31 Aug 2018 Posted in Speeches
Professor David Wilkins, Harvard Law School,
Associate Professor Goh Yihan, SMU, School of Law,
His Excellency Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- I am delighted to join all of you here today to discuss the future of work in the legal profession.
- The practice of law is one of the most conservative of professions today. Has been, for many years.
- Old traditions and practices
- Old precedents
- Dusty, musky old law books
- But we live in an age where shifts and developments are occurring at breakneck speed, at times disrupting whole industries and it must certainly change the way we look at legal practice.
We must ask:
- What ought to be the paradigm of a legal practice tomorrow ?
- What would clients be looking for?
- How should legal services delivered? No longer need an office setting
- [ Courts – can even hear cases without being in Court. ]
- The simple reality is that the legal sector will have to embrace technology, or be disrupted by those who do. Have to be prepared to break away from traditional, normative behaviour.
- Technology is not only changing the way that legal work like document review is done, but also changing the way that legal services are deployed. Both law firms and their clients around the world have started to deploy technology.
- Linklaters developed an AI application called Verifi which can sift through 14 UK and European regulatory registers to check client names for banks. It can process thousands of names overnight where previously, it would have taken a trained junior lawyer an average of 12 minutes to search a single customer name.
- JPMorgan has a programme, called COIN, which stands for Contract Intelligence. COIN helps interpret commercial-loan agreements that used to consume 360,000 hours of work each year by lawyers and loan officers. The software reviews documents in seconds and is less error-prone.
- As the world moves ahead, we in Singapore similarly need to embrace technology. Lawyers need to embrace change and be open to new ways of practice.
- But we know – lawyers hate change. It is not easy, but easier when you prepare ahead of time and manage it instead of being changed.
- The Ministry of Law will continue to facilitate these efforts
- Let me take this opportunity to share with you what we have been doing on three levels – individual lawyers, law firms and the ecosystem to support our legal sector in preparing for the future.
- First, at the individual lawyer level, we need to equip our lawyers with an understanding of technology. Cannot change mindset – that they have to want to change – but we can encourage it.
- We have been encouraging the Law Society of Singapore and the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) to organise more seminars and events that can help the legal profession familiarise themselves with technology.
- I encourage you to actively attend and participate. Though it is probably much less of issue with younger lawyers and students.
- Speaking of younger lawyers, at the undergraduate level, we want our law schools to infuse relevant elements on technology into their curriculum.
- For example, I am pleased to note that SMU is the academic partner of the SAL for issues relating to legal innovation and the future business of law.
- Under this partnership, SMU law students will have opportunities to be involved in SAL’s Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) initiatives, and be exposed to the possibilities of innovation in the legal sector. I will say more about FLIP shortly.
- Second, at the practice level, we have introduced initiatives to help firms adopt technology and carry out innovation activities.
- Last year, MinLaw, together with LawSoc and SPRING Singapore (now Enterprise Singapore) launched Tech Start for Law to help Singapore law practices attain a baseline level of technology.
- 115 Singapore law practices benefited from the programme and adopted more than 140 technology solutions. 99% of the participating law firms were small and medium firms. This is a good start.
- For law firms which have the appetite to transform their practices by conducting more innovative activities, there are tailored government schemes available, depending on the firm’s needs and plans. Come to us with a plan and we are prepared to facilitate.
- Lastly, at the overall industry level, we want to develop an ecosystem which is conducive for innovation.
- One initiative which is contributing to this is SAL’s FLIP.
- FLIP aims to catalyse innovation across Singapore’s legal industry by bringing together innovative law firms and technology players.
- FLIP has three main components.
- First, a co-working space offering shared services and facilities to help law firms boost productivity.
- Second, a pre-accelerator programme providing training workshops and tech demos.
- Third, a legal sector-specific accelerator to groom promising legal tech start-ups and incubate new business models or services conceived by law firms.
- The co-working space and the pre-accelerator programme have been launched and we are starting to see more buzz surrounding our legaltech scene.
- I understand that the legal sector accelerator is in the works and is targeted to be launched by the end of this year. The accelerator and the innovations arising from it will add vibrancy to the ecosystem.
- MinLaw is also keen to provide a more conducive regulatory environment for innovation.
- If there might be specific regulations which may be inadvertently operating to impede law firms’ innovation activities, please let us know. We are open to explore how best the regulatory framework can accommodate these ideas.
- How much our legal sector benefits from technology in the future depends on what we do today. It is our hope that all in the sector will work with the Ministry to leverage technology to enhance Singapore’s status as an international legal services hub.
- Thank you and I wish you all a fruitful discussion this evening.
Last updated on 04 Sep 2018