Bristol and Bath region targets growing lawtech role

Bristol: Significant opportunities

There is a “growing cluster” of lawtech businesses in the Bristol and Bath area, along with hundreds of lawtech and innovation roles, with the chance to build on this significantly, new research has found.

It said the region’s lawtech sector could create “powerful differentiation on a national and international level if embryonic collaboration in the legal sector was fully joined up with and modelled on the tech sector’s well-established regional collaborative ecosystem”.

The research from Whitecap Consulting was conducted in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority, Invest Bristol & Bath, Bristol Law Society, and Bristol+BathLawtech, with sponsors including leading firms Burges Salmon, DAC Beachcroft, Foot Anstey and VWV, as well as the University of Law.

It identified a “significant level” of lawtech activity, including more than 750 tech and innovation roles and “a growing cluster” of over 30 lawtech companies and lawtech arms operating within the region’s law firms.

The Bristol and Bath area was recently named one of the top 10 fintech clusters in the UK by the government-commissioned Kalifa review, and 93% of people surveyed for the Whitecap report saw lawtech as a growth opportunity for the region.

The report also suggested that the region could “be a beneficiary of increased homeworking in the legal sector, especially from London-based firms”.

It advocated supporting the future development of the lawtech ecosystem with a series of actions, such as “improving visibility and accessibility to law firms” for tech companies; more communication and collaboration; raising awareness of the roles available to help attract talent to the sector; and building on the region’s “strong sense of societal purpose”.

Introducing the report, Richard Coates, managing director of Whitecap Consulting, said: “The primary application of technology within the legal sector to date has been law firms using tech to serve their clients.

“There is an opportunity for tech firms to design highly efficient self service functions used directly by the buyers of legal services, which could make access to legal solutions cheaper, faster and more accessible.”

Ben Holt, president of Bristol Law Society and a partner at VWV, said: “Legal tech is a central plank for the legal future and this report is a keystone for taking us to the next step.

“We now need to move to that next phase and to make innovation and legal tech a long-term success story for the region.

“This report was commissioned to assist in giving the Bristol and Bath city region legal tech sector a platform to demonstrate an enviable position as a world class innovation hub.”

Chris Bull, co-chair of Bristol & Bath Lawtech, added: “The report shines a much-needed light on the growth of a nationally and internationally significant legal tech cluster in the West of England.”

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