Love.Law.Robots. by Ang Hou Fu


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In 2021, I discovered something exciting — an application of machine learning that was both mind-blowing and practical.

The premise was simple. Type a description of the code you want in your editor, and GitHub Copilot will generate the code. It was terrific, and many people, including myself, were excited to use it.

🚀 I just got access to @github Copilot and it's super amazing!!! This is going to save me so much time!! Check out the short video below! #GitHubCopilot I think I'll spend more time writing function descriptions now than the code itself :D

— abhishek (@abhi1thakur) June 30, 2021

The idea that you can prompt a machine to generate code for you is obviously interesting for contract lawyers. I believe we are getting closer every day. I am waiting for my early access to Spellbook.

As a poorly trained and very busy programmer, it feels like I am a target of Github Copilot. The costs was also not so ridiculous. (Spellbook Legal costs $89 a month compared to Copilot's $10 a month) Even so, I haven't tried it for over a year. I wasn’t comfortable enough with the idea and I wasn’t sure how to express it.

Now I can. I recently came across a website proposing to investigate Github Copilot. The main author is Matthew Butterick. He’s the author of Typography for Lawyers and this site proudly uses the Equity typeface.

GitHub Copilot investigation · Joseph Saveri Law Firm & Matthew ButterickGitHub Copilot investigation

In short, the training of GitHub Copilot on open source repositories it hosts probably raises questions on whether such use complies with its copyright licenses. Is it fair use to use publicly accessible code for computational analysis? You might recall that Singapore recently passed an amendment to the Copyright Act providing an exception for computational data analysis. If GitHub Copilot is right that it is fair use, any code anywhere is game to be consumed by the learning machine.

Of course, the idea that it might be illegal hasn’t exactly stopped me from trying.

The key objection to GitHub Copilot is that it is not open source. By packaging the world’s open-source code in an AI model, and spitting it out to its user with no context, a user only interacts with Github Copilot. It is, in essence, a coding walled garden.

Copi­lot intro­duces what we might call a more self­ish inter­face to open-source soft­ware: just give me what I want! With Copi­lot, open-source users never have to know who made their soft­ware. They never have to inter­act with a com­mu­nity. They never have to con­tribute.

For someone who wants to learn to code, this enticing idea is probably a double-edged sword. You could probably swim around using prompts with your AI pair programmer, but without any context, you are not learning much. If I wanted to know how something works, I would like to run it, read its code and interact with its community. I am a member of a group of people with shared goals, not someone who just wants to consume other people’s work.

Matthew Butterick might end up with enough material to sue Microsoft, and the legal issues raised will be interesting for the open-source community. For now, though, I am going to stick to programming the hard way.

#OpenSource #Programming #GitHubCopilot #DataMining #Copyright #MachineLearning #News #Newsletter #tech #TechnologyLaw

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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One can have a variety of opinions about the pandemic but I will insist on this one. It made everyone treat online not as a cute sideshow, but as an essential part of working life.

While stuck at home, I made it a point to attend any conference or talk online that seemed adjacent to my interests. I attended talks on machine learning and AI. I even learnt a bit of linguistics.

One of the more life-changing seminars I attended was the first Bucerius Legal Tech Essentials in 2020. In short, I highly recommend it for someone who doesn't have much time but needs to dive deep and swim wide in this field. They lived up to their taglines: “ Curated. Intense. Remote.

You swim wide because they cover a wide gamut of speakers, from academics, thought leaders and entrepreneurs with their own LegalTech companies.

You dive deep mainly because the speakers are talking about their expertise (this isn't a panel show). I recalled that many speakers took questions, so you can engage with them.

The only bad thing was that since all the speakers were based on both sides of the Atlantic, the timing was horrendous for the other side of the world. I remember falling asleep in front of my desk, trying to figure out the Six Sigma rule around 1 in the morning.

Nevertheless, I didn't think I was the only person from South East Asia attending the talks. During the customary roll call of various attendees at the start of each session, you would get a taste of how global interest in LegalTech was.

People in Singapore would also get a taste of Bucerius Legal Tech Essentials when Prof Daniel Katz, one of the “hosts” of Legal Tech Essentials, gave a lecture in 2021 at SMU, Singapore. It was a whirlwind of 500 slides in 60 minutes. Note that there are no certifications or brownie points for attending or interacting. These people stayed up late for the LegalTech.

It seems that being in Singapore has borne other fruit. 2022's Legal Tech Essentials would feature timings more convenient for this part of the world. This means 8:30 pm here... which I reckon is a marked improvement over 1 am.

Legal Tech Essentials 2022Curated, Intense, Remote.You can sign up for updates at their site.

