among the different tools used and among the different functions in a law firm,” they said. They also identified automation as another emerging area within the Legal Tech space.

Conclusion

There are some sectors that form the basic structure of an economy and law is one of them. There is no economy without law and hence it is important to keep the legal industry growing.  Legal professionals are recognizing the fact that it is the need of the hour to bring technological advancement in the legal industry. Therefore, if you are someone who wants to contribute with their ideas and research in this direction along with getting an exposure to an excellent ecosystem to work in then Singapore is the best place to start with. This country is serious about turning itself into a smart nation and is providing numerous initiatives to encourage such developments. 

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_technology
  2. https://www.legalbusinessonline.com/other-news/singapore-fertile-ground-legaltech-innovation
  3. https://contractbook.com/legaltechinstitute/legal-tech-around-the-world-singapore

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