Access for All: Regulators championing lawtech to increase access to justice

June 26, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is going to offer ÂŁ250,000 to lawtech innovators to improve access to justice.

What does this mean?

The regulators are launching the Legal Access Challenge: a new prize funding law tech companies to find innovative ways to improve access to justice. Applications to receive one of the four £50,000 grants close on 11 August. One participant will receive another £50,000 next year, to further develop its tech. It is set up with help from Nesta, National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts, which aims to address the biggest challenges facing society. Access to justice is clearly one of them. This programme comes following a survey in which 60% of people felt the legal system was not for ordinary people. It found the main reason people don’t seek legal advice is the costs. The SRA say the new scheme will improve affordability and accessibility for individuals and small businesses.

What's the big picture effect?

Given how lawtech has abandoned access to justice in favour of commercial law, this scheme is long overdue. As Head of Better Markets at Nesta Challenges said “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.”

However, there are fears within the lawtech community that intervention from the SRA will stifle lawtech’s development. But a discussion paper published by the Law Services Consumer Panel said lawtech must be supported by a regulatory framework to ensure it is fair and accessible. Yet it also voiced concerns about consumers who lack IT literacy, who will be left behind.

It has been questioned whether technology is the best solution to poor access to justice. However, the government has reported that 150,000 people have benefited from online justice in 2018. This is following the ÂŁ1bilion online court reform. These new reforms and schemes suggest that technology is and will continue to become more integrated into our legal system.

Report written by Elizabeth M

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