R+D Sandbox Aims at Legal Data Sharing, Invites Participants

Lawtech UK, a collaboration between Tech Nation, the LawtechUK Panel and the Ministry of Justice, is launching a pilot Research & Development Sandbox that plans to help legal tech companies access valuable data such as content from the law firm and inhouse community, e.g. standard contracts. It will also provide useful input on regulation and ethics, where tech companies may need it.

Jenifer Swallow, LawtechUK Director at Tech Nation, told Artificial Lawyer that the initial pilot, which companies will need to apply to by Monday 16th November, will probably see about five participants at first. This initial stage will primarily be a needs matching exercise while the longer term data sharing plans are developed.

We are looking at developing a legal sharing economy, like we have seen with Open Banking [the UK financial data sharing system],’ she explained.

In terms of legal data, Swallow said she hoped that given the group’s Government backing and deep connections within the legal sector they would be able to put legal tech companies in touch with the right people to get the data they needed for their products, for example for helping with machine learning tasks.

The hope is that Government agencies, and lawyers at private businesses, such as law firms and inhouse legal teams, will get involved and make available whatever may be useful, if they can, for free, to the members of the pilot R&D Sandbox. Naturally, the Sandbox will also be ensuring that any data shared is cleansed of any confidential information.

They will also be bringing together a number of regulators that cover the legal sector, or may connect with it, so that any legal tech company involved can get multi-regulator input into any application they are developing.

However, Swallow stressed that although the Sandbox will be inviting input from regulators where companies want it, this is not ‘a regulatory sandbox’ in the same way the well-known FCA version was. This is because the legal tech participants may already be freely operating in the market, rather than held inside a regulatory firewall.

For organisations that join the Pilot, the Sandbox will: 

  • Offer access to legal datasets, when available, to assist in product development,
  • Help fast-track the development of ideas, products and services that address the legal needs of businesses and society,   
  • Gather regulators, government, and experts to support legal tech innovators,
  • Provide facilitation, commercial and testing support,
  • Source and create powerful connections. 

The pilot will run between December 2020 and March 2021. It will ‘evaluate the benefit to legal tech innovators of accessing industry-led, Government-backed support in this way’. 

How it will work – LawtechUK chart.

Swallow added: ‘At LawtechUK our purpose is to help transform the legal sector through technology. It is to this end that we have built the Lawtech Sandbox in pilot, and are now delighted to call lawtech pioneers to apply – to work with us and the community as part of the Lawtech Sandbox, in very practical ways, to learn all we can and benefit the businesses and wider society for whom legal services are so fundamental.’

The project will be overseen by a group of ‘judges’, who will act as the Lawtech Sandbox Steering Board and will assess applications alongside Jenifer Swallow and Alexandra Lennox from the LawtechUK team. They are:

  • Nick West​ – Chief Strategy Officer, Mishcon de Reya LLP and Founder, MDR LAB
  • Chris Grant​ – LawTech Director, Barclays Ventures
  • Matthew Smith​ – Manager, Policy, Innovate, Financial Conduct Authority
  • Stephen Browning​ – Challenge Director – Next Generation Service, Innovate UK
  • Sophia Adams Bhatti​ – Head of Strategy and Policy, Simmons Wavelength

Citizen access to justice and overseas-based organisations are outside the scope of the Lawtech Sandbox at this stage. Start-ups, as well as established tech firms, and also legal service providers and consortia, may all apply.

If you have any more questions about the application process, send your questions to lawtechuk@technation.io​.

Applications close at 12 noon (GMT) on Monday 16 November 2020. The Lawtech Sandbox Pilot is free, Government-backed, and they don’t take an equity stake in organisations that join.

If you’d like to apply, or know more, please follow the link here.