Speech by Minister for Law K Shanmugam at Official Launch of Legal Technology Platform Initiative
19 July 2022 Posted in [Speeches]
My Ministry colleague, Mr Edwin Tong
Mr Gregory Vijayendran, immediate past President of the Law Society of Singapore
Friends from the Bar
- A very good morning to all of you.
- Today is a milestone day for our legal industry in going digital. We are launching the Legal Technology Platform (LTP).
Riding the Digital Wave Collectively
- If you look at the way practice is developing, clients, both domestic and international, expect legal services to be provided digitally, remotely, and around the clock. The last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased those expectations, because people can see that work can be done in that way. Face-to-face and physical meetings are important, but they need to be substantially supplemented by being able to work from anywhere, and deliver services from anywhere. Clients expect that, and that demand is going to grow.
- We have been giving this much thought, even before the pandemic, because it was clear that this was the direction in which the profession and demand is going. And at the same time, we have mapped out that there was a gap between what our law firms would be able to do, in terms of readiness in moving in that direction, particularly the medium and smaller law firms, and what clients were expecting. And I think the pandemic has made that even more apparent. From our perspective, when we were mapping out the requirements, we started by talking to the lawyers and clients, which we have been doing a lot.
Government Giving the Extra Push
- One of the key things that came from the feedback over the years is, of course, the cost of technology.
- We then worked with the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc), and talked about how to work together to support the adoption of software.
- Five years ago, we started with the Tech Start for Law initiative, and three years ago, we had the Tech-celerate initiative, where the Government put money in, and encouraged law firms to come onboard and upgrade.
- Those initiatives gave us a better understanding of the challenges that law firms face. Many law firms simply do not have the economies of scale, or resources, to adapt technology – in fact, even to identify the necessary technology. Some firms prefer to have solutions that improve their legal workflows, without having to overhaul their existing systems.
- Looking at the different kinds of feedback, we have taken the next step, which is to develop the LTP. It is a very ambitious effort.
- Over the past couple of years, we have asked lawyers to come onboard and be hands-on, to help us to test the technology. Lawyers tested the features of the platform, and gave us further ideas. Legaltech companies built integrations with the platform. We had the support of LawSoc, the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) and the Courts. You will hear more from their representatives later, in trying to develop a software that is user-friendly.
Easing Technology Adoption, Starting with the LTP
- The LTP has been worked on by and is a product of Lupl, with substantial input from GovTech, which gives us the confidence, because the Ministry of Law is not the expert in this area. Having developed the system, we had a soft launch in January of this year, to give the industry an early look into the platform, and continue to identify the bugs, and what works and what did not work, as well as gather more feedback.
- The basic aim of the LTP is to increase efficiency and productivity, and to allow law firms at different stages of digitalisation to get started on it, regardless of where they are in the digitalisation process. There will be financial support to help law firms to get started on it. I will touch on each of these points in turn.
More efficient legal work with the LTP
- Since the soft launch in January, we have developed further customised features for Singapore law firms.
- Data of Singapore users will be stored in Singapore.
- We also focused on connecting a lawyer’s back-office and client-facing workflows, to be integrated and work seamlessly, so that lawyers can easily access case information, and, at the same time, deal with their clients.
- There are popular Practice Management System (PMS) solutions, Tessaract and Clio. We have integrated both into the LTP, so that LTP users who have these systems can access key client information, and record their time spent on cases more quickly.
- Sharing of documents can be done via WhatsApp, so it makes it easy for clients to review documents on the go – and for lawyers too.
- We have also streamlined online research, so that Singapore Court judgments on LawNet, and other accessible documents, can be quickly accessed, and shared with teammates and clients.
Getting started easily and tech adoption support
- How do we support law firms and lawyers to adapt to the LTP? The platform itself is intuitive and easy-to-use. Basic training on essential features will be made available. Lupl will also have a team to serve as a single primary contact point for queries and issues. Users can also access the LTP’s in-built Support Hub, with step-by-step prompts, as well as training resources, for self-help and best practices.
- There will be concerns about technical and maintenance support – the platform is designed as a cloud-based solution. So, maintenance and upgrading are automatic. Tech support will be made available through a Singapore landline number, to help users troubleshoot and report issues.
Lowering the initial investment in technology, starting with the LTP
- MinLaw, together with support from other Government agencies, Enterprise Singapore and the InfoComm Media Development Authority (IMDA), will provide assistance via the Productivity Solutions Grant. Funding can go up to 70% of the cost, for up to two years. So, for up to the first two years, 70% can be paid by the Government. That will bring the cost down to a moderate three-figure number per user per year, for those that are eligible for the full grant.
Iterative development incorporating industry feedback
- We have taken the approach to get a product out as quickly as possible, and then work on continuing to improve it, and add in more features as it goes on.
- We will enhance the Platform, in collaboration with the Courts and public agencies. We are studying having key eLitigation information on the LTP, to make access to eLitigation case files much easier. Users can also easily be linked to judgments and other contents on LawNet. We are working with IMDA to provide Data Protection Essentials (DPE) templates to law firms and their clients. That will help the law firms to establish a basic framework for data protection, security standards, and easy implementation of policies and processes, so that clients’ data is secured.
- And in the longer run, our intention is to continue to engage law firms to see what their needs are, and upgrade the technology as we go on. If you take a step back, what is the purpose of all of this? It is really to help our law firms keep up with competition in the world, whether you are a one-man firm, five-men firm or a medium-sized firm – to give you the access to technology, make it easier, help you understand and train you, make it cost effective, get you on the system and troubleshoot for you. So, it is a comprehensive approach designed to help our law firms move up and put money on the table as well.
LTP as the Central, but not Sole, Pillar of Support
- We are working further with IMDA on a Legal Industry Digital Plan, to guide law firms in further digitalising and transforming the way they work.
- We will continue to create opportunities for the legal community to be at the frontiers of legaltech. So TechLaw.Fest, which is co-organised by MinLaw and SAL, which starts tomorrow, is an example of such collaborations where lawyers can understand what is happening. It hopes to provide lawyers who attend with insights into what the metaverse could mean for the legal industry.
- I hope today’s launch will give you a better appreciation of our plans to drive technology adoption in the legal industry; and help you to get first-hand experience of the key features of the Platform, and how it works with other legaltech solutions.
- Thank you.
Last updated on 19 July 2022