So if you're interested in the field but don't know where to start, I strongly recommend this. I didn't enjoy it as much in 2021 since I found most topics less effective a second time. Maybe I will give this another try.

At the end of 2021, I repeatedly feared that online seminars would be buried and in-person conferences would be back in vogue. I'm glad that Legal Tech Essentials is back and still remote. It was a light in a very dark time of the pandemic, but now I hope it will still light a few light bulbs to anyone interested in Legal and Technology.

#Newsletter #LegalTech #Lawyers #News #tech #TechnologyLaw #Training #Presentation

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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It’s going to be a busy week! I’ll be attending the conferences below:

Here are the sessions that I am looking forward to:

SCCE Singapore Regional 2022

Of all the conferences, this is probably the one with the most practical topics I can apply to my work. So, although maintaining those Continuing Education Units for my certification is a serious challenge (40 points in 2 years?! Video conference at 1am?! 🤮), membership is still very useful to me.

Compared to last year’s regional, I think this one has far more breadth and indeed some depth into hot topics like ESG and Digital Data Management. Hot favourites like compliance training and supply chain management make an appearance too.

I am particularly curious about the finale: “Are robots running the compliance program?” Automation in compliance is that small victory that I think cash- and human resource-strapped compliance departments should look into. From the handout, the “automation” is Microsoft Power Automate, which while simple to understand and used in many corporate environments, is not as widely applicable compared to something like Zapier. Let’s see what new ideas I will get!

Automate Boring Stuff: Get Python and your Web Browser to download your judgementsThis post is part of a series on my Data Science journey with PDPC Decisions. Check it out for more posts on visualisations, natural languge processing, data extraction and processing! Update 13 June 2020: “At least until the PDPC breaks its website.” How prescient… about three months after I wroteLove.Law.Robots.HoufuIt's always important to automate the boring stuff.

IAPP Asia Privacy Forum

They took a long time to flesh this out — back when I bought the early bird ticket in early June, half of the programme was labelled to be confirmed. I’m glad they managed to flesh this out. It’d be my first IAPP Conference even though I have been a member and am CIPP/A-certified since 2019.

I am a pretty practical person, so I am going to list things that have meaning to me.

  • Building Privacy Technology Into Your Privacy Programme ” — Privacy by Design is one of those revolutionary concepts introduced by the GDPR that you probably don’t hear enough about. Privacy engineering has always been very fascinating to me too.
  • Towards Innovative and Global Solutions for Trans-Border Flow ” — The biggest challenges in Singapore isn’t really complying with the PDPA here but dealing with the implications of having an open economy. In my context, a regional HQ is a hub for data flows so having an interesting way to handle them will be useful.
  • Implementing Privacy in Yet-to-Mature Geographies ” — Related to the previous point, we are in a region where jurisdictions have not had much experience in privacy. Thailand recently made its GDPR-like law effective. Indonesia is still toying with the idea. India’s comprehensive data protection law appears to be trapped in legislative purgatory. Coping strategies will be very appreciated.

Alongside IAPP Asia Privacy Forum, the Singapore PDPC also organise the Singapore version of a conference. Topics seem quite interesting, but given my decreasing focus on data privacy in recent years, I am going to give it a pass.


It’s my third TechLaw.Fest and my first in person!

Actually. I don't know whether this is an in-person event. Something about the metaverse.

I count myself as a sceptic of the metaverse and was actually profoundly upset that the programme focuses almost entirely on this topic. Compared to last year where there was an even spread, this year looks like an advertorial to convince you that there is something special.

Three Things: TechLawFest 2021I debrief on the TechLawFest in Singapore which ended recently with three key takeaways.Love.Law.Robots.HoufuCompared to last year...

Anyway, I am still sorting out my registration because, frankly, the organisation of this event is messy this year.

I will be hiding out in the Tech Talks section this year. I don’t want to hear a big talk about a fad which no one will care about in a year or two. The metaverse is like cryptocurrency and NFTs; somebody is pouring lots of money into it but nobody honestly has high hopes about it.

Live by the Code… Die by the Code?The excitement about Cryptocurrency and NFTs has turned to panic and loss. Will something different take its place?Love.Law.Robots.HoufuIn an earlier post, I wondered whether the fallout from cryptocurrency will bring forth something good.

