Earlier this year, the Legal Services Board published a collection of papers entitled, ‘Perspectives on LawTech and Regulation’, asking some of the key leaders and influencers in the legal services sector to offer their perspectives on the following question:
Having been afforded the opportunity to contribute to this collection, I decided to highlight three important considerations that I believe are key to unlocking the potential of a more just, technology-enabled legal sector.
The views submitted to this collection represent a valuable offering of perspectives from across the legal services sector, including insights from the judiciary, regulators, lawtech providers and many others.
Several key conclusions were drawn across the submissions:
The perspectives paper was a great measure of sector attitudes toward technology and regulation, and allowed many contributors a platform to voice their concerns regarding access to justice. It is important to note however, that these papers were written before the coronavirus pandemic began, and released on the eve of stricter lockdown measures being implemented across the UK.
Impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has irrevocably transformed the ways in which professionals of all sectors interact with technology. Willingly or not, the legal sector is no exception, having been catapulted into what had only recently felt like a distant future; remote courts, video witnessing and electronic signatures have all become commonplace, and legions of law firms have begun to showcase their arsenal of AI-enabled solutions and twenty-four hour chatbots.
Despite such developments being vastly accelerated and near universal, the issues highlighted in the paper continue to persist, and the lessons contained therein remain pertinent. So while the sector scrambles to embrace the full potential of legal technology, the access to justice gap endures.
Access to Justice – next steps?
Perhaps surprisingly, much of the solution to improving access to justice remains the same. Stakeholders within legal services need to collaborate in order to pool knowledge and seek out actionable stress points across the public, private and third sectors. In turn, this would allow for a more coordinated effort in promoting public legal education. This would place the consumer at the forefront of sector thinking, abating any remaining negative perceptions. The areas that could most benefit from an injection of technology and innovation, both during and following the pandemic, could then be more easily identified.
Collaboration, innovation, and education remain essential to promoting the sustained and responsible uptake of technology in the sector, and a keen regulatory eye is necessary to ensure that these advancements continue to protect those most vulnerable in our society.
Felix Brown, Policy & Research Officer