‘Smart’ law firms lauded for adopting tech solutions

SINGAPORE — A legal document-management software that helped a court hearing go almost paperless was what allowed Via Law Corporation, then a two-men team, to take on a landmark dispute in 2014 between its client Global Yellow Pages, a directory publisher, and its rival Promedia Directories.

The cloud-based service, dubbed Magnum, allowed parties in a case such as witnesses and the judge to access court documents online, and this helped the firm’s director Wang Yingyu to shave the number of printed sheets from 252,000 to about 3,000 pages. Lawyers could also annotate and collaborate on relevant material using the platform.

The firm, now named Taylor Vinters Via following its partnership with a UK law firm last month, was one of 10 small- and medium-sized legal practices here recognised yesterday at the launch of the SmartLaw scheme.

Launched by the Law Society (LawSoc), it recognises such “smart” firms for using technology to improve their work processes. These include adopting a practice management or accounting software; having an online knowledge-management database; and having an online presence.

These firms will be allowed to display a logo to help give clients more confidence about their efficiency.

Taylor Vinters Via, for instance, enhances its online presence through the Asia Law Network, an online portal that helps prospective clients find suitable lawyers and to ask for “quick” quotations.

Ms Wang said: “Time is money … Technology has freed up our lawyers’ time for other matters, and our time savings translate to cost savings for our clients.”

Agreeing, Mr Michael Chia from MSC Law Corporation — also one of the pioneer SmartLaw firms named yesterday — said that relying on old-fashioned, “ad-hoc” methods to keep track of cases sometimes land lawyers into conflicting situations, such as when they unknowingly take on a case against previous clients.

Mr Chia, who has been a lawyer for almost two decades and started his own practice one-and-a-half years ago, said: “For smaller firms, you may know all your clients, but firms that want to (expand operations) need to have reliable management systems that can quickly search and pull up past records … to avoid awkward and potentially conflicting situations.”

A third awardee, Clifford Law LLP, which has seven lawyers and invests about S$3,000 a month in tech solutions, aims to go “completely paperless” in the near future and is looking at developing a software that would give clients direct access to certain documents.

The other seven firms awarded the SmartLaw accreditation include Fortis Law Corporation, Colin Ng & Partners LLP, Covenant Chambers LLC, Eden Law Corporation, Mathew Chew & Chelliah, Chan Neo LLP and fsLAW LLC.

The move follows a study of industry needs among small- and medium-sized law practices, which found that legal research platforms could cut the time lawyers take to visit the library by up to 20 per cent. It also found that firms could reap up to a 66 per cent reduction in operating costs if they run a virtual office.

However, the findings showed that fewer than one in 10 such firms use any kind of tech productivity software, with most citing cost as a barrier.

To help small- and medium-sized law firms defray costs when adopting tech solutions that improve productivity, a S$2.8 million grant scheme called Tech Start for Law was launched last month that will pay up to 70 per cent of the firm’s costs for selected tech products in the first year.

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