Some of the things I wish they covered:

  • The fallout about Crypto Currency and NFTs: This is an awesome topic for litigators and restructuring professionals with all the news going around of bank runs, fraud and corporate dissolutions. To be fair, I have a suspicion that this is going to be covered in “ ** What Happens in the Metaverse Doesn’t Stay in the Metaverse: How Laws Apply Such That In-world Crime Could Mean Real-world Punishment** ” on the Main Stage on 22 July 2022.
  • AI Regulation — I believe there are some major advances in the field (in Europe, I think?) and this is a topic that is getting closer to law and regulation once the technology is more mainstream. The IMDA also released its own AI Governance Testing framework and toolkit in May, so I am surprised nobody wants to talk about it here.
  • I wouldn’t complain about learning more about legal operations. To be fair, “ ** The Virtual Lawyer: How Digitalisation is Changing the Business of Law** ” on the Main Stage on 21 July 2022 seems related. I am going to be rather peeved if it’s about how I can appear as an avatar to my colleagues… as if using Microsoft Teams wasn’t lame enough.

The past two years have forced a reckoning that the brick-and-mortar law office may not be as essential to lawyering as was assumed by many for a long time. In this session, we hear from a range of legal professionals wrestling with digitalisation and the business of law. #tlf22

— TechLaw.Fest (@TechLawFest) July 13, 2022


There's going to be lots to do, and I am going to practice live tweeting this year so that I would get better at it. Last year, I tried to write a roundup but it was really tiresome, so please follow me on Twitter!

#blog #Compliance #Cryptocurrency #Ethics #Law #News #NFT #PersonalDataProtectionAct #Privacy #Singapore #TechLawFest #TechnologyLaw #IAPP #SCCE #DataProtectionOfficer

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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It's an exciting time to be alive. In last year's TechLawFest, Singapore's signature legal conference for folks who need to shore up their tech gravitas, NFTs were discussed furiously. Back then, NFTs were the hottest thing in the universe, and lawyers either knew NFTs or didn't.

The world is much different these days. TechLawFest has already moved on to the “Metaverse”.

We've got more top-notch speakers to break down every aspect of the Metaverse for you.

Don't miss out: #lawandtechnology #tlf #tlf22 #techlaw #techlawfest

— TechLaw.Fest (@TechLawFest) May 24, 2022

In the meantime, the value of NFTs and cryptocurrencies plunged. Two years of financial gains were wiped out. Suddenly, celebrities piping cryptocurrencies went quiet and were ordered to do some soul searching.

It's the biggest “I told you so” moment in my recent memory. This makes the websites of crypto sceptics fun to read. The “counter” memes are fun too.

Diamond Hands is crypto slang, by the way.

Anyone familiar with the reality in this space is well aware that scams and frauds are plentiful, and the dreams are as beautiful as the chasms you can fall into. This isn't an investment blog, but high risk doesn't lead to high returns. A get-rich scheme is not for the faint-hearted or the ethically firm.

From the Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I am secretly happy that cryptocurrencies and NFTs have finally had their long-coming reckoning. It's not because I like people losing money. Or that crypto bros will finally shut the hell up.

My interest in this area is quite intellectual. I think such technologies raise fascinating questions, which is the most lawyerly thing you will hear me say on this blog for a long time.

Take stolen NFTs, for example:

Looking forward to precedent setting debates on IP ownership & exploitation, having spent 18 years studying copyright & the industry laws. I’d ather meet @DarkWing84 to make a deal, vs in court. We can prove the promise of ape community

— Seth Green (@SethGreen) May 24, 2022

You might remember Mr Green as either Dr Evil's son, a voice on Family Guy, or the creator, writer, etc., of Robot Chicken. He was also a victim of a phishing scam which took away his NFT. All this sounds rather ordinary, but Mr Green also had plans to use the Ape referred to in his NFT for a show. Without his NFT, he can't make his show.

Sorry, what?

Presumably, it's because when you own an NFT, you own the right to parade it in other material. You know, like how some people pick which shows their pets will star in. If you don't own a pet, there's no show.

However, it's not so simple. An NFT is a reference to a particular bunch of data on a blockchain. Furthermore, “owning” a thing isn't necessarily the same as owning its intellectual property. No one gets the idea that because they bought a Harry Potter book, they get to start their own Harry Potter universe.

Even so, this confusion is particularly rife with digital products. Just because you own the “metaverse” handle on Instagram doesn't take away Meta's right to take back their handle per their terms of use.

Beware the metaverse. It's not all fun and games out there.

In this regard, BAYC's terms of use are a crap shoot.

Source: (access 12 June 2022)

  • Yes, “You Own the NFT”. That sounds great, even though the capitalised “Own” looks fishy.
  • “When you purchase an NFT, you own the underlying Bored Ape, the Art, completely”. What's with the comma between “Bored Ape” and “the Art”? Is “Bored Ape” the definition of the “Art”? Or are there two things, the “Bored Ape” and “the Art”? What does owning something “completely” mean anyway?
  • Clause ii starts with “Subject to your continued compliance with these Terms…”. I guess this is what owning something completely means?
  • Who is “you” anyway?

