Fear Stagnation; Embrace Change

With the drastic growth in the smartphone market over the past 7 years, fuelled by rapid advances in technology, people today are increasingly reliant on on-demand apps and online portals to obtain the information, products and services they desire instantaneously. Today, we see the development of such apps and portals expanding across industries — from providing the conventional online shopping and ride-hailing services to supporting the modern methods of professional advice and service delivery. One may also notice that the apps and portals are going far beyond being a mere database of information and resources, and instead functions as platforms to connect users to professionals and with some even featuring document automation referencing abilities. [1]

A Singaporean law firm specialising in family and matrimonial matters, has taken the lead in the local arena; bringing their legal services online. Developed in 2015, this easy-to-use DIY portal not only allows the firm to handle divorce cases quickly and at a fraction of the fees, it also helps couples draft their divorce settlements and generate their divorce documents easily with their selection of standard terms and wordings from a drop-down list, and amicably at the locations of their comfort, convenience and choosing. To date, the portal claims to have filed over 500 online uncontested divorce applications with the Family Justice Courts of Singapore. [2]

The Minister of Social and Family Development, Desmond Lee, noted at the Family Justice Practice Forum in October 2018 that the number of uncontested divorce cases filed under the simplified track has more than doubled since 2015. This further highlights the importance and possibility of saving man-hours and cost through the use of technology. The automation of what was once the responsibility of flesh-and-blood lawyers would boost efficiency and drive costs down, and in turn increases the affordability of legal services to the public.

While some lawyers continue to be sceptical of the success and pick-up rates of DIY portals in Singapore, the early success of the portal suggests that the time is prime for the legal profession to recognise the discontinuity between old practices and new technologies; and to embrace, adopt and advance modern client-facing technology in the practice of law.

[1] https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/mobile-menu-item-5/24415-developing-apps-for-on-demand-legal-systems?utm_source=LawyersWeekly&utm_campaign=08_11_18&utm_medium=email&utm_content=6

[2] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/law-firms-diy-portal-aims-to-slash-legal-costs-for-divorce

Written by Rena Phua, LegalFab

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