Jointly organised by Asia Law Network together with the Law Society of Singapore, the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association and our Australian Counterparts, AlphaCreates and ASEAN Legal Tech Association, the Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore saw Anthony as one of the delegates who came by Singapore for the event.
We had the chance to speak to Connor James, Principal of Law Quarter, about his perspective on technology and the industry. Law Quarter offers both legal services and legal technology, with a focus on risk assessment and the energy industry.
What made you choose to be a lawyer, and in particular, what in the energy sector intrigues you?
The complexity and pace of legal work always interested me, and I haven’t been disappointed. On my first day in a law firm, I was given a two-page brief and sent before a registrar in open court. I quickly worked out how to think on my feet. While you can’t know everything in law, the important thing is to act with integrity and to keep on learning.
My first in-house job was with an electricity retailer. The energy sector in Australia is in a continual state of transition, and that presents a number of very interesting legal and regulatory issues. I’ve since worked with renewable energy companies, including in Singapore, and for energy storage companies in China.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Without a doubt, my greatest challenge has been finding the right people for our business. A successful business is all about people, and that applies whether you are providing professional services or developing software.
When you are developing legal tech solutions, you are looking for experts who understand the capacity and limits of technology and are comfortable with the idea of delegating work to online systems. That is not something everyone is comfortable with. We had one senior lawyer leave us stating that we were ‘destroying the value of legal services’ with our work on automation and machine learning. I disagree; I believe that we are helping people access legal services and making life easier for lawyers.
What is the most significant/impactful case you have worked on?
The cases with the most significant impact were about everyday people dealing with complex issues and in need of practical legal advice. We continue to maintain a strong pro bono caseload and one of my goals this year is to ensure that the legal tech we develop benefits those who are unable to afford a lawyer.
What inspired you to develop Titan?
Over the last six years, I have been studying computer science and, more recently, machine learning. I was interested to see what machine learning can do with a large corpus of contract clauses. Two years ago I set up Compliance Quarter and Law Quarter and, with seed funding, hired data scientists and engineers. We have spent the last two years developing Titan.
Titan has now developed into a stand-alone product. It can review any type of contract and a large number of regulatory documents in seconds- producing a report that provides insights and identifies risks and errors. We use Titan to identify time-dependent obligations, to review our work, and to train our junior lawyers.
How do you foresee Titan growing and expanding?
Titan improves with use. We are looking to implement Titan in a number of large businesses and to open up low-cost subscriptions to SMEs.
We see a lot of potential in developing Titan’s benchmarking capability. By that I mean, it will look at a standard contract such as an NDA and be able to tell you how often a particular clause is found in NDAs and whether it is worth negotiating or amending. We want to give our users objective data that can be used in contract negotiation and review.
What are some of the processes that you feel Titan can ease?
Titan can be used to review documents but also as a risk management tool to look over letters of advice and regulatory documents. In our compliance work, for example, we use Titan to compare our client’s policies to relevant international standards. The fact that Titan does this in seconds is revolutionary in how productive we are.
What do you think about the future of lawyering?
I think that the future is bright for lawyers. I feel that specialisation will become increasingly important as machines get better and better at work traditionally completed by a lawyer, such as contract review.
Many people say that machines will do ‘transactional’ or ‘low value’ legal work. In my view, that is wrong. Machine learning excels with complexity and in finding links between concepts. My hope is that tools such as Titan will decrease the stresses associated with legal work.
If you were to compare the legal landscape in the past versus the present, what do you think has changed the most?
I started working in a law firm 15 years ago. We were heavily reliant on dictation and hard copies of case reports. So much has changed in the last 15 years. While our work is busier than it was in many ways, we also have access to some remarkable resources. Now, if I want to file proceedings in court, I can do so without leaving my office. I can research case law on a laptop and communicate with colleagues online around the world.
What do you foresee will become the biggest challenge for legal teams in Australia?
We have seen much greater regulation of all industries in Australia, and that is only set to increase. This is particularly so in energy and financial services. For lawyers, that means that compliance becomes core business. Compliance requires a slightly different approach than traditional legal work in that it is focused on risk.
You recently attended the Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore, what do you think of the event and the similarities and difficulties that Singaporean and Australian lawyers both face?
The Insider Guide to Legal in Singapore was a fantastic experience. There are many similar challenges for lawyers from both countries including in the adoption of legal tech and I hope Australia follows some of the recent initiatives announced in Singapore. Singapore is so rich in culture and I look forward to my next visit.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.