The dilemma of litigation and cost of preventing litigation has placed many SMEs in a Hamlet-like situation as they are faced with the reality of the decisions they make that puts them into legal conflict.
Disputes occur when they make oral agreements, rely on free internet templates or when misalignment exists. While legal help is available, most SMEs cannot afford to retain an in-house lawyer.
MG/Chambers LLC, a Singapore-based boutique law firm serving the SME market, wants to change the perception that engaging the services of a lawyer is near impossible due to costs.
The firm has taken the unprecedented step of designing a proprietary software known as VanillaLaw™ to assist small business owners reduce the time (which in turn saves costs) of creating and maintaining their legal documentation, a first in the legal community here in Singapore.
Mr. Mark Goh, director of MG/Chambers LLC, explains: “In my personal experience, I have seen small business owners trying to replicate contracts and other documents by themselves, their intention being to save on legal fees. Tragically, this misguided attempt puts them in a far worse plight. One of the common mistakes they make is to select an inappropriate template from the internet.”
VanillaLaw™ uses pre-set basic clauses, a custom-made clause selector and guide notes to let the end-user generate a reasonably well-crafted first draft, after which the firm’s lawyers will peruse and refine it. A significant amount of lawyers’ time and cost is thus saved.
VanillaLaw™ cannot completely eliminate the services of a lawyer, but it is the only hybrid system in Singapore to moderate time and legal costs. The easy-to-use software is available at an annual subscription fee of S$250 per year with varying one time implementation fees, depending on the complexity of the agreement.
MG/Chambers LLC has also held talks with trade associations to offer VanillaLaw™ agreements exclusively for their members (who are micro-businesses) on a pay -per-use basis. The offer, in turn, could encourage micro-businesses to join these trade associations. Feedback attained through these meetings revealed that the software’s one-time implementation costs are competitive as compared to agreements offered by other law firms.
Mr. Goh drew inspiration to create the software from legal technology guru, Sir Richard Susskind, whose book, The End of Lawyers?, indicated that automatic document assembly systems are one of the “10 Disruptive Technologies” threatening traditional law firms. Mr. Goh then employed software coders to assist him in creating VanillaLaw™.
In 2015, Mr. Goh was invited to a strategic study hosted by the Singapore Judiciary on how Information Technology (IT) will shape the Courts of the future. The focus group was chaired by Mr. Vincent Hoong, the Registrar of the Supreme Court.