Opening Remarks at the Introduction of the Legal Industry Digital Plan and LegalTech Adoption Guide by Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Law, Mdm Rahayu Mahzam
16 Oct 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Mr Jason Chan SC, President, Law Society of Singapore
Mr Tan Kiat How, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information
Ladies and gentlemen
1. A very good afternoon to all of you.
2. I am very happy to join you today for the panel discussion “GPT and Beyond: A Multipartite Discourse”, organised by the Law Society of Singapore. I look forward to the enriching and illuminating discussion among the experts later.
3. And equally importantly, I am delighted, on behalf of the Ministry of Law, to introduce the Legal Industry Digital Plan to you, with our partner, IMDA, and to witness the launch of the LegalTech Adoption Guide which the Law Society of Singapore, specifically its IT Committee, has put together. I am sure there was a lot of hard work, as Mr Jason Chan pointed out, so thank you very much.
II. COMMENDING INDUSTRY COLLABORATIONS
4. Today, therefore, is a momentous occasion, as we celebrate a shared commitment between government and private practitioners to support the growth of the legal profession.
5. As SMS Tan has shared, MinLaw and IMDA coordinated extensive consultation and validation from lawyers like yourselves, to develop the Legal IDP.
6. The Law Society of Singapore, MinLaw and IMDA have also worked closely together to ensure that the resources we have developed respectively are coherent, complementary, and most importantly, can meet the lawyers’ digital needs.
III. THE LEGAL IDP AS A NAVIGATION GUIDE FOR THE DIGITAL WORLD
7. We encourage more of such industry collaborations, so that the profession can keep pace with and respond to fast-changing developments.
8. This is important, as the rate at which technology is evolving has been unprecedented, especially in the last few years.
9. Technology and data continue to transform many aspects of our lives and the way we do business. The legal industry is no exception to this.
10. Some new norms created as responses to COVID-19 are here to stay. For example, Interlocutory Applications and Pre-Trial Conferences at the Courts continue to be heard remotely. Many of us are still conducting meetings and discussions virtually, especially if our counterparts are based offsite or overseas.
11. More recently, our inboxes have been abuzz with news on the possibilities of generative AI. Today, Gen AI is at the forefront of innovation. Both the public and private sectors have been exploring potential use cases, for Gen AI solutions to transform our lives with greater convenience and productivity.
12. The government has started leveraging Gen AI to improve our service delivery.
13. GovTech has built a government-specific search engine called SearchSG, which is powered by machine learning to trawl through over 50 government websites and deliver compiled information to citizens in seconds.
14. The Ministry of Education is exploring the transformative potential of AI tools for teaching and learning.
15. For the legal sector, just last month, the Singapore Courts and US legaltech start-up Harvey signed a two-year MOU to develop a generative AI program for users of the Small Claims Tribunal, as part of the efforts to enhance access to justice.
16. Law firms have also started leveraging on AI in the course of the work in various ways. Some use it to review documents and draft summaries, some use generative AI-based tools to conduct legal research for their litigation cases. I understand that one of such tool is Scott, developed by Intelllex, a Singapore legaltech firm. The founder, Zi Qian, will be speaking at the panel discussion later, so you can hear more from him.
17. There is a lot to keep up with. The question to ask is, what should I do as a law firm owner, partner or associate, with all these developments?
18. In this regard, I think the Legal IDP would a useful resource to start with.
19. First, the Legal IDP is the first IDP among the various industries to adopt an archetype approach which characterises law firms by their respective needs. We know that lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, so this is a useful tool for all lawyers. This is essential, because the legal sector, like other sectors, is not homogenous. This means that the digitalisation needs of the law firms range across a spectrum and there is no one-size-fits-all method to digitalisation.
20. Second, the Legal IDP can help law firms to be more aware of the ecosystem that they operate in. Using the Legal IDP, they can self-assess their digital maturity, so that they can think through their digitalisation needs more fundamentally.
