legal

The Supreme Court in Singapore

The first image that crystallises in most laypeople’s mind when they think of the legal profession is an attorney’s office where lawyers peruse law reference tomes to prepare their cases while their legal clerks pour over large binders of relevant documents.

That image perfectly symbolises how rooted many lawyers are in traditional practices. But while some processes remain fundamental to the country’s constitution, recent leaps in tech innovations — such as big data analytics and AI — opened up opportunities to streamline or improve certain aspects of legal practices and in turn, allowing law practitioners to better serve their clients.

Today, in Singapore, a new two-year pilot programme that aims to build a tech-driven law industry, otherwise know as legaltech, has been officially launched, half a year after it was unveiled.

Called the Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP), this initiative is run by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL), a key legal industry development agency in the country. It will bring together legal professionals, tech entrepreneurs, government bodies and investors to incubate new legal service models as well as accelerate the widespread adoption of legaltech.

It will also look into helping lawyers navigate new — and grey — legal areas concerning new technologies, such as house-sharing and drones, for example. Also, if regulations impede new innovations, participants at FLIP will have the opportunity to tackle them together.

Breaking down FLIP

Paul Neo, the COO and CFO of SAL, broke down FLIP’s objectives into three tracks.

The first track, “Lighten-up”, aims to introduce small law firms and solo practitioners to innovations that help streamline back-end processes. The end goal is to ideally enable them to go paper-light and increase their bandwidth capacity.

To facilitate that, the legal professionals will be able to testbed and experiment these new solutions at SAL’s Legal Innovation Lab at Collision 8, a co-working space located right across the Supreme Court of Singapore.

The second track is “Ideate”, a pre-acceleration programme that will help legal firms incubate new legal service delivery models and generate fresh revenue streams. This will be done via tech demos and workshops, which will impart crucial knowledge regarding product/market fit, legal design thinking, agile product development and more.

The third track is its new legaltech accelerator, a 100-day programme which will only be launched in April. This will bring together mentors, government agencies, such as SPRING, and investors to commercialise, scale, and invest in new legaltech models.

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Additionally, FLIP aims to enhance the capabilities of the existing LawNet system, an online database of research tools for lawyers. Neo told e27 the LawNet is still regionally-based for now, but he hopes for it to become a global platform.

He also wants to integrate more collaboration tools allowing specialists from multiple disciplines to contribute — an integral part of developing a holistic legal ecosystem.

Gathering partners

Since its soft launch last year, FLIP has already gathered about 31 participants from 23 companies. They range from legaltech startups, large and small law firms, and in-house counsels.

One of the participants is Basileios Drolias, who co-founded UK- and Singapore-based legaltech startup myLawyer, a referral service that matches clients and lawyers and lawyers to lawyers. The company also offers an encrypted cloud storage service for legal discussions. Right now, it has over 250 lawyers in its database.

Drolias told e27 that he hopes FLIP will give his company more exposure to legal firms in Singapore, as well as help them expand its daily operations. It is also in the process of building a mobile app and will leverage FLIP to accelerate product development.

Jerrold Low, co-founder of Lex Quanta, an AI analytics startup, is another participant. Low’s solution deals with legal analytics, with a specific focus on divorce cases. It has an algorithm that crunches data from past divorce cases to give an estimate on the division of marital assets. Low is currently seeking VC funding after getting a grant from the government’s enterprise development agency, SPRING Singapore.

In conjunction with FLIP’s official launch, SAL has signed MOUs with both Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

The partnership with IMDA will help mid-career professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) and law firms receive retraining to adopt legaltech solutions, as well as create new job roles within the industry. There are also plans to set up a team of legal technologists.

With regards to SMU, the university wants to leverage on SAL to allow students to experiment with innovation projects. In addition, SMU’s School of Law will co-host dialogues and seminars with SAL and develop educational programmes to support leadership and legal innovation issues.

“Legal disruption is real. We need to prepare our studies to see legal disruption as an opportunity. SAL represents the ethos that SMU stands for — innovation entrepreneurship … and [tech innovation] raises fundamental issues about the law,” said Associate Professor Goh Yihan, Dean of SMU School of Law.

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