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A dive into the ASEAN LegalTech's White Paper

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There’s a new organisation and it’s called ASEAN LegalTech. They have a shiny website. Quite recently they offered a White Paper called “State of the LegalTech market in Southeast Asia”. They even give you the opportunity to join them for US$50 a year for… I’m not too sure what yet. Even though you have to surrender your personal details, the White Paper is free.

ASEAN LegalTech is like its counterparts in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere It is an association of LegalTech firms, legal technologists, law firms, legal departments, regulators and individuals in South East Asia. Its aim is to build a community in ASEAN for legal tech.

Accordingly, ASEAN LegalTech has a lot of work to do.

Research into the growing crowdsourced database last year reveal 790 LegalTech companies spread across the globe. Only eight LegalTech firms in the South East Asian region were listed on the database, with six from Singapore, one from Malaysia and one from Thailand.

State of the LegalTech market in Southeast Asia, Pg 12

By golly, that’s 1%! The “crowdsourced database” referred to here is the Stanford Law CodeX Techindex. By the White Paper’s own count, there are 89 LegalTech firms in 5 ASEAN countries. The other five have zero LegalTech firms.

This largely correlates to the ratio of lawyers to population. You can identify 4 countries with small ratios, and others with big ratios Wow, Laos!!!

Chart in report showing lawyer per capita in the ASEAN.

A particular challenge in ASEAN (as well as in other aspects of development) is the huge gap between the “haves” and “have-nots”. Singapore has far more LegalTech firms. I sometimes find it hard not to think that this is a way to export services regionally.

This is not a fair conclusion though. One factor preventing greater LegalTech penetrationis culture. Check out some samples from each country in the White Paper:

  • Brunei: “Majority of law firms still adopt a conservative approach to the practice of law and the business of law.”
  • Philippines: “The composition of lawyers in the Philippines is getting younger, increasing their willingness to adopt LegalTech solutions.”
  • Singapore: “While the potential for LegalTech solution is boundless, the realities of any technology market is that products will develop through increasing adoption by local law firms and legal departments. We are still in the early stages of the growth cycle in the Singapore LegalTech market”
  • Thailand: “The changing Thai lawyer demographic will also be a driving force for the local LegalTech market. A younger generation of professionals entering the workforce that are more open to using technology is an encouraging sign.”
  • Vietnam: “To illustrate the state of technology in Vietnam’s private practice segment, 21% of the 53 law firms ranked in Vietnam by The Legal 500, Chambers and IFR do not have a responsive website. The low adoption rates are driven by conservative and traditional lawyers and the partnership profit distribution model that often creates a hurdle to funding new technologies”

I also wish it was easier to find more information about what each firm offers. A directory of LegalTech firms would be helpful (like the Artificial Lawyer’s). I reckon for now, anyone’s best bet is to attend the exhibition at LawTech.Fest.

This is not just doom or gloom though. There is a lot of room for potential growth, especially for local LegalTech firms. This is not just about the growing consumer market and population in ASEAN. Local languages and peculiarities are also significant, so “international” solutions may not work so well. Here’s hoping to a bright future for the industry here!