Chua Xin Juan, Acting Director, Professional Services Programme Office, Ministry of Law, Singapore

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2020.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

As head of the Professional Services Programme Office (PSPO) at the Ministry of Law (MinLaw), part of my work includes growing the legal industry in Singapore, of which technology plays an important enabling role.

We started efforts to support law firms in adopting technology a few years ago with the Tech Start for Law programme in 2017, which we subsequently expanded into the Tech-celerate for Law programme in 2019. These efforts have been quite successful thus far, with 115 Singapore Law Practices adopting 143 solutions under Tech Start for Law, and 118 Singapore Law Practices adopting 156 solutions under Tech-celerate for Law (as of mid-September 2020).

Driving these efforts are the dual objectives of (i) helping our law firms become more productive so that legal services become more accessible to the public; and (ii) enabling our law firms (especially those that provide export-oriented legal services) become more competitive so that Singapore strengthens our position as a leading international legal services hub.

At MinLaw, we are also transforming our service delivery such that the public can access our services more easily. For example, many of the services we offer at the Legal Aid Bureau have been moved online, so that citizens are able to access these services from home without having to excuse themselves from work and come down personally to our service centre.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

I would say that it would be the Technology and Innovation Roadmap (TIR) for the legal industry, which we recently launched on 2nd October 2020. It is a roadmap up to 2030, outlining plans to promote innovation, technology adoption and development in our legal industry in the next decade. It also provides a broad overview of near-term priorities and upcoming initiatives, not only from MinLaw, but also from our key partners who work closely with us to develop the Singapore legal industry.

I consider this project impactful because of two key reasons: (i) it provides a long term roadmap for the entire legal ecosystem in Singapore (e.g. law firms, legal departments, institutes of higher learning, legaltech providers, investors, government agencies and the Courts) to align so that we move together; and (ii) it was a product co-developed with more than 90 participants of our legal ecosystem, over a series of four brainstorming sessions facilitated by our colleagues from the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). In essence, it is a product created by our key stakeholders for themselves, with the support of a team of officers from multiple government agencies.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

I believe that this is a common refrain for working mothers this year, but I was surprised to learn that it was indeed possible to take care of two young kids, make sure that everyone in the family was fed and clean, be fairly productive at work and still manage to self-care!

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

I’m particularly keen on seeing how we can apply computational law and/or blockchain to the legal industry. Computational law, where we translate laws, rules and agreements into computer code or legal algorithm, reimagines law as a computational system. Combined with blockchain, this could pave the way for “smart contracts” that can be executed by computers in a decentralized network.

While I’ve been following CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics’ projects for a while,  mainly to appease my geeky nature, the applications of these technologies (once sufficiently mature for widespread adoption) to the legal industry hold a lot of potential for the delivery of more efficient legal and regulatory services and will help broaden access to justice for our citizens.

Of course, it will take years for all of these to mature, but I’m optimistic, especially since the Singapore Management University (SMU) had also recently launched a Research Programme in Computational Law in March this year.

What are your priorities for 2021?

The TIR outlined a number of near-term priorities and key initiatives, which we will focus on implementing in 2021. Top of our agenda is the introduction of a cloud-based platform that would aggregate the functionalities of various front-end and back-end legal technology solutions for law firms and legal departments.
In addition, we will also work with fellow government agencies to develop a plan that helps law firms assess their digital readiness and identify technology they should adopt at their individual stage of digital maturity.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?

Know your stuff – that’s a given; and also spend time cultivating (non-tech) hobbies and through that, meet people of diverse backgrounds. Because tech (especially GovTech) is ultimately about solving problems for our people.

Write a message for your future self.

“Dear future self, I hope that you, reading this five years in the future, will find that this crazy year of 2020, despite the challenges and the many happenings globally, has broadened your worldview and enabled you to reevaluate your priorities and focus on what truly matters and gives you meaning, in both life and work”.