Of course, this may be only a snapshot of the agreement between BAYC and the owner of NFT. Other terms like the smart contract or at OpenSea may apply. However, with terms this grossly vague, it's hard to expect the other conditions to be an improvement or fully resolve all arguments. You'd expect any lawyer with a bit of imagination to have a field day with this.

This is perhaps why Mr Green would love to make a deal rather than meet the current owner of his phished NFTs in court.

The issues with stolen NFTs aren’t so novel

Delorean Photo by Mark Sivewright / Unsplash

Regarding the issue of who “owns” a stolen NFT, you may be surprised that there are precedents. In fact, this problem is so well known that it forms a key part of a first-year contract law student’s learning.

The theory, distilled, is as follows. The original owner didn’t intend to transfer his NFT to a fraudster. There was a mistake that voided his consent to the (smart) contract that operated the transfer. If such a contract is voided, the fraudster had no right to transfer his NFT to his unwitting buyer. The unwitting buyer thus doesn’t own the NFT. The court will order the buyer to transfer the NFT back to the original owner.

We would be short-changing the law students if the issues were so straightforward:

  • The unwitting buyer is also a victim because he bought the NFT without knowing it was stolen. It’s a choice between two victims — either take the NFT from the unwitting buyer or leave the original owner out.
  • What kind of mistake should void consent? Surely, they have to be really big mistakes, right?
  • Is the buyer really a victim? The cost of an NFT is fairly well known. Can one buy an NFT at such a low price that he or she has to know it is part of a criminal enterprise?

It’s even more surprising that you don’t have to travel out of a web3 world to find an example. In Quoine Pte Ltd v B2C2 Ltd [2020] SGCA(I) 2, computers were made to trade Ethereum and Bitcoin at superfast speeds and without human intervention. The code led to unexpected results such that USD285 million in Bitcoin (back then) were contested between two market participants. Was the bug a mistake that allowed one participant to cancel the contracts? The majority of the court said no. The code was doing what everyone intended.

If this was the case, how is hitting the transfer button a mistake? In a decentralized and “trustless” world, a buyer isn’t expecting the identity of a seller to be a material issue in a transaction. Aren’t you supposed to be taking good care of your account yourself anyway? The system is working as expected.

“Working as expected” is the kind of phrase you throw around when you are feeling unkind. Quoine’s dissent is also interesting, and I reproduced it here:

There is nothing surprising, impermissible or unworkable therefore about a test which asks what any reasonable trader would have thought, given knowledge of the particular circumstances.

Three Things: Our Robots made our mistake worseThe plot sounds like something from right out of a movie. In the dead of the night, computers have been doing their thing — buying and selling cryptocurrencies based on maths and science. One morning, a human checks in and realises that something has gone very wrong. A glitch in the algorithm caused…Love.Law.Robots.In Blog version 2020, I wrote about this case.

A reasonable trader, or a reasonable market participant, isn’t an ordinary guy. He represents the best of us, the fairest of us and the guy we need to be when we are tempted by greed, hubris and selfishness.

In a world replete with scams and grifters, perhaps a reasonable person is what cryptocurrency needs.

The building blocks of a major lawsuit are in place

![Lego has been my life since as far back as I can remember, when I was younger I loved building houses, making all the Lego family comfortable in their awesome new home.

Now, I watch my 5 year old nephew delve head first into the infinite possibilities that Lego provides. It’s an opportunity to see what comes from a young mind. It’s awesome. Never grow up.]( by Hello I'm Nik / Unsplash

In other news, a law firm in Singapore managed to secure a worldwide freezing order over an NFT in a purely commercial dispute (a botched loan agreement). There aren’t any details on how such an order will be enforced — would they serve it on an online marketplace and force them not to process any transactions? In any case, the fact that it succeeded will tempt others to try it themselves.

The more people look to the legal system to enforce what they perceive as their rights, the more opportunities courts will have to comment on them. The outcome might not be what early adopters prefer or expect — a court can hold that it isn’t reasonable to claim that a phished NFT belongs to an unwitting buyer because the code of the smart contract worked as expected. Similarly, cryptocurrency is as decentralised as finding a marketplace which wouldn’t obey court orders.

The key here is that there must be people who value their NFTs enough to request a court to protect their rights. In a bull run, the incentive to do so is muted because it would probably be more profitable to continue investing. In a bear market, when the chips have fallen, promises that have been made must be kept. And that’s when the lawyers come in.

Hopefully at some point, we’d clear the deck of grifters and scam artists, and leave cryptocurrency, NFTs and even maybe the Metaverse with the norms of a sustainable enterprise.

