Plans for UK Lawtech R&D Sandbox announced
Plans to create a UK Lawtech research and development (R&D) environment - the Lawtech Sandbox - have been announced by LawtechUK, a government-backed initiative delivered through a collaboration between Tech Nation, the Lawtech Delivery Panel and the Ministry of Justice.
The Sandbox is one of four initial programmes 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.
The Lawtech Sandbox is inspired by the FCA’s Regulatory Sandbox, set up in 2016 to support innovative UK financial services firms delivering in the interests of consumers, and widely attributed as playing a key role in the growth of the fintech sector.
The Lawtech Sandbox will bring together technologists, the legal and business community, and public bodies, to support more innovative legal technology coming to market. The Sandbox will be delivered in collaboration with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, Legal Services Board, Information Commissioner's Office and the Ministry of Justice.
Work is underway to establish the framework and processes for the Sandbox pilot and LawtechUK is launching a call-out for a technical delivery partner. Interested parties can find more information here. Plans will be confirmed over the coming months, as the Sandbox pilot is established.
In addition, LawtechUK is announcing today:
- SME Dispute Resolution Platform: to explore building a technology-enabled online 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 arising each year
- Lawtech Online Hub and Training Centre: to build an online hub with free digital courses on legal technology and open access data on the lawtech sector
- Lawtech toolkits: to issue guidance responding to areas of legal uncertainty or challenge around new technologies, including on any matters arising in the Lawtech Sandbox
The vision and work programme set out today is drawing on funding from the £2m announced by the Ministry of Justice last year to support the growth of lawtech in the UK.
The COVID-19 crisis accelerates the need for change and digitisation of the legal industry. 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, attracting £290m in investment in 2019 and employing over 4,000 people.
The Rt Hon Lord Keen of Elie QC commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the legal sector’s versatility and resilience, using technology to continue delivering justice.
“We remain committed to backing innovation in our world-leading legal sector.”
“The LawTech Sandbox is an important next step in delivering cutting-edge technology and furthering our reputation as a globally trusted destination for legal practice.”
Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, commented: “It's great to see two of the UK's world-leading sectors come together to drive innovation and boost the nation's competitive edge.
“The current crisis has highlighted the potential of technology to transform how we work and this new initiative will help entrepreneurs develop viable new products and services so our legal sector can be fit for the future.”
Jenifer Swallow, Programme Director for LawtechUK at Tech Nation, commented: “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.”
Gerard Grech, Chief Executive, Tech Nation, the growth platform for tech companies, commented: “The delivery of legal services and the justice system are set for technological transformation through the use of AI, blockchain and other emerging enablers. The UK has every intention to be at the heart of this, with investment in UK lawtech tripling in the last 2 years. We, at Tech Nation are delighted to be working in partnership to deliver a targeted work programme to accelerate this growth for the UK and beyond, starting with the Lawtech Sandbox.”
Christina Blacklaws, Chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel, the industry-led lawtech forum, commented: "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."