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OPINION: E-litigation – When law embraces technology

Chong Kok Keong | May 23, 2012
Technology offers many prospects for policy makers to make justice more accessible, transparent and efficient.

The Electronic Filing System (EFS) for the Singapore Judiciary was introduced with the Singapore Academy of Law in 1997. Since its implementation, it has enabled 85 percent of writ actions to be disposed within 18 months of filing, and 99 percent of existing matters have been cleared in both the Supreme and Subordinate Courts of Singapore. EFS is a paperless litigation system with template-based filing, case management and tracking, and resource management capabilities. This paved the way for seamless collaboration between various parties such as the Courts, government agencies and legal content providers, enabling a more efficient court process.

Complementing the EFS initiative was the launch of LawNet. At the initial launch in 1992, LawNet provided electronic information services from Statutes, Subsidiary Legislation, Case Indexes and Case Law Databases that include renowned Malayan Law Journal and Singapore Law Reports, as well as company and business searches. In later updates of LawNet, more content such as Hearing Notices, Bankruptcy, Writ of Summons, Writ of Execution and several other databases from the Supreme Court and Subordinate Courts were added into the Litigation Module.

In 1995, LawNet took a giant step to incorporate property information searches from the Registry of Land Titles and Deeds into the Conveyancing Module. In 1996, InteReq - a revolutionary application enabling law firms to file legal requisition forms and receive replies from eight government agencies electronically ­- was introduced.

Following LawNet's implementation, the turnaround time has been significantly reduced to one to two days as compared to three to four months previously. The advent of the Internet saw the migration of LawNet in 1998 and launch of the Legal WorkBench in 1998 - the new name for legal research.

In 2007, a revamped LawNet portal was launched to meet the evolving needs of the legal community. In 2010, a fresh look and feel for the portal was unveiled to celebrate the system's 20th year of success.

As of date, LawNet continues to provide real-time information retrieval, seamless integration of databases, simplifying processes as well as access and exchange of information relevant to the Singapore law. LawNet is still the primary information source for lawyers with 90 percent of all Singapore lawyers subscribing to this service.

Solving today's needs

Today's governments, judiciaries and the legal fraternity need a highly scalable, flexible, innovative and comprehensive solution. It should integrate filing, research, online transactions and other critical touch points into a single collaborative platform; enabling court users with the means to interact, process and manage case files seamlessly in a highly secure and efficient electronic environment.

Singapore clearly saw the need and initiated EFS and LawNet. Can the rest of the world learn from that? I think Koh-Yung Tung - general counsel, the World Bank, summed it well: "Harnessing global knowledge is essential to devise strategies and programmes of legal and judicial development, and interconnected societies provide opportunities to learn and build partnerships to achieve these goals." 


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