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CJ to hold dialogues to tap collective wisdom for profession's future

CJ to hold dialogues to tap collective wisdom for profession's future

Source: Business Times
Date Published: 08 Jan 2019
Author: Tay Peck Gek

Reforming, re-imagining and remodelling the sector are potential areas of focus.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon will be starting a new round of dialogues to find the best course of action for the future of the legal profession in an attempt to counter the triple forces of globalisation, technology and growing commercialisation of the law, which are dramatically altering the legal landscape.

CJ Menon said at the opening of the legal year yesterday that potential areas of focus for his talks with stakeholders of the legal sector are reforming, re-imagining and remodelling the profession.

Calling the disruptive forces collectively as "a wicked problem", he pointed out that the issue "cannot readily be resolved by conventional straight-line thinking or single-actor one-shot solutions".

He also said that no single entity - not judges, lawyers or the government - could singlehandedly overcome the challenges. "What we need, therefore, is the resolve to face these challenges with a spirit of togetherness," he added.

He reckoned that there will not only be one possible solution but multi-pronged responses to the problems.

Drawing on his experience and success of talking to stakeholders in the past six years, which has spawned many initiatives, he said he would be initiating another round of dialogues to discuss the problems affecting the profession and the best course of action to take.

"While none of us will have all the answers to all the questions all the time, collectively we can - at the very least - break down the 'wicked problem' into more manageable parts, and that will give us the best chance of making headway."

On reforming the profession, he said that becoming a successful lawyer in this day and age requires not only legal knowledge, but also competencies in other disciplines such as business, project management and information technology.

Hence, law schools may have to also arm students with the skills to find innovative solutions to the issues that may be encountered in contemporary practice.

However, how best to educate future lawyers has become a complex and dynamic issue - and law schools alone may not have the answers.

The chief justice said he has started conversations with key stakeholders to discuss the reform of legal education, and these dialogues are expected to carry on this year.

Given how the forces could upend the demand for junior lawyers' work and low-value or simple legal work, he encouraged practitioners to reimagine legal training to stay relevant.

"We cannot be content with piecemeal and modest efforts, and must continue to imagine new and creative ways in which we may raise our professional standards and skills in the current milieu."

It is not just the Bar that has to continue reinventing itself, the judiciary also must keep up with the times.

The Courts of the Future Taskforce has, therefore, kickstarted several programmes on self-help solutions for litigants, technology solutions for the efficient administration of justice and the intelligent use of data.

One of the initiatives is an online motor accidents claims dispute resolution platform - announced in 2017 - and expected to be launched in phases at the end of this year.

Legal technology is important, the majority of decision makers in Singapore law firms who responded to a survey agreed.

President of the Law Society Gregory Vijayendran in his speech at the opening of the legal year said that the study revealed that 88 per cent of the respondents who called the shots in the law firms recognised that technology improves the delivery of legal services, and 82 per cent of them agreed that embracing technology is essential to being competitive.

But only slightly more than half the decision makers viewed legaltech as a practice elevator or business enabler.

A separate survey with responses from 126 in-house counsel in different industries revealed that their clients are facing cost pressures and looking at investing in their own legaltech to bring it in-house.

Nearly 60 per cent of in-house counsel respondents will adopt more legal technology in the next two years. Mr Vijayendran said: "This disruption poses a threat to Singapore law firms that are not nimble."

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) , meanwhile, has "made significant efforts to structure the organisation to be at the forefront of cutting edge legal technology", said its helmsman Lucien Wong.

He said that the AGC is on track to launch in 2019 an end-to-end digital workbench designed to serve almost all of the organisation's legal work needs. The main aim of the digital workbench, known as Intelligent Workspace, is to leverage information technology so that its officers can spend more time delivering quality work and less time on administration.

Furthermore, its Legal Technology and Innovation Office, which was formed in 2017, is piloting and scaling up solutions to tap artificial intelligence and other tools to improve the AGC's depth and breadth in legal expertise.

The opening of the legal year was held at the Supreme Court, and the event was attended by members of the legal fraternity, the chief justices of Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, and other overseas guests.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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