Say goodbye to bundles of legal documents.
When people think of the legal sector, images of paper stacks come to mind, seemingly unmoving and unchanging despite the trend towards going paperless. One company is seeking to change that, equipping legal practices to embrace the digital wave.
Meet CanLaw and its founder, 29-year-old Loo Soon Yi. In his words, “CanLaw is a legal tech company and is also a consultancy for law firms as well as in-house legal counsel is that are looking to digitise their practices… CanLaw started back in late 2016 back then it was just an idea that I had at the back of my mind.”
For those who have been following CanLaw for some time, you’ll know that they first started as a lawyer discovery platform. However, they have since made the pivot towards a digital legal consultancy, as they ran into some regulatory hurdles. Loo maintains that despite the change, CanLaw’s ethos remains: Greater Access to Justice.
The Birth of an Idea
Like most startups, CanLaw was birthed out of a problem that needed to be solved. For Loo, the problem is based on his past experience with a lawyer.
“Back when my fiance and I were about to get married, we were looking to buy a condominium, but let’s just say things didn’t work out that well. The lawyer called me months after I paid my deposit, and he said that his clerk didn’t perform a bankruptcy check on the seller, which then meant my deposit was with the Insolvency Department of Malaysia.”
As one can imagine, the experience was one that was extremely unpleasant. However, from the experience came an idea.
“If you were looking for best burger in town, you’d go online and you’d be able to find a Top 10. For something as crucial and as important that has bearings to access to justice, we don’t have something similar. We are here because of that original idea.”
Also, interesting fact: Among the team working in (and on) CanLaw, Loo is the only member without a legal background. More specifically, Loo was working in local telecommunications giant Axiata, and it was through Project Brainchild – a pre-accelerator program by Khazanah Nasional – that CanLaw was born.
The Road Less Taken
After a while, Loo decided to leave his job in Axiata and commit to CanLaw full-time.
“It’s definitely not to become rich! I don’t think startup life is for you if you’re planning to be rich. It was the fact that I found a problem I couldn’t help but want to solve.”
That said, Loo didn’t take a reckless plunge; he took his time to plan and make the transition.
“The biggest thing you had to get over was the fear. You just have to work as hard as you can to reduce and minimise your risk as best as possible, and then take the plunge. It was a gradual process for me. It was only when we secured funding that I quit my job.”
Loo is optimistic about CanLaw and its current role as a consultancy.
“By and large, I think the industry is one that is ripe for tech adoption. We’re really focusing on getting lawyers to digitise their practices, working with in-house legal counsels to see where technology can play a part in making their practices more effective… Technology helps make them more efficient, and it helps them to be able to provide better quality of services to their clients.”
One Beast, Many Heads
Aside from being a consultancy, CanLaw also has its own news site, The CanLaw Report, which reports current legal matters and headlines, made accessible to laymen. CanLaw also collaborated with Persatuan Peguam Syarie Malaysia (PGSM) to birth CanLaw Syariah, a directory for Syariah lawyers. There is also the LexTech conference, its regional legal tech conference.
By far, the biggest challenge CanLaw faces lies in regulation. Loo comments, “If there are amendments that are going to happen within the Legal Profession Act, I do hope that there will be considerations in terms of how it will impact legal technology adoption and support.”
I’d rather CanLaw be seen as a cockroach startup
Currently, CanLaw is sustainable financially, all without relying on massive investor funding. To Loo, having many investors also brings the potential of a difference in expectations, and the probability of compromising and moving away from CanLaw’s objective.
“I’d rather CanLaw be seen as a cockroach startup – one that’s really hard to kill because it’s self-sustaining – rather than relying and spending on investor funding without having a good path to profitability.”
For those who may have bought into the hype of building a startup, or is planning to build one, Loo has these wise words.
“Check your intentions – figure out why you feel like you need to do a startup, and only do it if you feel like that problem is one that you can’t help but solve. If you think you’re going to get rich, you’re better off in corporate. It’s not glamorous, there’s a lot of grunt work, and it’s painful at every single step. It’s so much heartache I don’t think it’s worth doing unless you’re really sure that you want to solve that problem.”
That said, Loo sticks by his convictions, and has not regretted his move to CanLaw.
“That’s one thing I can say with utmost confidence. I don’t regret it, because it’s something I’m passionate about, and this is an industry that I feel is so ripe for innovation, that I can’t help but feel we are at the cusp of something, and once we get to that tipping point, we will see a lot of change in the industry. “
Excited for the startup scene in Malaysia? Check out what’s happening with our Singaporean counterpart here.
*All images, unless stated otherwise, are by UPPRE.