Global Innovation

From The Practice November/December 2021
Highlighting key stories about the profession you may have missed

What’s going on globally around innovation in the legal profession? Just over a year ago, Singapore’s Ministry of Law launched the Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR): The Road to 2030, a plan to “promote innovation, technology adoption and development in Singapore’s legal industry,” according to the press release. Many global law firms recognize Singapore’s friendliness toward creative disruption: it is where, for instance, the U.K.-headquartered law firm Clifford Chance has placed their innovation shop, Create+65, which aims to work with lawyers and clients to identify efficient technology-based solutions to problems they face on a daily basis. (Bas Boris Visser, global head of innovation and business change at Clifford Chance, recently joined a CLP-EY Law webinar to talk about developing better solutions in an evolving legal ecosystem.)

The road map outlines several strategies to encourage innovation, segmenting solutions for different use cases, such as law firms, in-house counsel, and schools. “To develop a quality pool of tech-ready lawyers and better equip law graduates with the relevant digital skills, Institutes of Higher Learning will be encouraged to infuse more technology elements into their curriculum,” the authors encourage. Similarly, the road map identifies the need to provide training to current legal professionals so that firms can modernize by adapting automation tools.

As case in point, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has already changed its curriculum to encourage innovation, offering minors in business analytics, computer science, and information systems. Perhaps most notably, Singapore Management University recently launched a B.Sc. in computing and law out of the University’s School of Computing and Information Systems. According to SMU, the degree program will help students “learn how to harness the power of computing, connected data and artificial intelligence to innovate and build a better future. From the School of Law, you will acquire critical thinking skills and the legal tools to help you find the appropriate solutions to novel complex problems.” Students take a combination of traditional law courses and courses in information science (see figure 1 below). The degree anticipates training students for careers in the legal sector, among others, and offers a fast track to a full J.D. through SMU’s law school. SMU is quickly elevating itself as a major research hub for legal innovation: just last year, SMU received $15 million to build a new Centre for Computational Law.

A snapshot of the computing and law curriculum at SMU requires students to take data science alongside contracts.
Figure 1: With the computing and law major core, students take classes in data management alongside torts, preparing them for a world where their technological skills and legal expertise will set them apart. See SMU’s website for more.

We see similar movement in other jurisdictions. For instance, as we have previously written about in The Practice, Brazil has developed a substantial legal tech market. More recently, the Brazilian government has shown an interest in creating a favorable landscape for innovation, as exemplified by a new legal framework for startups and innovative entrepreneurship signed into law in June 2021, which makes it easier for venture capital to invest in startups without taking on liability and opens up the regulatory environment for experimental business models. In March 2021 Erik Navarro Wolkart, academic director and cofounder of the Instituto New Law, also gave an interview to Thomson Reuters on how he hopes to modernize Brazilian legal training. He calls out “notable exceptions” to the traditional learning structures most law schools in Brazil undertake, including frequent CLP collaborator Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), which “provides an introductory programming course for lawyers and entrepreneurs that covers data science and data analytics principles.” Wolkart’s Instituto New Law offers postgraduate courses to students (who, in Brazil, earn undergraduate degrees in law) through a multidisciplinary faculty from law to computer science. Tracks, such as Digital Law or Law and Technology, offer students the opportunity to retrain with 21st-century capabilities in mind. And the curriculum is offered online.

And in India, in 2019 the law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) launched a legal tech incubator, Prarambh. Last month, the firm concluded its second round of programming with three startups—Conduct, Presolv360, and PropertyChek—each of which was charged with “the aim of developing scalable solutions for the legal and corporate sectors that ‘help fill a critical void’ in the Indian legal market and address business disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the Global Legal Post. This year’s cohort of companies were likewise asked to think about how their efforts would contribute to social justice. For instance, Conduct says it will use “data, law, and technology” to aid companies in building “workplace inclusion.” In the Artificial Lawyer, Komal Gupta, chief innovation officer at CAM, called the last few years a “paradigm shift” for legal tech in India.

And Singapore, Brazil, and India are not the only jurisdictions pushing for innovation in the profession. It is clear that real innovation may come outside of more-established markets. Indeed, as Singapore’s TIR makes clear, “Today, most LegalTech solutions remain focused on Western markets and laws. But as Asian nations and companies become increasingly prominent in the global economy, more LegalTech solutions will be developed to specifically serve the growing legal markets across Asia.” No doubt others feel the same way.

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