Opening Speech by Ms Lai Wei Lin, Permanent Secretary for Law and 2nd Permanent Secretary for Education, at the Opening Ceremony of SMU Legal Innovation and Technology (LIT) Hackathon
13 Aug 2021 Posted in [Speeches]
- Good morning everyone.
- I would like to thank the SMU Legal Innovation & Technology Club for inviting me to this event.
- As someone who wears two hats, in both the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Education where I focus on higher education, I greatly appreciate this opportunity to be here today. For two reasons.
- First – that we have students from different tertiary institutions and disciplines coming together in this hackathon, each of you bringing different expertise and ideas. It is wonderful to see the creative and competitive energies of all the teams participating in this hackathon.
- Second – that you are coming together to explore ways to better use technology to solve problems in the legal sector. This is a great chance to apply your learning, in a cross-disciplinary fashion, to address real problem statements faced in the industry.
Hackathons are always exciting platforms,
a. because of who they manage to bring together – people from different disciplines and backgrounds,
b. because of what they seek to do – to solve everyday problems, from the simple to the complex, and
c. because of what they achieve – to enable cross-pollination of ideas, which in turn sparks creativity and innovation.
Why legal tech?
- This is the second edition of the Legal Innovation and Technology hackathon, which sits at an interesting intersection between technology and law.
- Why is legal tech so important?
First, in the practice of law, one of the main drivers that lawyers are most concerned with is cost and efficiency.
a. The global legal industry landscape is getting more competitive. As a legal services hub, our industry is not immune to competitive pressures locally and from overseas.
b. Clients expect “more for less”. Increasingly, law firms will need to use technology to keep up and offer greater value for money; value in terms of quality or speed.
There is much that technology can help with.
a. Sometimes, there is fear how it can replace humans and render jobs redundant. Like lawyers.
b. But what we need to recognise and adapt to, is the ability of technology to augment, not replace, what humans can do.
i. For example, document automation software solutions can capture information from source to generate new documents and assemble contract drafts very quickly, instead of over several man-hours. ii. At a more sophisticated level, legal tech can also transform and enable the provision of more transparent, accessible and affordable legal services. For example, using legal chatbots, law firms can render simple legal advice to clients. iii. Such technologies free up lawyers’ time and allow them to take on higher-value tasks. iv. Everyday technology and tools are also important. The pandemic demonstrated how being digitally equipped has enabled law firms and lawyers to continue their operations and services, including in the region, in spite of physical limitations or travel restrictions.
But the boon of legal tech requires us to also closely re-examine the roles of lawyers and the strategic focus of law firms.
a. If lawyers’ time is freed up to pursue higher value tasks – what new tasks or new work should these be?
b. What new growth areas should law firms pursue, as the capacity of their current team is enlarged?
c. And what are some new non-law capabilities that law firms or the legal sector will need to thrive, and that lawyers need to learn to harness?
- With new tech applications and tools like AI, machine learning and blockchain, more innovative legal tech solutions will emerge. The transformative effects of legal tech will stretch beyond streamlining or automation. Firms will be better able to reach beyond geographical boundaries, enabling greater access to external markets and jurisdictions. As a legal services hub, we must ensure that our legal industry is at the vanguard of developments and adept in leveraging technology.
The Government’s efforts to support legal tech and innovation
- In recent years, MinLaw has redoubled our efforts to help Singapore law practices digitalise quickly and enhance the vibrancy of Singapore’s legal tech ecosystem to enable more innovation to flourish.
- Together with partners such as the Law Society of Singapore, Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, we launched the Tech Start for Law in 2017, and Tech-celerate for Law in 2019. These are support schemes targeted at the smaller law firms to help them adopt curated solutions quickly.
- We also supported local and international law firms to kick start innovation activities in Singapore, to drive more innovative and robust client service delivery in a changing technology landscape through identifying, developing, testing and rolling out new legal technology solutions.
Last October, MinLaw developed and launched the Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR), which is available for reference on our website.
a. This sector-wide plan outlines technologies that will impact and change legal services and ways to support their development and adoption.
b. Initiatives under the TIR include: (i) providing support in legal tech adoption to lawyers, (ii) an affordable and secure cloud-based platform for legal tech, (iii) a Guide to Cybersecurity by the Law Society, and (iv) education reforms to ensure that law graduates are equipped with sufficient digital skills.
One key initiative under the TIR is the Legal Technology Platform to support and enable law firms in the adoption of technology solutions.
a. The platform will help law firms link their existing solutions to a single plug-and-play platform that facilitates their daily workflow.
b. Lawyers can access some of their most commonly-used solutions in one place without having to navigate different websites and tools. The time saved can be used on more substantive legal work.
c. The platform will eventually communicate and interface with government agencies that lawyers more frequently transact with, and better support lawyers’ end-to-end workflow.
d. We have been engaging the industry widely on this initiative, to solicit feedback and ideas on key features that should be included in the platform.
e. We aim to launch a product that will meet their needs in terms of functionality and useability in 2022.
- The TIR and key initiatives such as the Legal Tech Platform are strong building blocks to cultivating a technologically savvy and innovative legal services ecosystem in Singapore.
Impact on law and non-law students
As students, you represent the next generation of aspiring lawyers, technologists and changemakers who will drive the next phase of legal tech.
a. For the law majors, you will need to know more than simply the law.
b. For the non-law majors, an appreciation of the business of law will enrich your effectiveness and world view.
c. And for all young professionals entering the workforce, you will need a global mindset, possess multi-disciplinary skills, and be an entrepreneurial problem solver.
- I am therefore heartened to meet so many of you today with the passion, interest and aspiration to create legal tech solutions that will revolutionise the way legal service is delivered and experienced.
- I hope that this hackathon gives you a better sense of the challenges and opportunities in the legal technology landscape, and helps to equip you with relevant skills to succeed in your respective fields in future.
- With that, I wish you all the best for the next three days of your hackathon journey. I look forward to meeting you on Sunday and hearing about the exciting solutions and ideas you come up with.
Last updated on 13 Aug 2021