TL;DR – Intersection of law and technology has arrived. Loo Soon Yi started Can Law Asia, with vision in his future that all problems can be solved.
Thomas Piketty, the French economist who wrote the tour de force ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ said in his book that “boundaries between discipline are sometimes too sharp”. In his case, the subject that he was studying was “too historical for economist and too economic for historians. So nobody will do it.” The boundary between law and technology is even sharper.
Coming up with laws to regulate technology is hard, but utilizing technology to improve the legal world is even harder. Nevertheless, the intersection between the two fields does exists although it is probably too techy for lawyers and too verbose for coders. Yet, there lies plenty of opportunities for innovation and improvement; if one is brave enough to try. Such is the case for Can Law Asia, a startup that is trying to incorporate technology in the legal world with the ultimate aim to bring justice for all.
The idea to start Can Law originated from the co-founder, Loo Soon Yi’s personal experience in getting legal service. Three years ago, he and his wife (then fiancé) wanted to buy a condominium. They found a recommended lawyer to handle the transaction but unfortunately a mistake by a legal clerk who forgot to do a bankruptcy check on the seller caused the condominium ended up getting stuck with Malaysian Department of Insolvency.
“I could not help but that is a problem that I really want to solve”.
That is the turning point that made Soon Yi left his comfortable corporate job and found a legal co-founder, a tech expert, and a marketing person to start Can Law. Although Soon Yi is not a lawyer by training, his experience in technology and digital business coupled with his personal experience in legal matters drive Can Law to see the light of day. Three years down the road, he now runs a startup of seven people with a couple of interns. Finally, the intersection between technology and legal are being explored and it is exciting to see the innovation unfolds right in front of us in Malaysia.
Can Law sets their bar high as it is their mission to innovate the legal world to ensure justice for all. Such a big aspiration and aim must be broken down into specific steps and action plans so that they will not be lost in the journey. As a start, the organization aims to be the best lawyer discovery platform that can match the right lawyer at the right price for the right location and occasion.
Finding lawyers is easy but finding great ones that falls within our budget is not. There is no single platform that serves as a one stop center for laymen to get all the information that they need before they decide to hire a lawyer. Although the Bar Council lists out all the registered firms and qualified lawyers on their website, it does not serve the purpose of matchmaking clients and law firms, which is rightfully so as it is an impartial body.
“For decades, individuals could only find lawyers either through word-of-mouth or referral from bankers and property agents. This is due to lawyers having very limited marketing means as strict publicity rules govern the profession”
Can Law is trying a nuance idea to solve this problem by providing a platform for both prospective clients and lawyers to meet in a virtual market place through three simple steps. First, customers need to come up on the platform and submit a job request, get three to five quotes of different lawyers, and select the lawyers that you prefer and confirm booking. Three simple steps and voila your lawyers are ready to work with you!
Just like any other service providers, quality of the service and customers’ satisfaction are given utmost priority. In the future, Can Law is toying with the idea to provide a rating and review function for customers to provide feedback based on their experience with a particular law firm or lawyers in order to maintain the quality of entities registered on their platform.
The platform actually benefits both the customers and the lawyers. The customers benefit from the fact that they now have symmetric information to make a decision while the lawyers benefit from the fact that in the midst of strict laws regulating marketing, they too now can put their service out there for the benefit of society at large.
However, just like any other great ideas, Can Law has its own challenges.
“Two biggest challenges that Can Law face so far: First and foremost, uphill battle to correct perception among the lawyers that every start up is out there to disrupt the market. There are some people out there thinking Can Law is here to compete with them. It makes it hard to get the buy in from lawyers and law firms to be onboard and be on the platform. Secondly, regulatory issues governing marketing for law firms. Just last July, Can Law received a letter from Bar Council to cease website operations just when we want to scale up.”
Soon Yi and the team tackle the challenges through continuous engagement with the stakeholders especially the Bar Council in order to get they buy in so as to facilitate the transition to incorporate more technology into the legal fraternity.
The challenges that they are facing is a testament to the tiring yet rewarding journey of working in a startup especially one with a novel idea like Can Law. In the face of daunting tasks ahead of him every day in office, Soon Yi’s workweek typically starts on Sundays where he plans out large items and break them into smaller tasks for the rest of the week.
“My workweek starts on Sunday where I do majority of my planning because I do not have much time to come in on Monday and think about what I want to do on that day”.
Despite having plans, Soon Yi rarely has a routine as he needs to be agile in adapting and tackling challenges the startup life throws at him. Sometimes, he is required to solve urgent and ad-hoc problems while at other times he is busy with meetings and occasional interviews. Yet, the hard work and determination paid off through bittersweet moments that they experience throughout the year. Just last September, Can Law signed an exclusive partnership deal with Persatuan Peguam Syarie Malaysia (PGSM) in which on boarding was done for 1000 PGSM’s members.
“We were put in a position very difficult for a startup. Thought of just giving up came to mind. When PGSM was interested, it was a serious high point. It is an acceptance and a market validation for what we are doing and our sacrifice are all paid off”.
Moments with customers are also celebrated as a quick win. For example, they got an appreciative call from one of their customers providing feedback on how useful it is to have a platform like Can Law.
Can Law is still in its growing phase and has a long way to go. Providing a market place for lawyers and clients is just the stepping stone. They have a larger plan to educate the legal industry of the technology that can be used in day to day operation to make the industry more efficient.
To that end, Can Law organized Lex Tech Conference 2017 last November to equip legal service providers in the region with the knowledge to embrace the new wave of innovation. The discussion revolves around the future of law which includes but not limited to the utilization of AI and Blockchain technology in legal industry.
“We want to introduce more technology to legal profession to help them become more competitive. We do a lot of technology adoption workshop with law firms. There are so many great free online tools that they can adopt so that they can provide cheaper and more efficient legal services”.
Legal world is often characterized by arguments, thick bundles, and black and white attire. It is very rare to speak about technology and law in the same breath especially when the subject matter involves using the former to change the latter. What Can Law is trying to do is new to the industry, and thus to borrow legal lexicon, set a precedence for more innovations to come.