SRA legal access challenge, reports and next steps

Following the conclusion of the SRA and Nesta Legal Access Challenge, joint reports from both the SRA and Nesta have been released which highlight the lessons learned and the future next steps that will be taken to support the development of innovation. The SRA report focuses on how the lessons learned from the challenge are influencing regulation, and how this can be used to support the development and responsible adoption of legal tech. Whilst the Nesta report gives an overview of the challenge, looking at what innovations were supported, and what was learned about the wider innovation environment in the UK.

The Legal Access Challenge was a £500,000 Challenge Prize, split across early stage digital technology solutions that could directly help individuals and small medium enterprises (SMEs) better understand and resolve their legal problems. The Challenge was made possible by a grant to the SRA from the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund launched by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and administered by Innovate UK. The fund aimed to help UK regulators to develop innovation-enabling approaches to emerging technologies. The two final winners were announced in April. The winning teams were RCJ Advice for its collection of digital tools that enable survivors of domestic abuse to get legal support, and Mencap and Access Social Care for their virtual assistant which helps people to understand and exercise their social care rights.

The 18-month challenge has been seen as successful by both the SRA and Nesta, with both seeing potential for legal technology to improve legal access. The reports conclude that the SRA’s regulation is not a barrier to innovation, but that many find it difficult navigating overlapping regulatory regimes across, for example, legal services, financial services and information management. The Challenge also showed that innovation in public-facing legal technology is mainly coming from unregulated organisations.

The scale and diversity of interest in the Challenge – with 117 applications – resulted in the Regulators Pioneer Fund providing an additional £250,000 of funding.

Feedback on the Challenge from the eight finalists showed:

  • seven had seen the development of their solution accelerated
  • seven had been introduced to new and useful contacts, with five building new partnerships
  • six had support that they otherwise would not have been able to access.

The SRA report sets out its next steps, including producing guidance to help innovators understand its rules, the requirements of overlapping regimes and how they can design products that enable regulated law firms to interact with them. It will also continue to work closely with other regulators and build networks. This includes being part of recently announced Lawtech Sandbox developed by Tech Nation.

Anna Bradley, SRA Chair and Chair of the Challenge judging panel said:
“Too many individuals and small businesses struggle to access expert help when they need it. This can be the difference between someone losing their job, home or family; or a business succeeding or failing.”

I believe tech will be a game-changer for access to legal support. Covid-19 has brought into even sharper focus the importance of digital solutions. However, it’s clear that the adoption of technology has been slow when it comes to public facing legal services.

The Challenge showed the range of ideas out there, and the potential for it to help people in vulnerable situations. I was pleased that our own regulation is not seen as a barrier to the development of tech in the legal sector but we want to do more to support innovators to navigate what can be complex and overlapping regulation.”

See the SRA’s full report on the challenge.

See Nesta’s full report on the challenge. 

 

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LSB publishes collection of articles on lawtech and regulation

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published a collection of 11 focused on lawtech and regulation as part of its ongoing work in the area. The collection, entitled ‘Perspectives on Lawtech and Regulation’ includes contributions from Chris Handford, Director of Regulatory Policy at the SRA, discussing the regulatory challenges of lawtech; Mariette Hughes, Head Ombudsman at the Legal Ombudsman, discussing the use of big-data in decision making and Sir Geoffery Vos, Chancellor of the High Court discussing regulatory barriers of innovation.

The publication follows on from a series of papers and podcasts produced by the LSB last year, which included work from Alison Hook, discussing international approaches to regulating legal technology; Professor Roger Brownsword, discussing regulatory lessons from medicine and finance; Professor Noel Semple, discussing technological innovation and the Legal Services Act; and Dr Anna Donovan, on the regulation of blockchain.

The LSB has also announced that it plans to establish an expert reference group, made up of technology experts, practitioners and regulators, allowing individuals and regulators to share ideas and knowledge and engage with regulatory issues around technology collectively.

Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board has said:  “One of the Legal Services Board’s roles is to help foster a regulatory climate that supports innovation and increases access to legal services for everyone who needs them while maintaining high standards. The impact of COVID-19 has brought into even sharper focus the vital role that technology can play in keeping the wheels of justice turning. We want to remove barriers to innovation, and we encourage regulators to explore how we can use technology to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society.”

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The implications of AI on legal regulators and how they can use it

At last year’s ICLR Annual Conference in The Hague, ICLR member came together to present on the implications of AI on legal regulators and how they might harness this technology to their advantage. Panelists drew from input from ICLR members and how their own institutions were engaging with Artificial Intelligence, as shown in the infographic below:

The presentation cover various aspects, including:

  • What is Artificial Intelligence? … And what it isn’t: Steve Wilson, Standpoint Decision Support
  • What are the Potential Risks to be Managed: Bridget Gramme, Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law
  • How Legal Regulators can use AI: Crispin Passmore, Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Getting into Artificial Intelligence: Alison Hook, Hook Tangaza

You can access the full presentation here:  ICLR Artificial Intelligence Presentation


Interested in the impact of new technologies on regulation? Get involved at this year’s annual conference. Contact Jim McKay (jamesmckay@lawscot.org.uk) to become involved as a speaker or session moderator. 

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