The UK is to launch a LawTech Sandbox with the goal of driving more research & development (R&D) in the area of digital transformation of legal services. It will be funded via part of the £2m ($2.43m) grant announced by the Ministry of Justice last year to support legal technology adoption.
Plans for a UK-based SME Dispute Resolution Platform have also been announced today, to help address the £11.6bn in litigation fees paid by smaller businesses.
The group, which is being steered by Jenifer Swallow, Programme Director for LawtechUK at Tech Nation (pictured), said that the Sandbox project is inspired by the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) own Regulatory Sandbox, set up in 2016.
Importantly the FCA project was tasked with not just helping innovative UK financial services firms, but supporting the interests of consumers.
‘Covid-19 is bringing urgency to the task of restructuring the delivery of legal services and systems worldwide. Through the LawtechUK work programme we have announced today, we will bring practical support and advancement to enable this, helping the UK legal sector lead this global transformation,’ said Swallow.
The Lawtech Sandbox will bring together technologists, the legal and business community, and public bodies, to support more innovative legal technology coming to market, the group said.
The Sandbox will be delivered in collaboration with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, the Legal Services Board, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Ministry of Justice.
The group is also calling out for a technical delivery partner to help with the project. Interested parties can find more information at technation.io/lawtech.
The multi-party ensemble of legal tech and justice organisations will also be launching a Lawtech Online Hub and Training Centre that will offer ‘free digital courses on legal technology and provide open access data on the lawtech sector’.
And finally they will also be creating Lawtech toolkits, that will provide guidance to lawyers wanting to learn more about legal technology, its use, and related regulatory aspects.
The Rt Hon Lord Keen of Elie QC, said: ‘The LawTech Sandbox is an important next step in delivering cutting-edge technology and furthering our reputation as a globally trusted destination for legal practice.’
Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, added: ‘It’s great to see two of the UK’s world-leading sectors come together to drive innovation and boost the nation’s competitive edge.
‘The current crisis has highlighted the potential of technology to transform how we work and this new initiative will help entrepreneurs develop viable new products and services so our legal sector can be fit for the future.’
Rosemary Martin, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Vodafone Group Plc and Lawtech Delivery Panel member, said: ‘The Lawtech Sandbox will be a defining moment in the transformation of the legal sector. In years to come people may look back and say that the Sandbox provided the missing link in the evolution of legal services and that its creation enabled the sector to leap from the Analogue Era to the Digital Age, a shift that benefited not only legal service providers and users but also broader society.’
And, Christina Blacklaws, Chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel, the industry-led lawtech forum, concluded: ‘The exciting and broad range of projects we are launching today as LawtechUK will help place technology at the heart of a new era of legal services. Our panel members represent industry, business, academia, regulators and government, to serve that aim. We look forward to further extending our membership within the lawtech community, and to collaborating across the sector to ensure global leadership in legal services for years to come.’
Is this a big deal?
The UK has grown accustomed in the last few years to the Government providing financial and organisational support for legal tech development projects, for example funding the Innovate UK programme that gave many £100,000s to a variety of legal tech companies and law firms to experiment with new ideas.
That said, this is probably the most comprehensive step yet in the UK, with a multi-party, multi-prong strategy, that connects to R&D, regulation, learning and capacity building across the sector. So, in this regard it is a big deal for sure. The closest example to this elsewhere is probably what we have seen in Singapore, where the government there has launched a huge programme of support for legal tech development and adoption.
Will it have any impact?
Much depends on the participants, but the Government, regulators and UK institutions are doing what they can to help those who want to learn, to experiment, and to drive change via technology.
There is only so much third parties can do, however, and the rate of change in the market will depend upon whether the lawyers in firms and within inhouse legal teams want to embrace what is on offer – along with the myriad of tech and educational/conference offerings that already exist in the market.
Let’s hope it does have some additional impact and that people and firms do engage with these projects. They certainly look helpful.
Legal Innovators Online Conference – Day 3 – Starts 3.30PM UK
Jenifer Swallow will be a speaker today at Legal Innovators Online – where we’ll hopefully get a chance to hear some more about this initiative.
The event starts at 3.30PM (UK) – tickets are still available if you don’t have one yet. See you all there!