Opening Remarks by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister of Law, Edwin Tong SC, at Soft Launch of the Legal Technology Platform
28 Jan 2022 Posted in [Speeches]
- Good afternoon to all of you. Thank you very much for being here and for being part of this occasion.
- We wanted to gather all of you here to give you a sneak preview of the Legal Technology Platform or the “LTP”. We have been developing it for the past year or so.
- Why did we embark on this initiative?
- We started with this idea pre-COVID-19. We had thought about it for a while, in fact from the time I joined MinLaw, which is back in 2018. COVID-19 simply accelerated it, because we have learnt some lessons from COVID-19.
A 2020 McKinsey survey found that
a) the digitisation of customer and supply-chain interactions and internal operations has been fast-forwarded, accelerated by at least 3-4 years; and
b) the share of digital or digitally enabled products in a company portfolio has been accelerated by at least 7 years!
c) On top of that, the day-to-day experience, e.g. dealing with clients, having matters heard in Court, cross-examining, interacting with your own colleagues in the office - all of that I think have had some, in fact, a lot of elements of technology infused into it.
- So if there is one silver lining of COVID-19, it has been the quicker awareness, acceptance, and in many cases, adoption of technology. I think some of us in this room will remember when the Courts tried to introduce technology many years ago, in fact, decades ago. We had screens at the Bar table. First thing we did when we came to court, I am sure you all remember, is to fold the screens down. That became an additional platform for your files. That was what technology did for us and how we used technology in those days. I think if we did that today, the Chief Justice would have a lot to say about that.
- The most immediate reason why we need to scale up, technology wise, is really because at the end of the day, and all of you are very much a big part of it, we want to be the legal hub of choice. This means we have to continually and optimally remain relevant to users. We must make businesses want to come to Singapore to transact. And we know that parties, arbitrators, mediators, in many cases, even judges, co-counsels, opposing counsels can deal with cases sitting from the comfort of their own homes in their own different jurisdictions.
- Clients can also engage lawyers from anywhere in the world to deal with their cases. It is so remote.
- And on that score, our law firms and our lawyers do need to level up.
Past Technology Initiatives
- Over the years, we have seen many schemes come to pass. As I said, lawyers and technology do not always mix so well.
But we have had several useful initiatives.
a) Tech Start for Law and Tech-celerate for Law are schemes that we have done very successfully with the Law Society of Singapore (“LawSoc”). They socialise and introduce the idea of technology to firms.
b) We then had the Legal Industry Technology and Innovation Roadmap (“TIR”), it essentially brought more advanced features of technology to the legal industry, and also provided practical tips on the types of solutions that law firms can consider.
- They have proven to be useful, as I said, they have at least opened a window and brought awareness. But we felt it was time to give it a far bigger push, and so we embarked on this platform initiative.
As far as we are aware, we are the first government in the world to do it on such a scale – to not just conceive of it, but
(a) to fund the development;
(b) to subsidise the cost of subscription which we will do;
(c) to provide training to help lawyers navigate this, get onboard;
(d) provide technical support; and
(e) Try as much as we can to take care of the subsequent upgrades and maintenance.
- When I say lawyers and technology do not mix, I mean it half in jest. The serious part is, it takes a lot of time to get up to speed on maintenance. And I do not know about you, but I get utterly frustrated when I come across something, the screen goes blank and you do not know what is happening. And very often, that is not what we want. We want to try and provide, as fast as we can, an end-to-end solution.
- So, we in Singapore have the advantage of being able to get all the key players and key drivers of this platform under one roof, or in this case, on the same platform, literally. And I think this has helped tremendously in making the platform a lot more convenient, friendly and highly navigable, which is a key feature and criteria behind designing this platform.
- We know also that investment in technology, besides the inconvenience and the fact that you need to deal with maintenance and upgrades and so on, can be steep financially. And especially for the smaller and medium sized firms – they might not have the economies of scale to reap the benefits of this and so those are the driving reasons behind why we decided to embark on this initiative.
