In 2018, legal technology startup, LawGeex, conducted a study that pitted an artificial intelligence programme against a group of actual lawyers. When reviewing standard non-disclosure agreements for errors, the AI algorithm was shown to be both faster and more accurate. In a field known as much for the application of esoteric rules as having mountains of paperwork, it’s no surprise that technological advancement and digitisation are proving to be more effective in certain situations than trained professionals.
The demand for legal technology (LegalTech) and regulatory technology (RegTech) has never been greater. In 2017, Thomson Reuters announced a 484% increase in global LegalTech patents over a five year period. This growth has not been limited to North America and Europe. After the United States, China and South Korea filed the most patents.
This year, Southeast Asia also unveiled its first LegalTech accelerator, aptly named Accelerate! The 100-day programme, which is looking to raise $2.5 million SGD, will provide mentorship and seed funding to LegalTech startups, as well as incubate new business ventures from law firms. Accelerate! is a component of the Future Law Innovation Programme (Flip), which also consists of the Legal Innovation Lab and LawNet Community, a collaboration platform and technology access point for law professionals.
In another part of Southeast Asia, the Indonesian Regtech and Legaltech Association (IRLA)—formed by technology firms—advances regulatory inclusion and reduces misinterpretations of the law. According to IRLA chairman, Charya Rabindra Lukman, “Our focus is the people, not businesses or even legal practitioners.” And although LegalTech and RegTech are still in their initial stages in Indonesia, the hope is that these businesses will reap significant benefits for legal clients.
Improving access to legal advice and services
As demonstrated by LawGeex, technology has the capacity to change the pace and effectiveness of normal business practices. In the legal industry, that means standardising and automating labour-intensive practices, which according to a 2016 Deloitte study will mean an estimated 114,000 fewer legal jobs within the next 20 years.
Many lawyers, justifiably, are concerned about the future. As LegalTech disrupts the industry, lawyers will likely engage in fewer administrative and procedural tasks, forcing them to focus more on improving client interaction, and increasing overall volume. Consumers, as a result, will benefit from greater access to legal professionals and lower prices for services. Transparency, speed, and quality should also improve.
Rajesh Sreenivasan, head of tech, media, and telecoms practice at Rajah & Tann Singapore, has said of this shift, “The next step for lawyers is to move out and provide collaborative solutions.” For lawyers and clients alike who are trying to gain insight into these new collaborations, here are four LegalTech and RegTech startups in Southeast Asia to consider.
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CanLaw is a LegalTech startup based out of Malaysia that originally helped companies with lawyer discovery. Due to regulatory roadblocks, the company now focuses on tech adoption consultation for legal professionals in law firms, corporations, startups, SMEs and also individuals.
The company has evolved their business model further to facilitate the legal industry in Malaysia and organises LexTech, which is an APAC legal technology conference. The second edition is happening on 25th – 26th October 2018.
Singapore-based LegalTech startup, Legalese, is developing a web-app that can draft, manage, and execute legal paperwork using computational law. The app will be supported by L4, a proprietary domain-specific language that takes into account law’s semantics, deontics, and logic.
Legalese has already helped over 30 startups generate paperwork for more than $1.5 million USD in fundraising. In January 2017, the company raised $600,000 SGD in a round of funding led by venture capital firm, Walden International.
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The Legalese software was initially developed at Southeast Asia’s first startup accelerator, JFDI, in 2013 and spun out in 2015.
Lawble, Indonesia’s first RegTech start-up, offers a web-app designed to support and improve the productivity of law partners. According to founder and CEO Charya Rabindra Lukman, “Lawble will not replace legal practitioners; on the contrary, it will facilitate and support them in working effectively and efficiently.
The company seeks to transform regulatory frameworks by providing customers with access to more than 50,000 regulations. Their project management tools are marketed towards professional, commercial, and governmental consultants.
Based out of Jakarta, PopLegal is a LegalTech platform that provides affordable legal services to individuals and small- and medium-sized businesses. They are supported by a team of experts in law, technology, and business through their partnerships with ABRAZQA Law Office, BLOCK71 Jakarta, and Jakarta Creative Club.
Their products include PopDocs, which quickly generates legal documents, and PopDMS, an online document management service with a user-friendly interface. Their platform can also answer questions about common legal issues and offer general licensing and establishment services.