Lawtech UK, the Government-backed legal innovation group, has now chosen its partners to help create both a Sandbox for testing out legal technology, and to build a new online dispute resolution (ODR) platform that will focus on SME late payments.
The SME dispute platform (see earlier AL story) will be developed by a consortium that includes experts from the University of Oxford and Oxford Computer Consultants, as well as two tech-based solutions: one of which is a more traditional UK-based ODR system – Resolve Disputes Online, and the other is called Jur – a Swiss company that develops smart contracts and is itself building an ODR system that uses an online community to settle disputes.
Or as they explain, this is ‘an affordable decentralised alternative dispute resolution mechanism where communities of experts solve medium-sized disputes’. (See more below).
How the Lawtech UK SME ODR system will work is still to be decided, but it’s noteworthy that they have brought in a company that seeks to leverage the blockchain vision of distributed communities settling disputes.
Of course, the end result may be a lot more down to Earth. From Artificial Lawyer’s perspective, whatever system is settled upon, if this is going to catch on and be used by large numbers of SMEs it needs to be as easy to use and practical as possible, with the use of tech that is ‘invisible’ in the process. Anything that acts as a barrier, e.g. the need to create a smart contract beforehand, could act as a limiting factor and reduce the number of SMEs willing to take part – as most SMEs will have zero interest in fancy contracting systems or complex technology.
Whatever happens next, the group’s feasibility study will establish ‘user needs, and the appropriate mechanisms for resolution and enforcement’. I.e. they’re going to come up with a plan and a proof of concept.
Meanwhile, PA Consulting has been selected to help design and establish the Lawtech Sandbox pilot – which should be ready later this year.
The Lawtech Sandbox aims to ‘enable greater innovation in the legal sector and accelerate the development of new and advanced methods of legal services delivery using technology’ the group said – which is a very broad remit, but let’s wait and see what they come up with.
PA Consulting will bring their experience of working on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Civil Aviation Authority, and Information Commissioner’s Office sandboxes, they added.
And it’s worth pointing out that the FCA’s regulatory sandbox is generally seen as having been a success – although it is debatable whether the UK needs something similar for legal tech as everything is already out ‘in the wild’, as it were, and the companies developing such tech are in pilots with law firms and inhouse legal teams, or have already moved to a full commercial roll-out, i.e. the horse has already left the barn.
That said, the Sandbox may help to highlight the benefits of certain types of technology to the legal market. And that may be the main outcome, as the challenge for the legal community is not the technology – there is oodles of it, nor regulating it, as there is more than enough regulation already that covers just about everything in the UK legal sector, but rather getting lawyers to use the stuff in the first place.
Jenifer Swallow, Director of LawtechUK at Tech Nation, (pictured), said: ‘We are delighted with the response to our RFPs and the quality and quantity of organisations who responded. It has been great to see the level of capability and commitment, which is an encouraging sign for lawtech and transformation of the legal sector overall.
‘This made for two tough decisions, but we are glad to have selected excellent partners who bring a range of strengths and experience to these foundational projects, and we thank everyone who engaged through the process. We look forward to building on the energy to date, to move the Lawtech Sandbox and SME DR Platform forward with our partners towards delivery.’
How Jur works:
‘Parties can select communities which are expert in the specific contract’s subject and get a quality resolution.
Q. What is a cost of solving a dispute in the Community Layer?
A. Each Community sets its own fee defined when the Community Admin creates the community. Before assigning a dispute to a Community check its rules and fees.
Q. Can anyone open a Community?
A. Yes. Any JUR token holder can create a community in Jur’s Community Layer and start accepting disputes and charge a fee for solving them. Our suggestion is to create a vertical community which highly specializes in a specific subject.
Q. What is a Community?
A. A Community is a group of people generally aggregated by a common expertise in a specific topic with an interesting of resolving disputes for a fee. This Community is created by a Community Admin who ensures the reputation of the community and sets its rules and principles. Learn more in the Community Layer Annex
(Text from Jur – link.)
(P.S. and as noted above, how the Lawtech UK SME platform will work is still being considered, and there may be no smart contract or community aspect at all when the plan is finally unveiled.)