Books — Should an Innovative Lawyer use them?

Books are a tried and tested medium for new learning, but with a new book on Law and Technology in Singapore, is it enough to rely on it?

Books — Should an Innovative Lawyer use them?
Photo by Chris Lawton / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, including a sudden prevalence of free online talks and seminars. If you're an introvert or have no qualms to stay up till late to catch what the other side of the world is doing, this is a boon.

I am afraid those days may be numbered. Once restrictions are rescinded, the push to go online would not be strong anymore. It's challenging holding an online event effectively, so many events may prefer to stick to its "core" audience.

When one window closes, perhaps one should look for others. Something old school still exists — books. They can deal with depth and complexity. At possibly a hundred dollars or two at most, books also seem fairly efficient in delivering information, compared to recorded videos.

A primer on technology law struggles to get on the same boat

I was excited about the forthcoming "Law and Technology in Singapore" book by the Singapore Academy of Law. Its mission felt ambitious:

This primer by experts in their respective fields offers students and practitioners an overview of the relevant technologies, a survey of their impact on the content of law today, and a window into future issues that may arise – as well as some of the potential solutions. The text is meant to be accessible to students and practitioners, as well as to interested laypersons. The authors have strived to be clear and avoid unnecessary jargon – simple, but not simplistic.

I managed to download the first chapter, which expands on the explanation quoted above and provides a roadmap of the book. If you want to know what's in the book, that chapter will be illuminating.

Lawyers are supposed to be wary of semantics, but I believe this needs highlighting. It's a book on the law and technology. Based on the road map in the first chapter, you're probably going to hear lots about technology and lots about law, but not much on practice. The road map spends three paragraphs on one chapter on legal education, which might not be surprising considering how many professors flood the list of contributors. One sentence mentions process automation and innovation in law practice in a chapter co-written by four professors. Thankfully though, it counts a founder of Rajah and Tann's digital arm as its other co-author.

Photo by OpticalNomad / Unsplash

I will be pessimistic and recount all my fears about what this book is going to be. Unlike most primers I am aware of, this book will be thick, heavy and impossible to finish in one night. Like almost every book that the Singapore Academy of Law publishes, it will have end to end walls of text. For lawyers on innovation, this might be an interesting reference book. Students will learn a lot from the text.

For innovative lawyers, I suspect that this book is not going to be helpful. If you are motivated enough to go through a hefty tome, you don't need more convincing that technology has a profound impact on the law. Substantive law is an essential aspect of a lawyer's toolkit, but this book's emphasis seems particularly heavy.

It's unfair to criticise a book on technology law for not having much content on the impact of technology on law and the changes facing the legal profession. Smart contracts, AI and the Internet are minor characters in the legal innovation story. In legal innovation, it's all about People, Process and Technology. The contributors list and the topics chosen don't reflect this.

A short aside: Books I recommend for the innovative lawyer

If you're an innovative lawyer and you want to do technology as opposed to talking about it, these books are far cheaper and contain much more actionable advice.

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