LegalTech roundup

If there has been a general theme this year for the access to justice community, and the justice sector more widely, it has been the onward march and potential of LegalTech.

This has been the focus of several key conferences and developments in policy and practice, from court modernisation (see policy update) to online advice tools.

LawWorks started this year with an event in Manchester about the importance of LegalTech in clinic and education settings (hosted with Clinical Legal Education Organisation), and have continued to contribute both to the debate and the practical exploration of how to leverage LegalTech to help make pro bono more effective, and contribute to providing access to justice solutions. However, as Martin Barnes argued at the Legal Action Group (LAG) Conference in May addressing the topic 'Future Proofing: digital innovation and access to justice,” Legaltech should not be seen as a magic bullet, and it comes with a set of potential risks and issues.

The legal sector has been a relatively late adopter of new technologies despite the siren calls of Richard Susskind over the past few decades, but now industry bodies are leading the way. Building on the work of the LawTech Delivery Panel established by the UK Government, the Judiciary, and the Law Society, and their Eagle Lab partnership with Barclays, the Law Society have been taking a proactive lead in promoting Legaltech’s transformational potential. This vision extends to providing better access to legal services, including DIY law options and online dispute resolution, for a substantial section of the public who would otherwise be priced out. As well as various Legaltech roundtable events, the Law Society have also been leading a Commission on algorithms in the justice system

In June an Access to Justice and Technology Summit, took place on London, organised by PILnet and DLA Piper, bringing together tech companies with academics and pro bono providers and practitioners from law firms and NGOs. LegalTech has also featured prominently in other stakeholder events for the advice and pro bono sectors, including the Access to Justice Foundation’s “Sharing solutions” Conference, a panel discussion held by the Personal Support Unit, and a group organised by the Litigants in Person Network to support a coordinated and strategic approach to the use of technology. LawWorks attended all these events contributing to discussions about the use of technology, and will be chairing a panel on the topic at this year’s UKademy Conference. For the first time this year we included a technology category in our LawWorks and Attorney Student Awards, sponsored by Lexis Nexis. We have also been working with a range of stakeholders, on different initiatives that may have direct relevance and usage for the pro bono sector.

For LawWorks a primary concern is that new LegalTech products in the sector need to work and be fit for purpose, and fit for the way that pro bono providers and users work, in order to make an impactful contribution to access to justice. We have continued, with our partners Deloitte, to work on the development of Free Legal Answers (FLA), a LawWorks online advice platform, and are on track for a trial run launch this autumn. We will be providing further updates on FLA, and information on how go get involved, shortly.