Beyond using technology to improve workflows and processes, law firms are also harnessing technology as a business development tool to raise their profile in an increasingly competitive market. In the words of Mr Roy Ang (Development Manager (Regional Marketing and Business, Withers Worldwide), in today’s world, “if you’re not online, you don’t exist”. Clients expect to be able to access information about their lawyers online as this helps to build trust prior to the first meeting. Yet, according to Ms Cherilyn Tan (CEO, Asia Law Network), the fact that lawyers are not adopting the best business development strategies results in the perception that it is difficult to obtain legal services, as well as a mismatch between what lawyers put in their personal descriptions and what clients look for in lawyers. Thus, it is crucial for lawyers to be client-focused in their business development strategy by defining the ideal client and positioning themselves as a trusted advisor.
The future of the judiciary was also the subject of discussion, with Mr Lim Seng Siew (Director, OTP Law Corporation) contemplating the possibility that technology could make judges redundant. While there are currently companies that attempt to predict the outcomes of decisions in a quantitative manner, there was nothing stopping such companies from analyzing and determining decisions in a qualitative manner as well.
Regulatory challenges and approaches
In the panel titled “A Judge, a Lawyer and a Student Walk into the Bar Room”, Judge Aedit Abdullah (Supreme Court of Singapore (High Court)) pointed out that the regulatory environment for legal practice would likely have to shift to embrace legal services provided by both lawyers and non-lawyers. Such non-lawyers could even include artificial intelligence (AI).
A related concern raised by the panel titled “Legal Issues in Legal Tech” is the lack of clarity as to whether legal technology companies provide legal information or legal advice. The panelists suggested that with the use of sophisticated technology becoming de rigueur for lawyers and clients growing more comfortable with technology, it is likely that the boundary between legal advice and legal information would shift in the years to come.
At the same time, the government has proactively harnessed regulatory tools to address the societal implications of emerging technology trends. A key tool is the regulatory sandbox, which creates a safe space for trialing the implementation of new policies with unknown impact. An example that Mr Yeong Zee Kin (Assistant Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Deputy Commissioner, Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC)) shared about in the panel “Smart Regulation for a Smart Nation” is the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
Another regulatory approach, in the words of Minister Balakrishnan, is that of “masterful inaction” in the face of emerging new technologies. This approach entails the Government keeping itself updated on the latest developments and planning for its actions, without creating regulations that stifle innovation and hindering development. Finally, regulations that are enacted are formulated collectively and using a multi-disciplinary effort, while being iterative, fast and forward-looking to keep pace with technological advancement.