Creating Social Change through Legal Tech with LITE Lab

LITE-Lab

Analyzing the increasing need for law tech among businesses and non-governmental organizations and how LITE Lab fulfills this need.

Understanding and accessing your legal rights has never been an easy task, be it for individuals, startups or non-profits. Legal jargon can be tough to decipher, particularly when you don’t have a law firm you can rely on to help you with legal research. Here’s where law tech can come into play.

Lawtech is an emerging industry that uses technology to deliver legal services. Lawtech has been referred to as the future of the legal industry. The legal tech startup space has generated US$570 million in revenue in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.82% till 2025. 

Let’s try to understand why law tech is called the future of the legal industry by looking at one of the pioneers in the field –The University of Hong Kong’s LITE Lab. 

What is LITE Lab?

LITE Lab stands for law, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. It is an interdisciplinary programme meant to facilitate experiential learning for law and other students from 7 of the 10 faculties across HKU. The “learning by doing” approach of the programme helps students apply their knowledge to different practical scenarios.

The founding executive director of LITE Lab Brian Tang explains,“ The idea behind LITE Lab is to allow the students to have opportunities, real-world opportunities with real-world problems.”

Let’s take a look at the kind of problems LITE Lab is solving.

Increasing access to justice

LITE Lab helps NGOs which might not have enough funds to assist the global poor do more with less. Poverty deprives people of the right to health, adequate housing, clean drinking water and food among a range of other human rights. According to the World Bank, about 132 million global poor live in areas that are at high risk of flooding

As a part of their LawTech4Good initiative, LITE Lab divided its students into teams to work with various NGOs to facilitate access to justice for people in need. For instance, team ProperT worked with Society for Community Organization using computer vision to help low-income tenants in Hong Kong understand and report health and safety hazards. In the prior year, team EC Bank created an AI-powered databank to assist injured employees in getting the compensation they deserve. The team won the Georgetown Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational and has since spun off to be a startup Litex that is being incubated in Hong Kong Science and Technology Park. 

Addressing human rights violations

Besides increased access to justice, law tech can also help address human rights violations. Between 20 million and 40 million people globally are subject to modern slavery or human trafficking. Such atrocities can be prevented by technological means. 

LITE Lab’s team RITE worked with NGO Equal Justice and co-designed a law tech tool to determine whether foreign domestic workers or other migrants are exhibiting signs of being victims of human trafficking. This tool will help NGOs save victims of human trafficking rackets. 

Assisting companies with their digital innovation journeys

More than 60% of what a lawyer does in a day can be automated. For instance, using artificial intelligence, the contract review process can be sped up by 90%. This can give lawyers more time to focus their energy on important legal matters as opposed to being bogged down by paperwork. 

As a part of LITE Lab’s Lawtech & Regetch Sandbox, LITE Lab’s students worked with companies such as HSBC, Goodman and Angel Hub. For example, the project with FedEx Express to co-design a system to automate internal legal requests allowed the company’s internal legal team across the region to create a proof of concept using no-code/ low-code technologies to improve efficiencies and internal client satisfaction. LITE Lab’s Sandbox was the only university-led initiative that has been nominated as a finalist for FT Innovative Lawyer’s Collaborative Innovation Award

Helping young startups with legal information and research

Startups are often working on shoestring budgets. So, having the resources to access paid legal counsel is often a luxury for many of them. Having access to law students to conduct legal research can help startups find a free way to better understand and explore legal ideas, especially in cutting-edge areas involving AI, blockchain, cloud and data. To date, LITE Lab’s students have worked with more than 80 tech startups from Cyberport, iDendron and Fintech Association of Hong Kong, and their output will be shared on LITE Lab’s website to better assist under-resourced organizations

On how LITE Lab has helped his startup, Stanley Li, the founder of Hong Kong-based cybersecurity firm Securli, says,“ For me, it’s [legal knowledge] like a big funnel, in the beginning, little by little we try to narrow it down to what is applicable to me.”

The pandemic has accelerated the legal tech industry’s growth, with more and more legal firms now compelled to work digitally. As the world battles a global recession, customers of legal firms will want more for less and under-resourced NGOs and individuals want to better understand their rights , and tech is the only way to meet this growing demand. LITE Lab’s tech-focused teaching curriculum and practical pedagogy is preparing students for this digitally driven work culture while positively impacting those that can benefit from such resources most. 

Header image courtesy of Freepik

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