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11 March 2020

Singapore government commits $11m to fund legal tech research programme

Project aims to digitise contracts and statutes as city state steps up research into legal technology

Pic of SMU School of Law team

The CCL team: (L-R) Asst Prof Lim How Khang, Asst Prof Lau Kwan Ho, Alexis Chun, Prof Goh Yihan, Wong Meng Weng CMU

Singapore’s government has pledged $10.8m towards a legal tech research programme to digitise laws, rules and agreements in the city state.

The grant has been awarded to The Singapore Management University’s (SMU’s) School of Law and will be used to set up a new Centre for Computational Law (CCL).

The SMU said a five-year research programme would focus on the development of “‘smart’ contracts and ‘smart’ statutes, starting with the design and implementation of a domain-specific programming language that allows for laws, rules and agreements to be expressed in code”. 

The announcement of the project comes hard on the heels of the launch of The Centre for Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & The Law by the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law (NUS Law) and further positions Singapore to become a leading hub for the $16bn global legal tech market.

The CCL will be headed up by Lim How Khang, SMU Assistant Professor of Law and Information Systems (Practice), and will work closely with the SMU School of Information Systems.

Considerable private sector involvement is also promised. Wong Meng Weng and Alexis Chun, the co-founders of the Singapore-based legal tech startup Legalese, have joined the university as principal research fellow and industry director respectively.

The grant was provided by the National Research Foundation Singapore, a department within the Prime Minister’s Office.

George Loh, director (services and digital economy), said: “We are confident that the successful applications of digital technology such as Artificial Intelligence in other business sectors can be replicated in the legal profession to transform the work of paralegals, lawyers, litigators and legal researchers.  This new research programme on computational law allows Singapore to build thought leadership and digital expertise in this nascent field, and bring law firms along in the digitalisation journey to incorporate legal technology into their operations.”

Singapore was identified by a recent Law Society of England and Wales study as among 10 cities vying to be global leaders.

Last month, Barcelona made a bid to join this roster when law firms teamed up with legal tech startups and universities to set up a legal technology hub in the city.

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