New 10-year road map to give law firms more support to adopt tech

MinLaw plan also aims to boost innovation and development of legal industry here

The legal industry is getting a leg-up in harnessing technology under a new 10-year plan that will see more support for law firms in adopting technology and more opportunities for law students in learning digital skills.

The Legal Industry Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR) was launched yesterday by Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong at TechLaw.Fest, an annual conference on law and technology.

It sets out plans by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) to promote innovation, technology adoption and development in Singapore's legal industry for the next decade.

These include working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority and industry partners to develop a plan that helps law firms assess their digital readiness and identify technology they can adopt.

MinLaw will also explore the possibility of a cloud-based platform for legal technology, which will help law firms find the right software for their needs, among other things.

Legal technology, or legaltech, refers to the use of technology and software that increase the productivity of legal service providers and help consumers access legal expertise.

In-house lawyers can look forward to upcoming initiatives to support them in their initial adoption of legaltech, such as tools to restructure their workflow.

As part of plans to make Singapore a leading global legaltech hub, MinLaw will be working with the Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore to attract global law practices and legaltech firms to establish operations here.

Other initiatives outlined in the road map include enabling qualified lawyers to count legaltech upskilling programmes as part of their continuing professional development.

Law schools are also encouraged to further infuse technology into their curriculum, in order to better equip graduates with relevant digital skills.

Currently law undergraduates from the National University of Singapore can choose to take a minor in business analytics, computer science or information systems.

The Singapore Management University has also recently launched a new Bachelor of Science (Computing and Law) degree.

In a press statement yesterday, MinLaw said that the TIR is the result of ongoing engagement efforts.

The road map comes after two initiatives were previously introduced to help Singapore law firms embrace technology.

Tech Start for Law was launched by MinLaw, The Law Society of Singapore and the then Spring Singapore in 2017. It ended in 2018.

The scheme provided $2.8 million in funding support for law firms to adopt baseline technology solutions, such as tools for document management that let lawyers perform daily tasks more efficiently.

The second, Tech-celerate for Law, was introduced last year to cover part of the first-year cost of adopting baseline and advanced technology solutions by law firms.

The scheme, which involves $3.68 million in funding support, has been extended to January next year.

Yesterday, Mr Tong, who is also Culture, Community and Youth Minister, said that technology should not be seen as a "silver bullet" and that lawyers remain very much in demand.

"At the end of the day, whether you do negotiations as a transactional lawyer, or you do advocacy as a disputes lawyer, that communication or advocacy skill - I think it is something that is not replaceable...

"The use of technology is to make them or the industry a lot more efficient, and to allow them to focus on really high-value work," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2020, with the headline New 10-year road map to give law firms more support to adopt tech. Subscribe