Plans announced for UK Lawtech R&D ‘Sandbox’ 

Tech Nation, May 21, 2020 3 min read

Today we are excited to announce the LawtechUK vision and work programme powered by Tech Nation, an initiative to help accelerate the digital transformation of the UK’s legal sector. 

The centrepiece will be the development of a new Lawtech Sandbox – a development and testing environment modelled on the pioneering regulatory sandbox in financial services, encouraging tech businesses, experts and public bodies to come together to innovate and establish new products and frameworks that reinvent service delivery and benefit businesses and wider society.

The government backed initiative, funded by the £2 million announced by the Ministry of Justice last year and delivered in collaboration with Tech Nation, the Lawtech Delivery Panel and the Ministry of Justice, is one of four initial projects LawtechUK has announced in the publication of its vision to help the legal sector harness lawtech – technologies that improve or replace traditional methods of delivering legal services and systems. 

Gerard Grech, Chief Executive, Tech Nation, comments: “The UK has a world-leading legal sector. Businesses are operating within a challenging environment and need the leadership of the legal sector more than ever. The tech community can help us meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities we face.  We at Tech Nation are committed to supporting the growth of lawtech and the digital transformation of the legal sector, through the targeted work programme announced today.”

Jenifer Swallow, LawtechUK Director, Tech Nation, comments: “Covid-19 is bringing urgency to the task of restructuring the delivery of legal services and systems worldwide. Through the LawtechUK work programme we have announced today, we will bring practical support and advancement to enable this, helping the UK legal sector lead this global transformation.”

Supporting innovation

The Lawtech Sandbox is inspired by the FCA’s Regulatory Sandbox, which was set up in 2016 to support innovative UK financial services firms delivering in the interests of consumers. It has been widely attributed as playing a key role in the growth of the fintech sector. 

With the COVID-19 crisis accelerating the need for change and digitisation of the legal industry, The Sandbox will bring together technologists, the legal and business community, and public bodies, to support more innovative legal technology coming to market. 

It will be delivered in collaboration with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, Legal Services Board, Information Commissioner’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and others. 

Christina Blacklaws, Chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel, the industry-led lawtech forum, comments: “The exciting and broad range of projects we are launching today as LawtechUK will help place technology at the heart of a new era of legal services. Our panel members represent industry, business, academia, regulators and government, to serve that aim.  We look forward to further extending our membership within the lawtech community, and to collaborating across the sector to ensure global leadership in legal services for years to come.” 

Whilst the pace of technology adoption in the legal sector has been slow to date, investment in UK lawtech tripled in the last two years, with starts ups and scale ups in UK lawtech now attracting a total of £290 million in investment and employing nearly 4,500 people. 

New platforms

Plans announced today also include a UK SME dispute resolution platform, offering SMEs an alternative, elective method to resolve late payments and address the £11.6bn paid in litigation fees and the £50bn in late payments currently arising each year.

Peter Hunn, Founder, Clause & Accord Project, comments: “The work of the Lawtech Delivery Panel has demonstrated that the UK is at the very forefront of the advancement of legal technology. As the positive reception to ‘remote courts’ and the UKJT Legal Statement on Cryptoassets and Smart Contracts has recently shown; creating an environment in which these technologies can be safely developed and iterated upon is critical to their development and adoption. Initiatives like these are incredibly exciting as they expedite the inevitable intersection between law and technology.”

Plans also include building the Lawtech Online Hub and Training Centre, an online environment with free digital courses on legal technology and open access data on the lawtech sector, and releasing a series of Lawtech toolkits addressing areas of legal uncertainty or challenges around new technologies, including on any matters arising in the Lawtech Sandbox.

Dr Anna Donovan, Vice Dean (Innovation) for the Faculty of Laws, University College London comments: “Knowledge is at the core of what we do and fundamental to the collaboration, curiosity and confidence that is necessary to support the digital transformation of the market.  Now, more than ever, it is critical that the whole sector has access to reliable and multi-disciplinary education and training.  The Lawtech Online Hub and Training Centre will meet this need by offering a single-source of authoritative information, providing substantive and skills-based training that can be accessed remotely and for free by the whole sector.”

Alongside today’s announcement, LawtechUK is also launching a search for a technical delivery partner for the Lawtech Sandbox. Interested parties can find more information here. Plans will be confirmed over the coming months, as the Lawtech Sandbox pilot is established. 

Additionally, applications have opened giving the opportunity to join the Lawtech Delivery Panel, to support the work of LawtechUK.  Of particular interest are technologists and leaders in the field of lawtech, passionate about advancing the legal sector through technology, for the benefit of all.  

More information can be found here.

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