Lawyers must enhance skills to meet challenges of digital age: Shanmugam

Law and Home Affairs Minister of Singapore K Shanmugam has advised lawyers to augment their skills in accordance with the changing times of the digital age and urged them to raise their game. He was speaking at a two-day litigation conference in Singapore.

The Minister said, “In the past, law firms could charge clients according to the headcount on their team. Now in the digital age, where artificial intelligence and algorithms can substitute for a lawyer and obliterate geographical borders, lawyers will have to raise their game and consider how they can offer value-added services.”

He added, “You have got to become highly skilled professionals — even those who are already in the profession. You have to continuously upgrade yourself. When the client walks in and speaks with you, he must know that he is speaking with a true professional who is several notches above what the client can get from an outsourced vendor in a low-cost jurisdiction or from a machine. It is critical,” he said.

He also suggested that lawyers could also collaborate with law firms in ‘low-cost jurisdictions’ via email.

Law and Home Affairs Minister of Singapore K Shanmugam
Law and Home Affairs Minister of Singapore K Shanmugam. Photo courtesy:

The Minister added, “These lawyers in low-cost jurisdictions will understand our jurisprudence; they are common-law-trained. You do not need, therefore, two partners and five lawyers working on it for a week, or two weeks, or five days. You just need a partner and perhaps an associate, just checking whether the vendors have gotten it right.”

He also informed that for boosting the productivity of lawyers, the Government has rolled out the SGD2.8 million ‘Tech Start for Law’ scheme for small- and medium-sized players to tap tech solutions.

However, the Minister suggested that, “Firms must want to upgrade themselves for these programmes to bear results.”

About 10 firms have taken up the grant since the scheme was launched in February.