That’s what everyone wants, right?

#tech #TechLawFest #TechnologyLaw #Cryptocurrency #NFT #Contracts #Law #News

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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I love playing with legal data. For me, books specialising in legal data are uncommon, especially those dealing with what’s available on the wild world of the internet today.

That’s why I snapped up Sarah Sutherland’s “Legal Data and Information in Practice”. Ms Sutherland was CEO of CanLII, one of the most admirable LIIs. CanLII is extensive, comprehensive, and packed with great features like noting up and keywords. It even comes in two languages.

Legal Data and Information in Practice: How Data and the Law InteractLegal Data and Information in Practice provides readers with an understanding of how to facilitate the acquisition, management, and use of legal data in organizations such as libraries, courts, governments, universities, and start-ups.Presenting a synthesis of information about legal data that will…Routledge & CRC PressSarah A. Sutherland

The book’s blurb recommends that it is “ essential reading for those in the law library community who are based in English-speaking countries with a common law tradition ”.

Since finishing the book, I found the blurb’s focus way too narrow. This is a book for anyone who loves legal data.

For one, I enjoyed the approachable language. My interaction with legal data has always been pragmatic. Either I was studying for some course, or I needed to find an answer quickly. It will be enough to appreciate the book if you’ve done any of those things. I liked that it didn’t baffle me with impossible or theoretical language. I found myself nodding at several junctures as I reflected on my experience of interacting with legal data as well.

Furthermore, it’s effectively a primer:

  • It’s short. I took a month to finish it at a leisurely place (i.e., in between taking care of children, making sure the legal department runs smoothly, and programming). Oh, and unlike most law books, it has pictures.
  • It effectively explains a broad range of topics. It talks about the challenges of AI and the political and administrative backgrounds of how legal data is provided without overwhelming you. More impressively, I found new areas in this field that I didn’t know about before reading the book, such as the various strategies to acquire legal data and an overview of statistical and machine learning techniques on data.

So, even if you are not a librarian or a legal technologist by profession, this book is still handy for you. I would love more depth, and maybe that’s some scope for a 2nd edition. In any case, Sarah Sutherland’s “Legal Data and Information in Practice” is a great starting point for everyone. Reading it will level up your ability to discuss and evaluate what’s going on in this exciting field.

  • * *

I am sorry for being a sucker — I am the kind of guy who watches movies to swoon at sweeping visages of my home jurisdiction, Singapore. I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians, even though it’s fake.

So, I couldn’t resist looking for references to Singapore in the book. Luckily for me, Singapore is mentioned several times in the book. It’s described as “an interesting example of what can happen if a government is willing to invest heavily in developing capacity in legal computing and data use”. I’m not convinced that LawNet is like an LII, but among other points raised, such as the infrastructure, availability and formats are still much better here than in the rest of the common law world.

The more interesting point is that Singapore, as a small jurisdiction, would usually find its dataset smaller. That’s why experimenting on making models trained on other kinds of data effective on yours is crucial. (I think the paper cited in the book is an excellent example of this.) Other facets are relevant when you have fewer data and resources: what kinds of legal data should one focus on and the strategies to acquire them.

The challenges of a smaller dataset seem to be less exciting because fewer people are staring at them. However, I would suggest that these challenges are more prevalent than you would expect — companies and organisations also have smaller datasets and fewer resources. What would work for Singapore should be of interest to many others.

There’s always something to be excited about in this field. What do you think?

#BookReview #ArtificalIntelligence #DataMining #Law #LegalTech #MachineLearning #NaturalLanguageProcessing #Singapore #TechnologyLaw

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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It turns out that doing three things on the same day is a disaster. On top of listening to this year's TechLawFest, I also took on a Microsoft PowerApps course together with my regular job. Who has the time to attend these multi-day events? Thankfully, many of the events are recorded, so you can still take part in them unless you are hungry for continuing education points.

TechLaw.Fest 2021TechLaw.Fest 2021TechLaw.Fest 2021

As such, hopefully, this post will help you get into the festival's key themes. Even if you can't fork out 30++ hours of your daily schedule going through all the content (including all that recorded waiting time for people to log on), you're going to sound smart with a list like this.

Thing 1: Lots to discuss in the Technology of Law

My favourite parts of the conference are the panel presentations:

This title was far too misleading — you're not going to hear so much about blockchain and whatever, but about what skills and knowledge lawyers today need to succeed in their field.

I liked this panel presentation a lot because of the battling viewpoints. It focuses on service delivery, too, i.e. whether to develop in-house or to outsource. The depth of the presentation will be beneficial if you have never really considered what it takes to implement technology changes in an organisation.

