Legal sector launches tech road map

Singapore has launched a new five-year road map aimed at helping the legal sector adopt and create new technologies, in preparation for what Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon describes as the "uberisation" of the law practice.

In the Legal Technology Vision document released by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL), small and medium-sized law firms will get help to adopt "baseline technologies" such as office productivity suites and online profiling and communications tools.

Two other prongs include setting up collaborative and shared virtual platforms and workspaces, as well as Web- and cloud-based tools that can be accessed remotely, and link-ups with other sectors to help create fresh legal technologies.

Speaking at the opening of the Legal Year 2017 yesterday, CJ Menon revealed details of the road map as he explained why the legal process must be transformed in response to technology because "the day of reckoning can no longer be put off".

He cited how the advent of online dispute resolution platforms and easy public access to reliable and readily available standard precedents suggest that "some of the spaces that have traditionally been occupied by lawyers will diminish".

"But it would be wrong to approach technology as if it is something to be vanquished just because it threatens to disrupt or challenge how we have been accustomed to operate," added CJ Menon.

"Technology holds the promise of greater productivity and effectiveness. This should translate to higher quality legal services and cost savings for law firms and, ultimately, for society."

For instance, he said, rapid and unbroken information flows will give clients greater access to resources on the law and lawyers.

"The traditional practice of retainers may fade in favour of a system that more efficiently matches supply and demand, leading to the 'uberisation' of legal practice," said CJ Menon, in a reference to the impact of ride-hailing service Uber on people's travel patterns.

The annual event at the Supreme Court was attended by members of the legal fraternity, three Chief Justices from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

Outgoing Attorney-General V.K. Rajah said in his address yesterday that investigation papers used for prosecution work are now digitised. But he called for "an entirely electronic platform" to allow sharing of information between stakeholders at different stages of the criminal justice process.

In his speech, Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran added that financial support will be given to these firms to adopt IT solutions.

Besides the SAL road map, CJ Menon also announced a five-year technology blueprint charting the "courts of the future", based on the study by a task force set up last year.

The blueprint proposes various IT initiatives that will be reviewed, revised and updated by a unified One Judiciary IT Steering Committee.

vijayan@sph.com.sg and nghuiwen@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 10, 2017.
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