MoJ Gives Tech Nation £2m For Legal Sector ‘Digital Transformation’

The UK’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has given £2m ($2.59m) in Government funding to Tech Nation, a scale-up network for tech entrepreneurs, to support the digital transformation of the UK legal sector and to drive the next phase of work for the Lawtech Delivery Panel.

An early priority for the Panel, following the new funding and Tech Nation’s role in the venture, is to develop a ‘2022 LawTech Vision’ and implement specific projects to advance that vision.

This is the latest in a series of efforts by the UK Government to support the legal tech sector, which has included funding for startups and experimental projects via the Innovate UK scheme. We have also seen trade missions to other countries to promote UK-based legal tech companies. And the MoJ has generally been a vocal and active supporter of tech transformation.

The UK Government has shown itself to be fully committed to getting involved in driving tech adoption among lawyers, which has not been the case in all developed nations. A similar example perhaps can be seen in the work of the Singapore Government, which has also been heavily focused on supporting legal tech adoption there.

The Lawtech Delivery Panel (see members below) is chaired by former Law Society President, Christina Blacklaws. It has been working on several projects, consultations and detailed reports related to legal technology issues, ranging from challenges to market adoption, to ethical issues. One recent project focused on developing the necessary legal framework for smart contracts in the UK.

The Government also said in a statement, quoting a research report, that the adoption of new technology could drive up productivity growth in the legal sector from 1.3% per year to 2.7% per year.

This is an important goal, as increased productivity should implicitly suggest greater use of automation of process tasks in the legal sector and that lawyers are engaged in higher value tasks.

Meanwhile, Tech Nation will bring its expertise and understanding of the tech sector to support the Panel’s work. The focus will be on developing solutions to some of the most pressing challenges and harnessing the biggest opportunities in lawtech and the UK legal sector.

Jenifer Swallow, former TransferWise General Counsel, has been appointed by Tech Nation to lead the ‘executive delivery function’ of the project.

Her remit will include extensive engagement with the legal services and lawtech community, informing and developing the Panel’s programme and working closely with the Chair of the Panel to coordinate and deliver the strategic objectives of the funding. Tech Nation will also be hiring two full time employees to support Jenifer in her role.

Having provided similar support for the Government-backed Fintech Delivery Panel and the Insurtech Board, Tech Nation has a strong track record to draw on for this initiative, they said.

Swallow said: ‘Considering the foundational nature of law and legal services for our businesses and wider society, I am delighted to have the opportunity as director of the lawtech delivery function to help accelerate the evolution of the sector through tech.  I look forward to building on the progress to date with the Panel and putting this important new funding to work in lawtech.’

Blacklaws, Chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel, added: ‘A huge amount of foundational work has already been completed by the Panel, supported by the Law Society. Today’s announcement signifies the critical next step in the future of Panel.’

The Lawtech Delivery Panel is made up of industry experts and leaders from Government and the judiciary. The core membership of the Panel is:

  • Christina Blacklaws, Consultant and Chair of Lawtech Delivery Panel
  • Rt Hon Lord Keen of Elie QC, Justice Minister
  • Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court
  • Professor Richard Susskind, Author and independent adviser including Technology Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice
  • Dr Anna Donovan, University College London
  • Rosemary Martin, General Counsel, Vodafone
  • Gary Campkin, Managing Director, TheCityUK
  • Sonya Branch, General Counsel, Bank of England

In other news, Blacklaws has also this week been appointed as ‘legal services ambassador’ at KPMG, which is a part-time advisory role.