Finally, I was disappointed that the keynote speech did not focus very much on the leadership of firms (that isn't saying that the industry leaders in the Ministry, SAL, etc., are very focused on the issues). So I was glad that they created a space to discuss leaders in a panel. As a Singaporean, I was thrilled that at least one law firm in Singapore gets it. (Then again, Rajah & Tann is at the vanguard of all this.)

In a previous post, I did sound sceptical about the focus of the program, but there is something to take home for everyone. Now I need to find more time to watch all the sessions!

Love.Law.Robots. — 16 August 2021Welcome to another edition of this bi-monthly members-only newsletter. It features mini-articles curated just for members and little personal reflections.Love.Law.Robots.HoufuI previewed the festival a month earlier here. (Free subscription required)

Sometime in October 2020, the Ministry of Law announced a 10-year technology and innovation roadmap, and one of the more concrete plans was a “legal technology platform”. If you want to be sceptical, a platform can mean anything and everything at the same time. A curated list of resources? A one-size-fits-all shtick? Do I have to give up everything to be on this system?

As this appears primarily for law firms, I haven't tuned in to this regularly. So, Wednesday was the first time I had a more concrete idea of this platform. In one word — Lupl. Artificial Lawyer recently wrote about it as well.

So, the gist is that you can bring your service onto the platform and use them in an integrated manner. You would then unite information silos from other technology platforms onto a single platform, looking at matters instead of disparate strands of communication.

UntitledSource: Lupl (

I initially thought the idea was lame. I couldn't understand how being able to view everything on one platform helps anyone. (There is already a platform that lawyers use all the time — it's called a laptop.) However, the conference has reduced my scepticism a lot. Seeing some screenshots, I think the unifying concept is “Tasks”, so it is more value-added rather than a supercharged Zapier.

For law firms in Singapore, the game-changer will be integrating with government services, especially eLitigation, ACRA and other government searches. Astute readers might be upset. Shouldn't the Ministry develop APIs to allow access to these government services instead of creating or working exclusively with a proprietary platform? Hopefully, public APIs become a collateral benefit of the platform, rather than the Ministry putting the cart before the horse.

The parties who are likely to benefit the most from this platform are small law firms. If I have the same dream as the Ministry, law firms with no legal technology (Microsoft Outlook and Word don't count) will “tech-celerate” substantially by getting the whole package on this platform.

However, for small firms, evaluating the costs of this platform may be tricky. The platform's competition isn't other platforms or products but the status quo. As I understand it, charges will be based on interactions with the platform. Small law firms wouldn't have a clear idea on a quantitative basis how much they interact with technology and can't compare the costs and benefits of being on the platform. Many would have to jump in on a leap of faith. Many more wouldn't be bothered because they can't demonstrate the usefulness in their small businesses with thin margins. Hopefully, the Ministry will provide support to make this work.

Thing 3: Selling skills will be very challenging for the innovative lawyer

Business timePhoto by Marten Bjork / Unsplash

The usual paradigm for hiring lawyers is PQE (years of experience) and the areas of law in which you have expertise. These metrics are still crucial when you are hired for your substantive knowledge. However, things get somewhat dicey once you move past these traditional metrics.

It's all well and good to be well-versed in the legal issues of stuff like cryptocurrency, blockchain and artificial intelligence. The reality is that while technology law will be alive to lawyers on the cutting edge, the pie isn't big enough to hire so many cutting-edge lawyers. Not everyone wants to live on the bleeding edge, either.

As one of the speakers on the panel noted, having an e-commerce platform isn't only a TMT or IP issue. Issues like foreign investment, international trade law and contract law have a place. It isn't easy to imagine which area of law to focus on when you are a student. Indeed, there are subjects in law school I wished I had studied on, and others I never touch these days.

Furthermore, every lawyer should focus on his lawyering skills, not his tech skills. I have not heard of someone willing to hire a lawyer because of his coding skills. If I wanted a coder, I'd hire a coder! The competitive edge of a lawyer (even against robots) is always going to be lawyering.

Do coders need to learn to law?A course in the Singapore Management University aims to deliver the best of both.Love.Law.Robots.HoufuIf you're a coder who wants to law, you have options. (Free subscription required to read)

While I know software development and networking as an interesting person, I never use this in my day-to-day work. In any case, writing code for production is quite different from doing it for fun. So even if I know my way around the code, I would rely on a software developer for my software. Your first instinct is to get the tools required (software, people or consultants) to resolve your problems rather than build these tools yourself.

So there are specific skills that are important in a new technological age — managing a project, managing a team of lawyers and (gasp) non-lawyers, and process thinking and design. Above all, even when thinking about new technologies like blockchain, you will need imagination, curiosity, and entrepreneurial spirit. Technology and projects aren't always going to work in your favour — you will need resilience too.

