The Law Society’s Lawtech Adoption Research, February 2019 finds that there are significant drivers to tech adoption by legal firms. The drivers range from increasing workloads and job complexity, the needs of the younger tech-savvy legal workforce and the eternal client needs of lower costs and faster delivery. The research also finds that the B2B market is the more mature in their tech adoption – particularly the larger law firms – and solutions such as legal analytics, project management, governance and compliance, and contract management are being evaluated. Technologically mature law firms appear to have already adopted collaboration tools, document management, IP management and eBilling solutions. While the B2C market is yet to show the same level of tech adoption, law firms are beginning to evaluate customer services such as chatbots, DIY law, robot lawyers and triage tools.
The research shows that there is a growing appetite for legaltech and indicates that countries across the world would do well to start their investments to support their legal community now.
Singapore Continues to Invest in Legaltech Research
The Singapore Government recently announced a grant of SGD 10.8 million to the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law to manage a legal technology research program. The grant comes from the National Research Foundation Singapore, under the Prime Minister’s Office. Ecosystm Vice President and General Counsel, Nandini Navale calls this step commendable and timely. “This is indeed proof that streamlining and digitalisation of the laws and the legal ecosystem in Singapore – although expensive – is an imperative investment.”
SMU intends to establish a Centre for Computational Law (CCL) and a five-year research program, focusing on Smart Contracts and Smart Statutes. Navale says, “The CCL has the potential of evolving into a robust platform for lawyers, legaltech professionals and law firms who are gearing up to adopt legal technology, artificial learning (AI) and machine learning to remain relevant in the new age. Legaltech such as AI-based due diligence tools, auto-generated contract solutions, practise management software, and deal room software have certainly changed the traditional law firm model in the recent past.” Navale sees the CCL as being able to deliver self-executing Smart Contracts and alternate coding solutions based on blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT), which will potentially transform the way the world works promising more transparency, and time and cost-efficiency.
The CCL follows the example of the Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & the Law (TRAIL), a research unit under the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law (NUS Law), launched in December 2019. TRAIL was set up with the intentions of being an international think-tank that enables inter-disciplinary communities to research into legal, ethical, policy, philosophical and regulatory issues associated with the use and development of IT, AI, data analytics and robotics in the practice of law.
“Digitalisation has undoubtedly transformed the world, established a new normal and redefined the ‘Future of Work, Play and Living Life’. While one of the most glaring advantages of digitalisation is significant simplification and ease, the flip side is that the legal systems and regulators are constantly faced with both policy and practical challenges, such as implementation and enforcement,” says Navale. “Fintech solutions such as Digital Banking, RegTech, SupTech and SaaS-based compliance and anti-money laundering (AML) tools – are all solid examples of the rapid impact of technology. This creates an immediate and imperative need for regulators to constantly reflect on, review and revise existing laws, policies, and regulations. And initiatives such as the CCL may just be the solution.”