SINGAPORE: A S$2.8 million programme was launched on Monday (Feb 27) to help small- and medium-sized Singapore law firms adopt technology, announced the Ministry of Law, the Law Society of Singapore and SPRING Singapore.
Small and medium firms - those with up to 30 lawyers - make up 97 per cent of law practices in Singapore. However, according to a study commissioned by the Law Society in 2016, only 9 per cent of firms interviewed have used technology tools to boost productivity, and cost was the main reason given for the low adoption rate. The study involved focus groups with 35 lawyers and interviews with 58 firms.
Under the new Tech Start for Law programme, which is funded by SPRING Singapore over a one-year period, law firms which buy certain technology-related products can get 70 per cent of costs covered for the first year, said the Law Ministry.
In particular, five products have been identified as basic technologies that would help law practices work more efficiently. Among them are practice management systems that would help firms streamline case and client record management, an online legal research tool and one online marketing tool.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the shortlisted products cost between S$3,000 and S$30,000 each. Under the programme, each firm can apply for support for up to three of the products.
“The legal profession, like many other sectors, faces challenges in this new world,” said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Monday. “And to stay ahead, among the things that are going to be required is to invest in quality manpower and technology.”
“In the past, lawyers could make a good living through say, conveyancing, drafting agreements,” he added. "But technology has begun to “commoditise a lot of these things.”
Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that smaller law firms may not have the resources to invest in technology and said the programme would allow them to “upgrade themselves, and that will make them more competitive”.
The Tech Start for Law programme is in line with Singapore's push for more small- and medium-sized enterprises to embrace digital tools in their day-to-day work, a key theme in the recent Committee on the Future Economy report.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the authorities will evaluate the funding programme after a year. The Law Society said it is also planning a legal technology roadshow in March to encourage more firms to adopt technology.
Interested law firms can apply to the Law Society's Secretariat from Mar 1, 2017 to Feb 28, 2018 for funding.