Partnering the Legal Industry
At the same time, I would say that we are not building this platform in a vacuum.
(a) It is important for this platform to cohere well with existing products that many of the firms have. If we wanted to do something which requires you to jettison your existing technology, I think it would not work. So it has got to be a platform that is dynamic, is able to receive interface, and as I said, cohere well with what you already have.
(b) We consulted extensively – over 100 lawyers in the past year alone.
(i) From different firm sizes because practice is different; I came from a large firm that had hundreds of lawyers, but the way in which we practice would be very different from mid-sized to smaller-sized firms. And we had to understand the psyche behind it – how we dealt with each other in the firm and how we dealt with clients from that perspective. (ii) We also engaged lawyers from different practice areas, knowing that different practice areas will have different areas of needs, and different third-party interfaces which, by the way, is one of the features in subsequent phases of the platform – to be able to talk to, interact, interface with third parties. (iii) We also wanted to talk to lawyers from different business models, understanding the way in which they will be attracted to invest in technology, and their appetite for that. So essentially, we are trying to see how we can design something based on a common platform and sufficiently strong common denominator to start from.
Based on our consultations, we heard similar challenges:
(a) Many of the lawyers tell us that it is difficult to keep up with technology changes – very often they say we try so hard, we invest so much to keep up the technology, the next day it changes. We have all come across that.
(b) There is also a psychology behind it – change management – how to get staff used to it, and get people convenient, comfortable with it.
(c) Issues of security as well – which is very high on the agenda.
(d) And the question of integration, interoperability that I mentioned earlier.
- So the LTP that has been developed, has taken onboard these four points and tried to convert them into something that is usable.
- We will not be able to say from the get-go that this is a 100% product. So as with all things, you feel your way around it, we will make adjustments. So that is the concept and thinking behind a soft launch like this, to give ourselves a bit of breathing room, a bit of a runway. In this soft launch period there is real-life interaction and usage, and we can use that to build on the experience and to enhance the product.
- We have chosen to work with technology partners, such as Lupl and others to leverage on the products that they already have, build on the incentive to constantly innovate and improve, and not wanting to reinvent the wheel from scratch.
- Today, you will have the chance to try it out hands-on, understand, see for yourself and feel for yourself how that might work.
- It is important for us to hear back from you as well, as we engage on this and test it.
- We will continue to in the meantime, to canvass views, feedback, user experience from the wider industry as well – so that we can incorporate their input, take onboard their views and try to enhance the final product before we launch in April this year.
Before I end, let me thank everyone who has contributed to this effort:
(a) Vendors like Tessaract, who have integrated with the LTP;
(b) Key players and partners like the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) and the Supreme Court, both very important key stakeholders in this case, who have been developing their own products as well. Thank you very much for working on integrating your systems with the LTP;
(c) Institutions like SIMC and SMC, who have contributed templates to the LTP’s Knowledge Hub. One of the value propositions is to try and put knowledge sharing onto the same platform, so that it is accessible and usable, and will help smaller firms, in particular, to scale up.
(d) I want to thank LawSoc Mr Adrian Tan and his predecessor Mr Gregory Vijayendran. Both have been extremely supportive of the digital initiative and acceleration, and I think in due course, this support and the fact that we can work with LawSoc so easily and seamlessly, is a big boost. Not just for us in the ministry, but I think, overall, benefits the local legal industry.
- The strong partnership that we have between the different parts of the legal ecosystem in Singapore is something that has really made my work a lot easier. And I think it is ultimately for the benefit of the legal industry, for our clients, and fundamentally to grow the Singapore economy and to make sure that we remain the legal hub of choice for users around the world.
- On that note, I want to thank all of you for being here again for trying out the LTP. We have come to a certain level before we have decided to do the soft launch. Thank you very much for working together and making this a success.
- Let me also just wish all those who will be celebrating a very Happy and Blessed Lunar New Year.
- Thank you.
Last updated on 28 Jan 2022