Lawtech Sandbox Opens to Challenge ‘Invisible Orthodoxies’

The Lawtech Sandbox is now open for applications and will offer support in challenging what they describe as ‘invisible orthodoxies’ across the legal sector. Help will cover access to data, input from regulators, and introductions to other businesses and public sector bodies.

The Lawtech Sandbox application site also challenges you to make sure you are focused on ‘genuine innovation’ if your company plans to apply. It states:

  • ‘Are there no or few comparable offerings already established in the UK market?
  • Is your USP clear?
  • Does your offering:
    • challenge invisible orthodoxies
    • harness under-appreciated trends
    • address an unmet or under-articulated need
    • integrate a new technology
    • integrate a new/underrepresented technology in a new way, to deliver benefits?’

Artificial Lawyer has to say that challenging ‘invisible orthodoxies’ is a great way of putting it. I.e. many of the things that need to change are perhaps not necessarily talked about, almost as if they are a forbidden subject, or they are things that have become so ‘normal’ and customary that we go along with them without stopping to consider if things could be done in a better way.

Maybe that’s a phrase every legal tech company, legal ops director, and law firm innovation head should have as their motto?

The Sandbox, which is run by LawtechUK and is in turn backed by TechNation, the UK Government-funded innovation group, added: ‘The Lawtech Sandbox fast tracks transformative ideas, products and services that address the legal needs of businesses and society.

‘The cohort of selected [legal tech] pioneers will have access to a range of practical support and unique connections for four months from October 2021, tailored to accelerate their development and maximise their impact, including: 

  • advice, support and guidance at pace from regulators, including multiple regulators in a single, fast response forum known as the Regulatory Response Unit
  • expert advice and feedback to test and develop their idea or product and drive collaboration opportunities access to data through the data matchmaking service.’

Now, you may think you’ve seen this before, and you have, but before it was in pilot mode, this is now the full roll-out of the sandbox. As explored by Artificial Lawyer, the part that gets this site most excited is the access to data offer. Companies focused on knowledge management and NLP will find this of use especially.

Other companies that have more of a focus on the consumer and SME market will also find the regulatory input of help, as it will clear up any grey areas around what they can and cannot do. (Although, this hopefully won’t relate to the Law Society’s bonkers idea that every lawyer has to check with their client to get ‘informed consent’ before making use of any tools that leverage NLP and machine learning. Note: luckily the Law Society has no regulatory powers, although unfortunately their views do have some influence, especially among smaller law firms.)

So, is this an incubator? Not exactly. They won’t be using your tech. LawtechUK is not going to be a client and it won’t be investing in you. But, you should hopefully learn a lot, make useful connections, and gather new insights and data.

What you get is: networking support at the highest levels, access to data sets that otherwise would be hard to access, and input from regulators that allow you (hopefully) to sleep soundly in your bed at night as you plan the growth of your company.

So, who can apply? As one would expect, you’ve got to have a base of some sort in the UK – after all, this is being funded by the UK taxpayers. But, generally the following can apply: ‘tech companies, academics, legal businesses or consortia, with potentially transformative ideas, products or services that address the legal needs of business and society’.

Now, if that sounds good, then you will have to make a serious effort on the application, which they reckon will take about an hour to complete. You can apply here.

The application deadline is 12 noon on 3 September 2021 and the hope is to let you know of the decision in the week of 27 September. They may also need to speak with you before that date to check things. If you get in, then this Lawtech Sandbox will run from October 2021 to January 2022. Good luck!

And, here’s an overview of the main areas of help:

Working with regulators

We understand the challenges of navigating regulations and governance can be time consuming and complicated. Getting them right builds trust and opens commercial opportunities. That is why we provide access to regulators throughout the Lawtech Sandbox, for advice, support and assurance at pace. This includes multi-regulator engagement in a single forum: the Regulatory Response Unit.

Providing connection through our Network

We understand the power of accessing the right person at the right time to achieve your goals, whether that is a decision-maker, a client, a collaboration partner, a mentor or a subject matter expert. We connect you based on your needs, to our legal, business, Government and public body network, to help you drive commercial opportunities and collaboration.

Access to data

We know the importance of accessing data to help test and train your products, steer and inform development, and provide insight, and we know that data is hard to come by in the legal sector. Our goal is to improve access to legal data. During the Lawtech Sandbox, we will support you by matchmaking you with data sources and we invite you to specify any data-requests you have in your application.’

If you have any questions about the application process, send your questions to lawtechuk@technation.io. They will get back to you as soon as they can, although they ask to please be patient.

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