Legal Access Challenge launched to encourage innovation
- Six in 10 don’t think the legal system in England and Wales is set up for ordinary people
- Many who experience a legal problem don’t take professional advice, citing cost and trust as key barriers
- Eight in 10 say it needs to be easier for people to access legal guidance and advice
- We are partnering with Nesta Challenges to launch a prize to make legal support more accessible and affordable through new technology
New research from Nesta Challenges reveals six in ten (58%) people in England and Wales think the legal system is not set up for ordinary people, with the vast majority wanting it to be easier for people to access legal support.
The research was conducted to mark the launch of the Legal Access Challenge – a new prize we are running in partnership with Nesta Challenges – which aims to help more people access legal services through new technology.
The survey also found one in seven (15%) people in England and Wales have experienced a legal issue in the last 10 years; although with only half (51%) of all respondents confident they can identify whether a problem is a legal matter, this is likely to be far higher. We know from existing data that very few people seek professional advice from a solicitor or barrister when they have a problem1, and the research showed people are instead turning to friends and family (20%) or Google (16%) for legal advice.
When asked about barriers to accessing legal advice, seven in ten (68%) say the high cost, followed by the uncertainty of the cost (56%) and knowing who to trust (37%). The vast majority (79%) believe it needs to be easier for people to access legal guidance and advice for themselves.
There is a widespread belief that technology could be the solution to this, with six in 10 (59%) saying they think technology could lead to better services to help people resolve their legal problems. People believe that the biggest benefits to using a digital service for legal advice would be having a fixed price upfront for legal fees (38%), being able to understand their rights (26%) and having access to cheaper legal advice and information (23%).
Part of our wider programme to drive innovation in the sector, the Legal Access Challenge will offer £250,000 in grants to help innovators develop new technology solutions to help make legal advice more affordable and accessible for the majority.
Chris Gorst, Head of Better Markets, Nesta Challenges, said: “For too many people, legal support and advice seems out of reach and reserved for those with the time and money to navigate a complex legal system.
“Technology is not a panacea, but in many areas of our lives it has transformed the choice, convenience and quality available to us and this could be true in legal services too. The UK is a world leader in both technology and legal services, and there is a huge economic and social opportunity in bringing these together.
“We are launching the Legal Access Challenge to help demonstrate what technology can do and to bring these new solutions to market. We want to see digital solutions that directly support individuals and small businesses to access legal services conveniently and affordably, and which can help close the ‘legal gap’ we currently face.”
Nesta Challenges is part of Nesta, the innovation charity, and offers financial prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges society faces. The team works with regulators, policymakers and others to help make markets more competitive and open, advising on how regulatory reforms and targeted public investment programmes can work together to achieve greater impact.
Anna Bradley, Chair of the SRA Board, said: “Whether they are dealing with a personal legal matter , or running a business, people need to be able to get legal support when it really matters.
“Having access to professional advice is important at those life changing moments. And for small businesses, it can make the difference between success and failure.
“There are real barriers for people looking for help and the innovative use of technology is one way of tackling those barriers.
“We want our regulation to support new ideas. The Legal Access Challenge can help to drive the development of new approaches which will deliver tangible benefits to the public, opening up access to legal services for as many people as possible.”
The Legal Access Challenge is open to entrants until 11 August 2019. More information can be found at www.legalaccesschallenge.org
The Centre for Ethics and Law in the UCL Faculty of Laws is undertaking a fundamental review of the current regulatory framework for legal services, led by Honorary Professor Stephen Mayson.
The independent review is intended to explore the longer-term and related issues raised by the 2016 Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) market study, which concluded that the legal services sector is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses, and that the current regulatory framework is unsustainable in the long run. It called for a review of that framework to make it more flexible as well as targeted at areas of highest risk where regulation is most needed.
The review’s objectives will be to consider how the regulatory framework can best:
- promote and preserve the public interest in the rule of law and the administration of justice;
- maintain the attractiveness of the law of England & Wales for the governance of relationships and transactions and of our courts in the resolution of disputes;
- enhance the global competitiveness of our lawyers and other providers of legal services;
- reflect and respond flexibly to fast-changing market conditions being driven by innovation and advances in technology;
- protect and promote consumers’ interests, particularly in access to effective, ethical, innovative and affordable legal services and to justice; and
- lead the world in proportionate, risk-based and cost-effective regulation of legal services, consistent with the better regulation principles.
