If there is one thing that is clear from the get-go, is that digitisation is here to stay, and the law industry surely has been riding on the digitasation waves for quite some time.
According to a report by Tech Collective SEA, in 2017, Thomson Reuters announced a 484 per cent increase in global legal tech patents over a five-year period, globally.
In 2018, Southeast Asia also unveiled its first legal tech accelerator called Accelerate! It is a 100-day programme that looks to raise US$1.8 million and provides mentorship and seed funding to legal tech startups, as well as incubates new business ventures from law firms. The positive development in the sector created a growing enthusiasm to innovate in the digital and technical reach.
However, according to Lee Eng Beng, Chairman of law firm Rajah & Tann Asia, one of the pioneers in the legal tech front in Southeast Asia, the digitisation that the sector has seen has been nothing but crowded and overlapping in its functionality.
“The new technology has been causing frustration among legal departments and law firms when it shouldn’t be the case. This fragmentation of technologies has created a pressing need for a platform that enables clients and lawyers to have a cohesive single view of all legal matters,” Lee explains to e27 in a Q&A session.
Lupl was then born as a result of over 12 months-work from a handful of legal tech practitioners. It’s an online platform that brings together all existing and new legal matters — people, documents, information, communications, and technology applications — into one secure software.
The team behind the work
The founders consisting of a group of legal departments and law firms have been preparing the platform for nearly two years. Currently, it’s managed by Chief Commercial Officer Matt Pollins, with the Board of Directors comprising partners from CMS, Cooley, and Rajah & Tann Asia.
According to Lee, the Board works together with many other members in all the firms that are actively involved in the project, brought together by a common understanding of the problems facing the industry and a vision for how to fix them.
Lee adds, “Strong business and personal relationships amongst the founding firms were key, as were the joint passion and purpose of the founding firms to collaborate on a project that all of us hoped would benefit the global legal community. The conceptualisation and execution of the project have since undergone many iterations and changes and always with direct inputs from our Client Advisory Board.”
What makes it different
“Unlike the majority of legal technology solutions out there, Lupl doesn’t seek to replace existing tools or require an entire IT overhaul to implement. The platform is essentially an operating system that works entirely on APIs and allows any firm to start using it instantly without having to invest heavily in any new tech infrastructure,” says Lee.
It is worth noting Lupl’s API offer is the answer to what Lee called fragmentation of technologies in legal tech. “Not to mention, not every legal tech platform works well as it must not only be effective and well-designed, but must also understand the nature of legal work, the challenges encountered by clients and lawyers, and the ways in which it can truly enhance efficiency, collaboration, and connectivity amongst clients and lawyers,” which is why API approach works best.
Pollins also notes that one of the biggest pain points the team came across was the feeling that the moving parts of a legal project ended up being spread around in multiple places, which makes it hard to stay on top of who’s doing what and where.
“Lupl’s platform aims to address these pain points by bringing those different parts together in one place. And it works right from the beginning to the end of the project. Anyone can create a matter on Lupl, whether they’re on their phone or at their desk,” Pollins explains.
On average, it takes less than 10 seconds to get started, with no training needed. From there, users can bring in team members, whether they are within or outside of their organisation; define the scope and objectives; coordinate on the work that needs to get done; track and manage the status; communicate; and capture key feedback and data points.
“Lupl’s open approach means they can do all this while seamlessly plugging in their own systems of choice, like enterprise messaging tools, email, document management and cloud storage systems, and knowledge solutions,” says Pollins.
Lee adds that Lupl seeks only to minimise change and disruption to legal departments and law firms. “We aim at enabling a single seamless view of all content across all of their existing technology platforms in one place.”
Lee continues that despite the ease that the platform offers, challenges remain present, especially in communicating about the platform’s capability and to familiarise it.
“It’s because Lupl runs counter to many other digital platforms that seek to create a closed and proprietary environment. Despite being an open and agnostic platform, it is not a platform created by law firms for themselves and to serve their clients,” says Lee.
So to ensure the message is received clearly, Lee says that they’re focussing on educating the legal marketplace that Lupl can be “the independent unifying platform that enables a single matter centric view of all live matters across all of their platforms and software for the benefit of all law firms and legal departments”.
How COVID-19 plays out for legal tech sector and the future
Lee shares that COVID-19 has provided a hard push to clients and lawyers in the adoption of legal tech generally. This has led to a multiplicity of different technology platforms being deployed rapidly by clients and lawyers and a greater reliance on mobile working workflows to accommodate work-from-home needs.
“We believe that the pandemic will lead to increased adoption by law firms to move to the cloud. With greater mobility, we foresee that onsite legal software systems may face a downturn arising from COVID-19,” says Lee.
As for what is coming next in the sector, especially in Southeast Asia, Lee sees the sector as being at its nascent stage.
“We are still in the early stages of the growth cycle in the Southeast Asia legal tech market. The realities of any technology market are that products like Lupl will develop through increasing adoption by local law firms and legal departments,” Lee says.
Taking into account how younger generations of professionals entering the legal workforce are more open to using technology, legal tech sector can remain hopeful that there will be greater legal tech penetration.
“But that as long as these legal tech products are being developed by placing clients’ needs at its core,” Lee concludes.
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