29 Jul 2019

Having Launched Asia’s first legal technology start-up accelerator this year, Singapore is fast becoming a global leader in innovation. International Employment Lawyer, Dominic Wrench explains why.

Singapore’s commitment to creating the region’s, if not the world’s, leading legal technology hub is visible for all to see.

This commitment is exemplified by the Future Law Innovation Programme (‘FLIP’) set up by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL). In their own words, the FLIP is an industry-wide initiative to drive innovation and encourage the adoption of new technology across the legal sector.

There are a number of components to FLIP that was officially launched at the start of 2019 including a dedicated co-working space to incubate legal technology start-ups as well a virtual collaboration platform for innovators.

Other legal technology initiatives, accelerators and events are popping up frequently across Singapore, indicating that the legal technology ecosystem and its vast array of stakeholders is beginning to thrive. But why is Singapore flourishing and punching above its weight in relation to legal technology?

Tech-savvy Lawyers and Businesses

Although the legal industry is traditionally renowned for being ‘techno-lazy’ or sceptical of change and innovation, this is not true of the new generation of lawyers who have grown up in Singapore with technology as a fundamental and ingrained aspect of their life.

Many lawyers now recognise that the legal industry has been stagnant for too long and that so-called ‘disruptive technologies’ can be advantageous and complementary to their legal services, rather than competitive.

Simultaneously, there are many business leaders and General Counsels who are turning their heads towards proven legal technology that can really drive efficiencies in their organisations. Such top-level management often base themselves in Singapore to conduct wider Asia Pacific, or global, roles. This results in the city-state providing a ripe market for legal technology entrepreneurs hoping to test their latest creations in a real-world legal environment.

This was one of the main drivers behind Taylor Vinters’ strategic partner, ThoughtRiver, returning to Singapore.  The leader in AI-driven automated contract pre-screening opened its base at the FLIP HQ in Singapore in 2018 to meet the steadily growing demand for its services in the Asia Pacific region.

A Smart Nation

It is no secret that Singapore’s governments is committed to creating a first-class Smart Nation by harnessing and leveraging technology, networks and data to create solutions and innovations across the country, not just in the legal sector.

Legal technology is fast becoming one of the most important initiatives driven by the Government. For example, It was also announced at the start of May 2019 that a programme would be launched for law practices to get funding support of up to 70% for the first year costs of for adopting baseline and advanced technology solutions in their practices. This programme, aimed at incentivising law practices to adopt technology in their businesses could be worth up to SGD3.68million and was launched by the Singapore Ministry of Law, the Law Society of Singapore, Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

Moreover, the Smart Nation programme has also placed emphasis on legal technology and this has manifested itself in initiatives such as the Community Justice Centre’s self-help e-web (SHeW) as an online support centre for litigants-in-person who are not represented by a lawyer.

With such strong backing, we are likely to see increasing investment and resources attributed to legal technology in Singapore over the coming years.

Ease of Business

Singapore’s stable and thriving commercial environment means that it is well placed as a business gateway to the Asia Pacific markets. As a result, Singapore has long been recognised as one the easiest places to do business in the world, for organisations of all shapes and sizes. Singapore is a melting pot for cultures, ideas and creativity, which has long been harnessed and treasured by those within the technology sector.

Legal technology innovators can also take advantage of this environment. With English as the most widely spoken language in Singapore and a common law legal system, many legal technology innovations are conceptualized and incubated in Singapore. Such innovations can easily be tested, refined and, if successful, scaled out of Singapore to service an ever growing global community of tech-focussed individuals in the legal sector.

For further information, please contact Dominic Wrench in our employment team.