Insights into Southeast Asian legal tech from CanLaw’s Su Wen Lee ahead of #LexTech17

The LexTech Conference 2017 will be held in Cyberjaya on 4 & 5 November 2017. Visit the event website for more information. TheMalaysianLawyer.com is a media partner of #LexTech17, and our readers can use the promo code LEXTECHTML when purchasing the tickets to enjoy a 10% discount.

Ahead of #LexTech17, we spoke with Su Wen Lee to gain some insights into the objectives behind the conference, and what attendees can expect. Su Wen is the Events Director of CanLaw Asia (one of the co-organisers of #LexTech17, together with Brickfields Asia College), and the Project Lead for the conference.

Who are the main organisers of #LexTech17, and what are the main objectives of the conference?

TML Interview - CanLaw - Su Wen
Su Wen, CanLaw Asia’s Events Director

#LexTech17 is co-organised by CanLaw Asia and Brickfields Asia College. The conference aims to raise awareness on legal technologies and to promote technology adoption.

Legal tech as a whole is rapidly developing globally, with the use of smart contracts and artificial intelligence in law firms slowly becoming more prevalent. Sweden for example has been testing and has plans towards adopting blockchain to record property transactions. It has already started to penetrate the Southeast Asian market — with smart contracts and artificial intelligence systems being adopted into an increasing number of firms — and this conference is capitalising on it to build the necessary regional network and also connecting different stakeholders in the legal sphere.

Ultimately, we want to jumpstart Southeast Asia and hopefully Malaysia as a seedbed for legal technology innovation in the future.

What are your expectations of the composition of the attendees — lawyers or non-lawyers, and attendees from Malaysia or around the region?

We are expecting a diverse crowd of established lawyers and also up-and-coming lawyers who are interested in turbocharging their practice. At the same time, we will also be seeing a crowd of general counsels from different industries — banks, telcos and other large MNCs and GLCs.

We expect it to be an energising and dynamic crowd to be a part of, and I am personally excited for the Q&A sessions which I expect to be substantially productive!

On a scale of 1-10 (low-high), what is the state of legal tech adoption in the Malaysian industry compared to the rest of the region? Which country in Asia is leading in this respect?

I think Malaysia’s state of legal tech adoption is still at its stage of infancy so it’s a bit difficult to compare. The development of legal tech in the different countries within the Southeast Asian region are all at different paces and levels, which is also partly why we are having this conference, to connect these different systems and boost each other up.

As for the country in Asia leading in legal tech, I would say China would be a big contender for that right now. There is increasing use of tech in their everyday legal services — particularly the use of artificial intelligence. The estimated market size of their AI-assisted legal industry was said to be 80 billion yuan (USD12.0 billion) in sales in 2016 and they are expecting to reach USD74.0 billion in the coming 10 years. This is not surprising, given their aspirations to be a global leader in AI.

China is also adopting blockchain technology for evidence and is beginning to see tech also being adopted in their court system. There are online legal help for court users, virtual courts and a speaker-independent voice recognition which would make stenographers unnecessary. Even Richard Susskind, who had always viewed the UK to be the leader in legal tech, has acknowledged that China is beginning edge into the lead.

In Southeast Asia specifically, Myanmar would be an interesting country to watch in terms of legal tech because of their unique situation and the digital transformation that they are undergoing post-2011. Mobile penetration saw an increase from single digits to 80% within a few years and along with that came an exponential increase in access and use of social media, online e-commerce and more. Currently, accelerators in Myanmar are focusing on fostering and building up their own homegrown startups and this means exciting opportunities and the inevitable entry and development of legal tech there.

Can you name some Malaysian lawyers or law firms who are the best examples at the moment of legal tech adopters or thought leaders?

I do not have much information on this, although we do know that the larger firms are slowly looking into adopting such technologies.

We notice that there are no representatives from Malaysia’s Bar Council or the Malaysian Bar on any of the panels — what was the thinking behind this?

Actually, we are very keen to work with the Malaysian Bar Council with regards to legal innovation in this country. So one of the first things we did was to approach the Malaysian Bar Council to partner us in this event. We have also extended our invites to the office bearers as we would love for them to be with us on that day, and we are currently waiting to hear from them.

Some of the technology being discussed — AI and smart contracts for example — seem like quite a jump from traditional legal practice. What would you say are some more obvious or easy legal tech innovations which many Malaysian lawyers or law firms can adopt immediately?

I think an easy one for firms would be a move towards a cloud-based ecosystem, which may be administratively heavy but not necessarily as difficult a transition to make given our own personal familiarity and use of the cloud concept in our phones and laptops nowadays.

There are also many law practice management platforms and softwares out there that can be absorbed easily to make legal research work that much smoother and more efficient.

There are also things like automated invoicing tools that can be considered as a preliminary step into moving one’s practice towards the future.

Microsoft’s Office 365’s eDiscovery is an easy one to adopt as well. They use advanced text analytics and predictive coding to save time and anticipate your search and essentially helps in quickly identifying and filtering data you need.

Actually, I would also argue that smart contracts are one of the easier legal tech innovations that Malaysian lawyers and law firms can adopt immediately — which is also why we’ve included that as one of the panel topics in the conference so as to introduce and direct curious and innovative lawyers towards the right services and resources.

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