Legal services can go online but not litigation

Technology has already driven many aspects of legal work "paperless", says lawyer Chia Boon Teck.
Technology has already driven many aspects of legal work "paperless", says lawyer Chia Boon Teck.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

The future of the legal profession may be deeply immersed in a world of virtual courts and online legal services.

Technology has already driven many aspects of legal work "paperless", said lawyer Chia Boon Teck, adding he could work from anywhere in the world with Internet access. "When I first started practice in 1995, most things were done manually and physically. For example, all the parties concerned had to exchange physical documents with each other; lawyers had to attend court physically; most of a lawyer's work had to be attended to in the office as the physical documents were too cumbersome to lug home," said Mr Chia, 52, co-managing partner of Chia Wong LLP.

He reckons more areas of legal work can be done virtually, such as video conferencing involving the courts, prosecution, lawyers, prisons and law enforcement agencies as well as other stakeholders.

"But for litigation, it would be difficult to go online because litigation matters tend to concern individuals or parties who need the comfort of a face-to-face interaction with the lawyer," said Mr Chia, who has been involved in high-profile cases, such as those involving past directors of the National Kidney Foundation.

"I believe litigants would much prefer to confide in a lawyer face to face than via a computer; and the nature of a trial process is that it requires the judge's observations of the demeanour of the witnesses giving evidence as well as having a real feel of the truthfulness or otherwise of a particular witness or fact."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'Legal services can go online but not litigation'. Print Edition | Subscribe