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The Singapore Academy of Law shows the rest of the world how to launch a legal IT innovation program

Panel of FLIP participants and partners, including Philip Jeyaretnam the Singapore CEO and Global Vice-Chair Dentons, Rodyk & Davidson, speaking about the importance of FLIP.

In an example of an unusually high-level and joined up legal tech innovation programme, The Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) today (10 January) formally launched its Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP), a two-year pilot that forms part of a wider bid for Singapore to become the tech hub of Asia.

FLIP, which was first announced last July by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, aims to bring together lawyers, technopreneurs, investors, academics and regulators, in an initiative that will support the development of the delivery of legal services in the future economy.

The programme comprises a Legal Innovation Lab located at the Collision 8 co-working space across the road from the Singapore Supreme Court (pictured); a virtual collaboration platform called LawNet Community; and South East Asia’s first legal tech accelerator to groom promising legal tech start-ups. The first two form part of today’s launch while the accelerator will be launched in April.

To assist FLIP participants in technology adoption and innovation, SAL, which is a promotion and development agency for Singapore’s legal industry, has just signed a partnership agreement with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Singapore Management University (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 several fronts, including 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.

FLIP will work with IMDA on two projects under the new partnership. The first project will involve FLIP and IMDA working together to build up a team of legal technologists. 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.

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. The intent is for 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 of 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.”

To date, 31 participants from 23 entities have signed up for FLIP. These range from 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, 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.

Paul Neo, SAL’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, said: “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.

“It is our vision to extend the legal ecosystem in FLIP to the wider community. We are grateful for the support that IMDA and SMU have given us. The digital transformation of the legal sector is a long process and its success relies on the collective efforts of organisations in and outside of the legal sector.”

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.

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