21. Third, it will serve as a guide to help law firms to navigate and understand all the legaltech tools available and learn the specific use cases. In fact, the Legal IDP is also the first IDP that identifies the solutions in the market that has Gen AI functions.
22. Fourth, for law firms that already have multiple tools, the Legal IDP will help illustrate how these tools can integrate operational processes, streamline workflows and manage cases effectively.
23. Fifth, we know that embarking on digital transformation can be challenging and advice may be useful. On that front, law firms can speak to digital consultants, who are available through the CTO-as-a-Service programme. Digital Consultation for Digital Advisory and Project Management is complementary for first time users.
24. We are also mindful that costs can be a concern, especially for small- and medium-sized firms.
25. In respect of this, we have rolled out the Legal Technology Platform Initiative funding programme, which taps on the Productivity Solutions Grant for the legal sector (PSG-Legal).
26. Under this funding programme, we have curated and pre-qualified some of the relevant legaltech solutions referred to in the Legal IDP, so that law firms can get some support to adopt them.
27. For the legal sector specifically, MinLaw has worked with Enterprise SG to enhance the support level for this funding programme. Pre-qualified legaltech solutions are supported up to 70% for up to two years, as opposed to 50% for one year for other sectors. This enhanced level of support is available till 31 March 2025. So I hope you all rush to latch on this.
28. With rapid developments, adoption of technology is no longer a choice; it is a necessity. We hope that law firms will take full advantage of the funding support. And as you can see, I have mentioned a lot of extras that we tried to squeeze in for you, for the legal sector, that I hope will be beneficial for the law firms.
29. Further, new challenges such as cyberattacks and data incidents are emerging. So it is very important for law firms to have the relevant digital resources, so that they are better equipped to address these challenges.
30. It is heartening that such support is available to the legal industry now. And this is especially so, as I compare it to the time when I was in still in practice, when we had to figure it out on our own. To get up to speed, we had to spend time researching on the universe of legaltech tools, study the cyber threats out there, and figure out how to protect firm data from cyberattacks and phishing.
31. It was not easy for small law firms, where I came from, as SMS Tan rightly pointed out.
IV. BRIDGING THE LEGALTECH DIVIDE
32. MinLaw and IMDA will continue to support the legal profession to digitalise.
33. We will continue to respond to your needs.
34. That was how the Ministry of Law came up with the Legal Technology Platform (LTP), which was guided by feedback from industry consultations.
35. Lawyers said they prefer tools that improves legal workflows without having to overhaul current ways of working and changing their current suite of legaltech tools.
36. We therefore ensured that the LTP is integrated with document and practice management systems that are commonly used by the Singapore law firms, so that they can continue to use these tools as they adopt the LTP.
37. We also heard that Singapore law firms would like to access government systems through the LTP. We therefore built features in the LTP such that they are able to process information from systems such as eLitigation and ACRA. Lawyers can also send documents for their clients to sign using Sign with Singpass.
38. The LTP is not a static product. Industry stakeholders, including the Law Society of Singapore, have been our sounding board for future features, so that we can chart out the next phases of the LTP for the profession.
39. In the same manner, the Legal IDP will be refreshed from time to time, to ensure its continued relevance. To make this happen, we need your feedback, and in order to do so, we encourage you to take advantage of the Legal IDP as a resource to guide your digitalisation journey.
40. I encourage you to get started by tapping the three key tools of the Legal IDP:
(a) The e-book guide,
(b) The Enhanced Digital Readiness Check to do a digital health check, understand your digital maturity and identify the gaps in digital capabilities, and
(c) The CTO-as-a-Service consultancy programme.
41. I am heartened to see this common resolve between the government and the industry, represented by the Law Society of Singapore, in supporting the legal profession to digitalise.
42. I hope that this partnership will continue.
43. I also look forward to hearing more about the Law Society of Singapore’s LegalTech Adoption Guide during Dharma’s presentation later.
44. I wish for everyone to have a fruitful discussion with our experts on legaltech and Gen AI this afternoon.
45. Thank you very much.
Last updated on 16 October 2023