How does one include “imagination” or “resilience” in his CV? When lawyers have been judged all their lives by their experience, recognising other skills and experiences that set them apart will be the real challenge in this new age. If the industry truly appreciates these skills, it will require them when they look for hires. That's when we can reasonably expect law students to do this technology thing.


I adore TechLawFest and am always trying to increase my participation every year. It wasn't easy to be involved when I was practising as you are always doing your day job. I'm thankful we will still have these events, and maybe next year, we will be there in person!

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#tech #TechLawFest #TechnologyLaw #LegalTech #Singapore #Law

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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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.

Esplanade_whiteskyPhoto 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.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made on the books linked here.

I've already reviewed “Sign Here” by Alex Hamilton. I remarked in the review that the book contains excellent insights and actionable advice on the interaction of technology and contracts, an essential aspect of law practice.

Five things I wish I learnt from “Sign Here” by Alex Hamilton“Sign Here” is great for anyone who wants to improve their contracting process, but it came too late for me.Love.Law.Robots.Houfu

If you want a real primer on legal innovation, I recommend Lucy Endel Bassli's “The Simple Guide to Legal Innovation”. ALSPs, alternative fee arrangements, legal operations, project management and a dozen other concepts feature here at a level lawyers of all levels of familiarity and students can grasp. Its reflections on the state of legal innovation in the States might appear alien in Singapore, but you'd still find enough here to make yourself the most thoughtful person in #matchworking.

I liked Bassli's book so much I am excited about her new one: “CLM Simplified: Efficient Contracting for Law Departments”. It touches on topics that aren't regularly featured, like a legal department's contract review policies. 😮 I'd preorder soon.

Buying a digital book shouldn't cause this much angst

I am quite certain there is no Kindle version. (Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel / Unsplash)

Whatever views I may have, I will still buy “Law and Technology in Singapore” because I like technology, I like law, and I like the depth and breadth of the book.

However, I am still dithering on the preorder because I couldn't decide whether to get a “digital” version for an extra $15. The page has no information on the “digital” version, so I emailed the Academy for details on what I could get. I wasn't about to pay $15 for a DRM laden PDF (even if I ignore my deep hatred for PDFs).

The reply I got was quite cryptic:

The digital version ID will be emailed to you once when our platform is ready for it's release in mid-October. [ sic ]

It gave me palpitations. I imagined a web page where you can click on the right column, and the page will animatedly “flip” to the other side. Other than that piece of magic, you will need an internet connection to access it, and you can't copy or search the book. Furthermore, if the Academy doesn't want to support the website anymore, it can flush your digital book down the drain. It's worse than a PDF!

Update (23/9): I have a slightly better idea of what will be provided during TechLawFest. Thankfully, it won't be as lame as a flipping book, but still...

Anyway, I ordered the book with the digital version because I had a lot of Academy credit to burn. Hooray for COVID!

Are books the best solution for this age?

The issues regarding the delivery of this product (a heavy tome partnered by a possibly DRM-laden web platform) dampened my enthusiasm for this book.

These issues are pretty ironic considering that authors wanted the book to be accessible. As mentioned in the chapter, they have consciously made it cheaper and provided a digital version.

However, to be fair, if they considered my wish list, I would have wanted it free as in free beer , and free as in libre.

To take their goals further, I even wonder whether a book is the best medium to provide a fast reference for practitioners and a deep primer for students. Books aren't searchable, take up space on a cupboard and can't be shared. Considering that the book will get outdated really fast, it will become very expensive too when you always have to get the latest iteration (if ever, if any) .

Wikipedia for desktop A wiki might have been more effective solution, if lawyers wanted to share their knowledge. (Photo by Luke Chesser / Unsplash)

If I wanted to find information fast, what would I do? Evidently for small firms in the UK, Google it. For myself, I like reading Wikipedia. It can be a detailed primer and a fast reference. It can also be searchable. It can even be updated continuously. Honestly, they can take away my Academy credits if they provided this resource free to all Singaporeans.

It's not as if such a project is without precedent. Last week, “Civil Procedure and Practice in Ontario”, Ontario's version of Singapore Civil Procedure”, became available for free on CANLII. A book that might have cost $1,280 is now available for all, including litigants in person.

Besides an open access e-book, there are probably other ways to make this book more accessible. To cut through the walls of text and overlaps of content across discrete chapters, a chatbot using machine learning might be able to automate the searching of answers. This sounds like a fun project to get my hands dirty in machine learning again. Now to figure out how to scrape this thing once it comes out.


