The Singapore Academy of Law (SAL ) launched its Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) on January 10. FLIP is a two-year pilot programme to encourage the adoption of technology, drive innovation and create a vibrant ecosystem for legal technology.
FLIP is part of the Legal Technology Vision, a five-year road map by SAL for the digital transformation of Singapore’s legal sector. This vision, put together by representatives from the Judiciary, the Ministry of Law, Attorney-General’s Chambers and private sector lawyers, is a call to action for lawyers to become part of the digital disruption that faces the legal industry today.
The FLIP vision sees law professionals, technologists, government bodies and investors brought together in an innovation-driven ecosystem to incubate new business models of delivering legal services in the future economy.
FLIP was announced last July by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at SAL’s annual Appreciation Dinner. It aims to bring together lawyers, technopreneurs, investors, academics and regulators, in an initiative that will support the development of the model for the delivery of legal services in the future economy.
FLIP comprises three components, the first two of which were part of the launch.
They are a Legal Innovation Lab located at the Collision 8 co-working space across the road from the Supreme Court. This is dedicated incubator for legal innovation and is open to tech-enabled law firms & legal tech startups.
The second is a virtual collaboration platform called LawNet Community. It will serve as a networking & collaboration tool for the legal industry and facilitate access to technology tools.
The third component, South East Asia’s first legal tech accelerator to groom promising legal tech start-ups, will be launched in April.
To date, 31 participants from 23 entities have signed up for FLIP. These include large law firms (such as Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP and Dentons Rodyk & Davidson), small law firms (including ECYT Law LLC and Consigclear LLC), to local and international legal tech enterprises like SingaporeLegalAdvice.com, LexQuanta, MyLawyer and Zegal (formerly Dragon Law), as well as in-house counsel from Discovery Networks and BNP Paribas.
Participants may enrol in a maximum of three tracks – “Lighten-up!” for smaller law firms that want to leverage technology to operate a lean back-end; “Ideate!” which brings together lawyers and technopreneurs to collaborate on legal innovation, and “Accelerate!”, a 100-day acceleration programme to help promising tech-based legal enterprises start-ups scale up their business.
Mr. Paul Neo, SAL’s Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, commented, “We are encouraged by the strong response from the legal community to the FLIP initiative. Over three-quarters of the planned capacity for the pilot programme have been taken up in a short time and we have no doubt more will join as the programme gains momentum. We look forward to working with the first batch of participants to take advantage of the digital disruption that is transforming many industries and professions.”
MOUs with IMDA and SMU
To assist FLIP participants in technology adoption and innovation, SAL has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Singapore Management University (SMU).
Academic partnership with SMU
SMU will be SAL’s academic partner for issues relating to legal innovation and the future business of law. The University will collaborate with FLIP on student and curriculum development, thought leadership, as well as case studies and research.
SMU School of Law will co-host dialogues and seminars with SAL, develop thought leadership through case studies and research on future law topics, and explore the possibility of curating modular executive education
programmes to support leadership and/or legal innovation for FLIP participants.
SMU undergraduates will also have the opportunity to do internships with SAL and firms participating in FLIP, or participate in FLIP-based consulting projects through the University’s experiential and multi-disciplinary SMU-X modules.
One of the projects SMU students have been working on involved helping to collate the catalogue of 100 legal industry problem statements from legal counsel, paralegals, other supporting staff and service providers, as well as consumers of legal services, such as corporates, SMEs and private clients.
“The impact of technology on the legal landscape is clear. We are very pleased therefore to play our part and contribute our academic expertise as Singapore’s legal profession transforms in response to technology. In the area of research, SMU’s partnership with SAL will certainly catalyse the development of insights into future law topics which will be meaningful, relevant and impactful to the fraternity. In legal education, we have begun to explore incorporating technology-related issues in our legal curriculum, and thus we value this opportunity for SMU undergraduates to be involved in SAL’s FLIP initiatives, as these platforms broaden their perspectives and expose our future lawyers to the possibilities of innovation in the legal sector,” said Associate Professor Goh Yihan, Dean of SMU School of Law.
Two projects with IMDA
Under the MOU, FLIP will work with IMDA on two projects. FLIP and IMDA will work together to build up a team of legal technologists under the first project. They will be trained in the latest IT tools for law practices and equipped with current cyber security and system integration know-how. They can be deployed to law firms to help identify existing issues in their business processes, recommend improvements and adopt appropriate technology tools.
Initially, this will be through a lite Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) toolkit developed by FLIP in close consultation with industry and the Law Society. The expectation is that such collaboration will catalyse the development of new job roles within the legal sector and new legal technology services which smaller law firms can tap on.
Deployment of both the technologists and the lite BPR toolkit is targeted to commence in the first half of 2018, supported by students from SMU and other universities.
The second project builds on the 100 legal industry problem statements from SMU. Together with IMDA, FLIP will look to share and compare these problem statements with other professional industries as part of a cross-industry approach, so that solution providers to identify multi-sectoral opportunities and be encouraged to develop solutions that have applications across sectors for greater synergy and economic potential.
Mr. Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive, IMDA, said: “IMDA believes that every business needs to be a digital business to remain relevant and to seize growth opportunities. We are encouraged by the legal community’s participation in the FLIP programme, which aims to identify key challenges in the legal sector and source for innovative solutions for these pain points. Through FLIP, we aim to equip our law firms with the best practices and technologies for them to be globally competitive.”
Last year, the Ministry of Law, the Law Society of Singapore and SPRING Singapore launched the ‘Tech Start for Law’ programme to help Singapore law practices embrace and leverage on technology. Under the programme, Singapore law practices can get funding support of up to 70% of the first-year cost of adopting technology products for practice management, online research and online marketing.
 The Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) is a promotion and development agency for Singapore’s legal industry. As a body established by statute, SAL also undertakes statutory functions such as stakeholding services and appointment of Senior Counsel, Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public.
SAL is led by a Senate headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and comprising the Attorney-General, the Supreme Court Bench and key leaders of the various branches of the legal profession. It has more than 12,000 members, including the Bench, all persons who are called as advocates and solicitors of the Supreme Court (i.e. the Bar) or appointed as Legal Service Officers, corporate counsel, faculty members of the three local law schools (i.e. National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Social Sciences) and foreign lawyers in Singapore.