New international association launched to promote use of technology in legal profession

Lawyers outside the State Courts. A new international association to promote the development and use of technology by legal professionals in the region has been launched in Singapore. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new international association to promote the development and use of technology by legal professionals in the region was launched in Singapore on Thursday (Sept 5).

The Asia-Pacific Legal Innovation and Technology Association (Alita) is the first organisation in the Asia-Pacific to promote collaborations and information sharing in the legal technology sector.

More than 50 legal technology organisations from 15 countries such as India, China, and Vietnam have joined the association, which was launched by Justice Lee Seiu Kin, the Singapore Academy of Law's legal technology cluster chair, at the TechLaw.Fest, which is an annual conference on law and technology.

At the opening ceremony of the two-day conference on Thursday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam urged lawyers to embrace technology in their work, noting that it is critical for the legal profession to understand where technology is headed.

Citing examples of new technology, such as an application which can identify issues that need a lawyer's attention, Mr Shanmugam said technology can help lawyers in their work, and open up new areas of legal work.

One example is artificial intelligence (AI), which is an "emerging field where legal rules have not been worked out", he said.

"AI can help us make decisions, but what is the legal liability? Who takes responsibility when things go wrong?" he asked the audience, adding that there are various questions to consider including the product liability, and how to contractually exclude or limit liability.

To benefit from the technology, ethical and legal standards that are clear, consistent and fair must be developed, he said.

Harnessing the powers of AI has to be an effort from the whole of society, he added.

"The legal profession will have to be key partners in this journey, this is a constant conversation that we are going to have," he said.

In his keynote address at the conference, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet, also highlighted the importance of developing policy and technology.

The British computer scientist had invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or Cern, as a way to exchange information with other scientists.

He is also the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, a non-profit organisation that advocates for a fair and open Web that is available to all.

In an hour-long address, he touched on recent issues such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where private details of individuals were leaked to the British consulting firm for targeted political advertisements, and the scourge of "fake news".

He had, in the past, called for big tech firms to be regulated to prevent the misuse of the Web by bad actors.

"Technology and policy must always be developed together. If you develop one without the other, that's where you're going to have a lot of trouble," he said in his address.

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