The two subjects which comprise my heading are not directly related to each other save that they both point to Singapore’s continuing consolidation as a dispute resolution centre.
The Singapore Academy of Law is inviting proposals from companies able to provide eDiscovery software as a service (“SaaS”) for law firms and organisations in Singapore. The notice about it is here with links to the formal call for collaboration.
As the notice says, the ambition is to provide services enabling law firms and clients to identify and manage large volumes of e-mails and other electronic information for use as evidence in legal disputes. As I understand it, this is not intended to be mandatory or the only permissible solution for those who have their own software or who prefer to instruct a full service electronic discovery service provider with their applications of choice. The ambition is to encourage law firms with mid-sized and smaller cases to have access to the latest technology.
There is a clear policy here, and it is one which is consistent with recent developments in the Singapore practice rules relating to electronic discovery (I wrote about that here). The Singapore authorities are in a position to drive change in a way which other jurisdictions can only dream of, partly because of Singapore’s size, partly because it can afford to invest for the benefit of litigants generally, and partly because it is driven by judges who are ambitious to make this succeed.
Sir Rupert Jackson has paid tribute to developments in the Singapore court systems – the back-office stuff which makes the whole process of initiating and managing proceedings something which is efficient and cost-effective. There is a political will there, as well as a strong judicial influence, and it extends in its ambitions from the smallest cases brought by private citizens to major international litigation.
It is perhaps not entirely a coincidence that the same week brings us news of expansion into Singapore by London barristers – see an article in the Lawyer headed One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street prepare for Singapore launches. Note the reference to Maxwell Chambers, “the Singaporean funded court facilities” and compare that with the pathetic (there is no other word) initiative (if that does not overstate it) launched by our MoJ last year and which I wrote about in an article called UK Government bids for a world-class legal reputation whilst neglecting the basics back home and in a follow-up article called The Guardian, the Rolls Building and me, both of which compared the MoJ’s lethargy with the very different attitude in Singapore.
You might also want to have a look at this article by Professor Dominic Regan, who pours scorn on the MoJ in a way which even I might baulk at. As with all attacks on large institutions, one must be careful to acknowledge that there are some good people in there; the problem lies with the attitudes of successive government since at least 1987 and with the atrophy which characterises the MoJ’s higher levels.
I hope to be back in Singapore at least once before this year is out and to find out more about both the formal proposals and the market for contentious business generally.