Date
25 March 2017
Hong Kong is falling behind other jurisdictions that have begun to incorporate online elements into their judicial systems.  Photo: internet
Hong Kong is falling behind other jurisdictions that have begun to incorporate online elements into their judicial systems. Photo: internet

How technology can make legal services more accessible to SMEs

Legal services are often out of reach for small and medium-sized enterprises because of the prohibitive costs, but digital technology is going to change that.

We have seen legal outfits that offer online advice and standard business contracts tailored for SMEs.

More recently, proposals to allow SMEs to settle commercial disputes online have been submitted by the Judicial Office in Britain.

The Civil Courts Structure Review report proposes an online court to settle disputes up to 25,000 pounds (US$36,119) in value to improve access to justice.

The online dispute resolution model proposed envisages a three-tier process, the Guardian reported: evaluation through interactive services and information, negotiation with online facilitators and, lastly, if there is no agreement, resolution by an online judge relying on electronic submissions.

Legal professionals have expressed their approval, saying it is too slow, complex and expensive to resolve disagreements under the existing system.

“Business should be entitled to legal services which are accessible in the same way that almost all consumer goods are. That is: digitally, cost-effectively and quickly,” the Maven, a business news website, quoted Merlie Calvert, LHS Solicitors’ head of business legal services, as saying.

“Reinvention of legal services, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses is long overdue.”

Hong Kong should take a leaf from Britain and make similar changes.

But considering the government’s conservative attitude toward the innovative use of technology like Uber and Airbnb in daily life, lawyer-free, virtual courtrooms are probably too transformative for our officials’ yesterday-oriented mindset.

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FL

EJ Insight writer

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