The legal sector, which argues for betterment with certainty as its crux, now braces against the forthcoming and new presence of legal technology. With the potential of easing said burden through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Malaysia is keen on embracing this element of change in the pursuit of a more modernised and efficient legal scene. In fact, the number of legal tech companies leaning towards this change is increasing steadily with some citing lower expenses in the long run as a major, motivating push.
The Prospect of Malaysian Legal Tech
Undeniably, the world is generally enthusiastic of the successful proliferation in the Malaysian legal tech landscape. Albeit the notable achievements, there are still some concerns that may slow down the growth of legal tech in Malaysia.
1. Dipping Toes in the Water
A popular outlook shared by countries with an active legal tech scene such as the United States underlined that legal tech outperforms the average person in terms of efficiency. Evidently, such recurring opinions are bound to breed insecurities of an impending threat on job security. Nonetheless, such a fear can be deemed as unfounded due to current limitations of legal techs.
To simplify, legal tech ultimately cannot do everything a lawyer does but it can definitely make their lives easier by saving them the hassle of doing strenuous amount of administrative works, which can be done within seconds with tiptop accuracy. Thus, it should not be presumed as a threat but a sidekick that complements and increases the efficiency of an individual. be presumed as a threat but a sidekick that complements and increases the efficiency of an individual.
2. Conventional Interpretation of the Legal Profession Act 1976 (LPA 1976)
The LPA 1976 proves to be the greatest obstacle to the growth of legal tech in Malaysia thus far. This is due to the prevalent S.37 under the same Act, which prevents any “unauthorised person” who is not a practising lawyer from performing certain legal service and soliciting clients for legal services. In recent years, various legal tech firms attempted to penetrate the legal scene in Malaysia but ultimately failed the quest. It may be strenuous endeavours but not totally impossible. Despite the lack of success for some, multiple startups managed to triumph through brainy ideas.
3. Turning Heads towards Unseen Opportunities
Creative innovations and developments concerning legal techs are no doubt within its infancy. Hence, funds are essential to promote research as well as to encourage and improve the development of legal techs, which will
subsequently lead to its advancement.
It is recorded that the funding for Malaysia’s legal tech development is significantly lower than other regions in the world such as the United Kingdom and some of the Commonwealth countries including Singapore and Australia. It is not because of the market value or lack of interest but rather the lack of awareness and promotion about technology among lawyers. Of course, this can be solved with enough attention and education on legal tech, covering most if not all aspects ranging from how it works to what it can contribute globally.
What is brewing in the industry of Legal Tech in Malaysia?
The vision of legal tech continues to grow and venture from the local industry and towards the international stage. Throughout the years, it is evident that legal tech is gradually and steadily growing, especially with various events and programmes being held to further enhance the landscape universally. This positive promotion can be attributed to the following initiatives:
I - TechLaw.Fest 2018 held in Singapore
Jointly organised by Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) and CORP, this event combines ‘Tech of Law’ and ‘Law of Tech’ where over thousands of legal professionals share and develop deeper understanding about legal technology and its impact on the industry. It is inclusive of following programmes
Having noticed the tremendous effort of EasyLaw made locally in the Malaysian arena of legal tech, an invitation to partake was extended to the team. EasyLaw weathered the storm and emerged as a helpful app in Malaysia which eases the burden of lawyers in various administrative works more efficiently and effectively.
Through its continuous expansion and innovation, EasyLaw can be taken and seen as an example in cultivating the growth of legal tech not only in Southeast Asia but globally as well.
II - Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP)
Participation in the events organized by FLIP proved to be a nod of growth for legal tech in Malaysia. Likewise, it also allowed the participants to be exposed to other creative concepts in Asia and the contribution of various parties in the development of legal tech for their respective countries. Events like these indeed help and contribute positively to the global legal tech industry as multiple countries join hands to share relevant knowledge and support each other. They create connection and work together towards the same goal - for the better of legal tech worldwide in every aspect. This is also much needed and crucial for countries with a developing and encouraging legal tech scene like Malaysia.A programme organized by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) that aims to provide assistance and resources to both legal tech start-ups and law firms to cultivate a more “innovation-driven future”.