The goals of “Law and Technology in Singapore” are laudable. However, it's readily apparent that it doesn't go far enough. The authors wanted to write a book, and have tried to push it as hard as it can go. Maybe the real lesson is that we haven't grappled directly with the challenges of the medium. So for the innovative lawyer in me, I am always going to appreciate books, but I would always be reminded of what it could have been.

#blog #BookReview #COVID-19 #Law #Singapore #TechLawFest #TechnologyLaw

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu

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Everything changed about the pandemic — we now work from home, learn from home, and attend video conferences rather than phone calls or face to face meetings. Some of this is weird, but some of this is even weirder. One example of the latter is that I have become more used to seeing myself on the screen.

What does this mean for the blog? I will be exploring how to make videos to write posts. This is not a change I would have expected in June when I moved to Ghost. (Certainly, Ghost's membership functions have made it easier to convince me that the effort to learn and produce will be worth it.)

I originally believed that video posts take a lot of effort to create but are also lame. (I read faster than I watch someone.) Now, I have come to believe it can be more fun and engaging. So, you might hear my voice and see my face soon. I ain't a handsome fella, so please don't be turned away!

I know how to do it technically, and the equipment should not be difficult to get. I will be experimenting, though, so hang on.

What I am reading now

  • I am a big admirer of Suffolk Law School's LIT Lab. I might be biased because they pervasively use docassemble, a free and open-source LegalTech tool. During the pandemic, they have managed to take docassemble further and write a law review article about their experience. It's an encouraging story about building community and marshalling disparate resources for access to justice (A2J). I believe Open Source was an important factor in its success, so hopefully, it is a blueprint for other labs.

Digital Curb Cuts: Towards an Inclusive Open Forms EcosystemIn this paper we focus on digital curb cuts created during the pandemic: improvements designed to increase accessibility that benefit people beyond the populatiSee all articles by Quinten Steenhuis

  • What in the world is Moneyball? It's a strange story whereby a baseball team followed the data by hiring players based on their statistics rather than traditional indicators like reputation and overachieved. Can this be applied to hiring and retaining law firm associates? Legal Evolution suggests it can, but that's not what's interesting about the story. You will read about the intransigence of law firm leaders in the face of data, and you'd be convinced of the importance of leadership in innovation. This is especially the case where the results can be counterintuitive, upsetting, or confusing to leaders. On the other hand, I am sure a law firm leader will be willing to employ “sabermetrics” to achieve the best team on the cheap.

Moneyball for law firm associates: a 15-year retrospective (257) | Legal EvolutionPretty much everything was a counterintuitive curveball. In April of 2006, more than 15 years ago, I wrote a memo to file that would go on to exert aLegal EvolutionBill Henderson

TechLaw.Fest 2021TechLaw.Fest 2021TechLaw.Fest 2021

  • I have always wondered whether I should get Singapore Corporate Counsel Association membership. Quite frankly, the only benefits I see so far are the self-satisfaction of belonging and the somewhat discounted LawNet subscription. Here's something else to consider: the “First” Technology Law Course in Singapore from SCCA. It looks pretty, but I can't find the module details... oh wait, here it is. Since technology law is prevalent and not well taught in law schools (at least during my time), this will be of interest if you need to pick up some substantive knowledge.


  • If you think it's ridiculous to cough out nearly $2,000 for a bunch of recorded videos (that's why I'm getting in the video business, baby!), you can wait a little longer for a book. It's coming out in October. The introduction to the book outlining its contents is available if you surrender your personal details. Its coverage is definitely broad, so it's useful for fun reading. That's about the only reason why I would get it. It's the second book in Singapore regarding the substantive legal issues of technology, along with several tomes of books on data protection. I am exhausted. Really.


I finally managed to do some housekeeping and write a featured post containing all the content I have worked on for PDPC Decisions. I know it's not easy to find the “journey” on the website, so hopefully, you will have a better experience.

Post Updates

As mentioned above, videos are coming to this blog. I haven't decided exactly what kind of content should be in a video. However, I am sure that any tutorial or long-form video will be a full member's privilege. It takes away the vexing question of whether I have to “lock up” posts to provide value to full members and what kind of posts should be public. As I said, I am experimenting with this model, so I will be changing as I go.


I am using my laptop to obscure the mess on my table.

That's it for this newsletter. Maybe there's a chance you will see me in a video for the next one.

(For curious subscribers, there isn't a “swag” shop for this blog. However, if you would like a shiny sticker on your laptop, you can email me with your details, and I can send one for free to you.)

#Newsletter #COVID-19 #docassemble #TechLawFest #TechnologyLaw #DataScience #Singapore

Author Portrait Love.Law.Robots. – A blog by Ang Hou Fu