The review will reflect these objectives and consider how we can best ensure that our legal services remain of high quality and are effective, and that their regulation is proportionate and fit for purpose. It will also need to re-examine how to give the public much-needed transparency about the legal providers they use and the services they pay for, and ensure that they understand their options and the consequences of their choices.
The first two working papers are already published. Each of the working papers will address the issues and challenges raised by the four fundamental questions of the review:
- Why should we regulate legal services? (Rationale)
- What are the legal services that should be regulated? (Scope)
- Who should be regulated for the provision of legal services? (Focus)
- How should we regulate legal services? (Structure)
In pursuing its work, the review will seek to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties, including the CMA, the Legal Services Board, approved regulators, front-line regulators, representative bodies, consumers, the judiciary, practitioners, and providers of legal education and training.
It is now open for submissions in response to the working papers, and for meetings and discussions to explore the issues: to follow up, contact Professor Stephen Mayson.
Data has always been a foundational part of the practice of law. However, the convenience, accessibility, and speed of digital mediums is transforming the discipline from within. Law firms are stepping up the plate leveraging their internal data, as well as industry data to make their practice and delivery of services more efficient and effective. E-Discovery, case predictive technologies and even fledgling artificial intelligence programmes are proliferating across top firms globally. Small and large firms alike are engaging with varying degrees of software to manage information and leverage its value.
It is time legal regulators attempt to match pace. This month ICLR.net is focusing on how legal regulators can start to think about data’s role in improving their regulatory responsibilities. We have identified four preliminary steps to help your institution to start thinking about leveraging data.
1. Start small and close to home: Identify your data sources
Identify consistent incoming sources of data. This may be lawyer registrations, renewals and fees. This “low hanging fruit” often serves as the fundamental data base, which can yield insights such as lawyer demographics and disciplinary patterns.
2. Clean and organise your data
Unwieldy spreadsheets no longer make the grade. Setting your organisation up for success means treating your data properly and preparing it for utilisation. Categorising and cleaning your data in a consistent manner will make things easier down the road. Data should be stored in a clear and structured format, which is both secure and shareable with appropriate access permissions.
3. Collaborate with those who know data
Some institutions may want to call the professionals in from day one. Smaller organisations may be able to tackle the first two steps on their own, but to begin to leverage analytics really requires a professional touch for the best results. You should be looking for a company specialises in data structures and analytics. The legal tech sector is rich with software providers offering data management products, but working with a professional in selecting the best fit for your organisation’s data or building a unique system is what will ensure success. It is key to work with someone with the skills as well as background knowledge and insights into the legal profession and industry.
4. Fostering a data-driven culture
Legal information and data powerhouse Thomson Reuters puts it best:
“Building a data-driven legal practice is not something you assign to a task force, department, or an individual. It requires a buy-in from everyone from the top leadership down.”
In addition, it is worth saying that employees at all levels should be involved in the data system development process, to ensure compatibility and realistic adoption and utilisation of the system. The human resource is what will bring an organisation the strongest return on any data investment.
Is data analytics for your organisation?
Some regulators may believe they are too small or the resource required to harness data is too great. However, these four steps can be completed at various levels, just as law firms of all sizes are engaging in data tools. Ultimately, it will be a matter of survival for regulators to keep pace with those they regulate. Information has a strong multiplier effect, and data analytics has the power to transform regulation and industry’s productivity as a whole.
We are interested in hearing about how your institution is using data to assist in regulation. Let us know! Interested in the power of data in regulation – get involved at this year’s annual conference. Contact Jim McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) to become involved as a speaker or session moderator.
Vulnerability to Legal Misconduct: Qualitative Study of Regulatory Decisions Involving Problem Lawyers and Their Clients
An emerging body of scholarship discusses ‘vulnerability’ as an antecedent of legal misconduct. One conceptualization of vulnerability indicates that an individual has greater susceptibility to risk of harm, and safeguards may protect against that risk of harm. This empirical study adds to the normative research with a qualitative analysis of 72 lawyers with multiple complaints and at least one hearing, paid financial misconduct claim, or striking from the roll (“problem lawyers”) in Victoria, Australia, between 2005 and 2015 through 311 regulatory decisions. We found that problem lawyers were disproportionately likely to be male, over age 45, and work in a sole or small practice. A quarter of these lawyers suffered from health impairments and among the clients harmed, half had cognitive impairments, were older age, or non-native English speakers. These findings underscore the need to better understand vulnerabilities to promote lawyer well-being, protect exposed clients, and reduce lapses in professionalism.