Stepping Stones from the Malaysian Bar Council
Simply the developers striving for the continuous growth of legal tech that will procure minimal results at best. During the International Malaysia Law Conference (IMLC 2018), innovations that can and will affect the legal community, as well as the need to smoothly embrace and integrate them were emphasised. Regarded as a flagship event of the Malaysian Bar dating back to 1971 which was inaugurally declared open by then-Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and re-imagined in 2012, it was held on 14-17 August this year (2018) at The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur. This conference is organised and evolved annually to keep up with the expeditious advancement and development of the Malaysian economy including skyrocketing globalisation.
As an attempt to embrace and utilise technology in the legal field, the Malaysian Bar Council has chosen to tackle the concerns surrounding it. The critical ideas that were formed with the future of legal tech in Malaysia in mind were:
“Future in Technology Committee”
The purpose of establishing such committee is so that they can provide a regulatory framework for legal tech startups to better identify which legal tech can be operated in Malaysia. It is essential for such framework to be established for the sake of safeguarding the legal community and public. Such intervention and responsiveness will be able to support law firms at the same time enabling them the access of advantageous technology and innovation.
Recommend Amendments to LPA 1976
To encourage innovation in the legal tech industry by reflecting the critical principle of the amendment: To secure the interest of those within the legal profession, legal tech developers and the citizens of Malaysia who seek the services of both parties. Karen Cheah, Bar Council Ad Hoc Committee on amendments to the LPA shared in a conference that proposed changes may include online submission for practicing certificates, reports, compensation fund and more. If accomplished, this will be a huge step forward for the local legal tech industry.
The Next Step Forward
Malaysia is often overlooked on the world map, especially with regard to its legal tech industry when placed alongside the States, Australia and even its neighbour, Singapore that currently dominates South East Asia. However, through the cumulative efforts of both developers and the government topped with the drive to improve, Malaysia can ideally be a formidable presence in the global legal tech scene.
With such will to advance in the game, there will certainly be more opportunities that arise. Commendable players in the legal tech field who take every chance they can to promote and show the competitive stance of Malaysia’s legal tech industry, is a great motivation to other fellow players as well. It is also proof that, given the chance and freedom, Malaysia is capable and has little to no problem standing side by side with other countries on the global stage.
Drawing wisdom from the American motivational speaker Eric Thomas, “All roads that lead to success have to pass through hard work boulevard at some point", we ought to believe that Malaysia is indeed undergoing a transition and is determinedly nurturing its budding legal tech to the level of its aspirations.
About the Author
June Low is Founder of EasyLaw - No. 1 Legal App in Malaysia, with over 27% Malaysian lawyers using it.
Prior to EasyLaw, June founded one of the leading women accessories E-commerce websites which attracted as many as 105k follower in Instagram within 2 years without any paid advertising. Drawing upon her extensive digital marketing experience, she is steadfast in closing the gap in the current legal services trend and create a new future for the entire legal community, thus bringing forth to the founding of EasyLaw.
June leading EasyLaw team has won the following awards:
Echelon E27 Top 100 Fight Club, Penang,
Legal Tech Venture Day at TechLaw Fest Singapore (http://bit.ly/legaltechventureday)
As winner, EasyLaw is representing SEA at Global Legal Venture Day in Madrid July 2018 to compete against regional winners from North America, Latin America & Europe.
Finalist of Global Legal Tech Venture Day 2018 in Madrid - by Law Schools Global League & Ontier in collaboration with IE and South Summit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB6pyBVIkac)
June has been featured in News Straits Times, BFM , Malaysia SME (cover), Oriental Daily, Channel W , 988 FM, CityPlus.