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Malaysia using tech to reach lawyers

According to a recent report, a Malaysian start-up, seeking to help the practice of law evolve in Malaysia, aims to show lawyers the potential of legal tech through education and by connecting them to technologists via workshops and hackathons.

Last October, the firm held a hackathon which drew a crowd of lawyers, students and programmers who were shuffled into groups to solve four problems: reducing the overhead cost for law firms, increasing access to justice, improving communication among industry stakeholders, and cultivating innovative culture.

The firm’s strategy lead noted that, in general, what lawyers need is similar from firm to firm – they tend to be paper heavy and need more efficient processes and practice management solutions. Meanwhile, the public could do with a legal market place.

Beyond solving what lawyers need, the hackathon was an opportunity for the firm to improve ties with the Bar Council. So far, it has gained traction with the Perak Bar, Penang Bar, Sabah Law Society and Asian International Arbitration Centre, all of which joined as collaborating partners, in addition to law schools and firms that sponsored the event.

The winning pitch at the hackathon was a contract automation chatbot created by a second-year law student and two other developers. The chatbot aims to ease the process of drafting contracts especially in the area of conveyancing. It works by talking a user through filling a document by asking for necessary details and ensuring the contract is not lacking relevant clauses or information.

It was noted that the bot could help drastically ease the burden of manual labour. The process of drafting a contract can be long and tedious, but the workload can be decreased if procedures were digitised as errors can be spotted more easily and terms or words may be found through keywords.

An Intellectual Property lawyer, who joined a programming workshop due to his interest in technology and because he kept hearing that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace jobs, noted that while mechanical tasks can be taken over, a lawyer’s oversight and authority to sign off on a matter is still a necessity.

It is believed that AI will offer a massive boost to productivity, allowing for smarter searches through mountains of documents, as today’s search functions are unable to contextualise or understand short-forms used by lawyers.

Younger lawyers have been more welcoming of legal tech. It was noted that the Bar Council has tended to be cautious at it is a regulator and has to address its members’ concerns that technology could put lawyers out of a job.

As part of the moves to push Industry 4.0, the Malaysian government aims to up-skill all levels of workers to ensure that working citizens possess the necessary skillsets to work in the Industry 4.0 environment.

Moreover, the Government aims to establish digital/technology labs and collaborative platforms, especially public-private partnerships (PPPs), to create awareness and understanding, foster the adoption of new technologies, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge.

Many law students and professionals could benefit from a PPP between the law-tech firm and the Malaysian government, especially since the Government seeks to provide access for local companies, especially SMEs, to key enabling Industry 4.0 technologies.

The Government also seeks to foster stronger collaboration in deploying new technologies across value chains PPPs for the industry, academia, Government and other stakeholders to work for a targeted outcome in Industry 4.0.

The Industry 4.0 Policy notes that the strategies and action plans outlined in the manifesto will require collaborative efforts across multiple stakeholders and organisations.

To accelerate or improve the intended outcome of these actions, several factors must be taken into consideration to identify the most efficient and effective implementation approach.

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