- Tara Sklar, University of Arizona – James E. Rogers College of Law
- Jennifer Schulz Moore, University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Faculty of Law
- Yamna Taouk, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
- Marie M Bismark, University of Melbourne
In response to the report on Education and Training in Ireland published on 19 November by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), the Law Society of Ireland has launched the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal.
The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland. Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy said, ‘training solicitors to meet any and all challenges they will face in their careers is some of the most important work the Law Society does. Mr Murphy explained, ‘implementing the Peart Commission recommendations will have several benefits. It will further increase access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and ensure the Law Society maintains its prominent position as an innovative professional legal educator globally.’ He added, ‘the Law Society’s education model is deeply rooted in the public interest and focussed on the future.’
*This report was required by the Legal Services Act 2015 and is the first step in a comprehensive review which will involve further public consultation in 2019.
In an age of constant, complex and disruptive technological innovation, knowing what, when, and how to structure regulatory interventions has become more difficult. Regulators find themselves in a situation where they believe they must opt for either reckless action (regulation without sufficient facts) or paralysis (doing nothing). Inevitably in such a case, caution tends to trump risk. But such caution merely functions to reinforce the status quo and makes it harder for new technologies to reach the market in a timely or efficient manner. The solution: lawmaking and regulatory design needs to become more proactive, dynamic, and responsive. So how can regulators actually achieve these goals? What can regulators do to promote innovation and offer better opportunities to people wanting to build a new business around a disruptive technology or simply enjoy the benefits of a disruptive new technology as a consumer?
Mark Fenwick, Kyushu University – Graduate School of Law; Wulf A. Kaal, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota – School of Law; Erik P. M. Vermeulen, Tilburg University – Department of Business Law
The New York City Bar Association’s E-Discovery Working Group issued a report examining the challenges of conducting discovery when the scope of discovery exceeds US borders. The Committee lays out the most common circumstances in which cross-border discovery would occur, including issues of personal jurisdiction over foreign parties as well as cases of US subsidiaries of foreign parent company. It discusses a number of regulations, statutes and treaties that govern cross-border discovery. The Committee also considers laws of foreign entities, including the GDPR in the Europe Union, as well as US case law that may restrict cross-border discovery. It concludes with a set of best practices for navigating foreign law that restricts discovery.
Background to the Act
In Ireland the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 has been enacted primarily to establish a new Legal Services Regulatory Authority for all legal practitioners, update the legal costs system and allow possible future introduction of new business structures for the provision of legal services, including legal partnerships (solicitors and barristers), multi-disciplinary practices (legal practitioners and non-legal practitioners) and limited liability partnerships for legal practitioners.
So far, only certain sections of the Act have been commenced to allow the establishment of the Authority (as at 1 October 2016) and consultation and reports on the proposed new legal services structures. Further parts of the Act will be commenced on a phased basis, including provisions dealing with the Authority’s regulatory powers and legal costs. The Authority is still very much in its establishment phase and commencement of its regulatory powers is not expected in the near future.
The Law Society of Ireland will retain all of its regulatory functions, with the exception of complaints and regulation of advertising, and will be subject to oversight by the Authority. The Law Society will continue to issue practising certificates, regulate professional indemnity insurance, maintain the fund which compensates clients for losses resulting from dishonesty, inspect solicitor firms for compliance with accounts regulations and anti-money laundering obligations, take disciplinary and court cases against solicitors in relation to financial regulatory matters, and handle complaints against solicitors until such time as the Authority’s complaints system becomes operational.
Law Society’s response
The Law Society has taken a proactive approach to the introduction of the Act, including working on a programme of information and education to help the solicitors’ profession to prepare for the changes that are on the way, provision of submissions to the Authority on matters put out for consultation, and frequent meetings with the Authority to establish a productive and useful working relationship.
John Elliot, Registrar of Solicitors and Director of Regulation, Law Society of Ireland
The approach of the Solicitors Regulation Authority to its regulatory objectives is explained on the corporate strategy page of the SRA website.
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