Consortium wins bid to run £3m LawtechUK operation

Lennox: Huge opportunity

LawtechUK will retain its new focus on consumers as it enters its next phase in the hands of global tech community Legal Geek and Edinburgh-based incubator CodeBase.

Alexandra Lennox, director of LawtechUK, said a lot of legal tech innovation so far had related to helping law firms and others deliver legal services as opposed to helping consumers protect their legal rights.

“There is a huge opportunity to bring down costs for consumers and improve access to justice,” she said, echoing comments she made to Legal Futures on her appointment last year.

LawtechUK was set up in 2019 by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in conjunction with the legal profession and backed by an initial £2m of public money.

It has been hosted until now by Tech Nation, a not-for-profit network for tech entrepreneurs funded mainly by a grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Tech Nation announced in January that it would be closing at the end of this month, after its funding came to an end.

The MoJ announced yesterday that Legal Geek and CodeBase were joint winners of the £3m contract to run the next phase of LawtechUK.

Legal Geek, founded in 2015, is one of the world’s largest legal tech communities, while CodeBase, founded in 2014, provides start-up incubation space as well as a network. Some of LawtechUK’s are in discussion to stay on but others are moving on.

Their stated goal is to “grow the lawtech community across the UK, raise the quality of start-ups, increase private investment, facilitate the exchange of information between service providers and lawtech businesses, and generate industry-level views that shape the UK’s lawtech agenda”.

Ms Lennox said the initial focus of LawtechUK was “commercial in nature”, supporting “the adoption of legal technology and wider growth of the sector”.

The objectives of the second MoJ grant had shifted, with the “unmet legal need” of consumers and businesses a “key focus”.

Ms Lennox said research to be published later this month by LawtechUK put the spotlight on entrepreneurs and their ability to tackle unmet legal need.

She added that artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT indicated the “huge potential for AI to transform the legal sector”.

The new hosts of LawtechUK said its sandbox, an accelerator programme involving industry experts and regulators which has helped 100 start-ups, would continue to function, though the name has not been confirmed.

The UK Jurisdiction Taskforce will also continue to be supported by LawtechUK as it explores “key questions regarding the legal status of, and basic legal principles applicable to, emerging technologies under English law”.

The taskforce, chaired by Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos, delivered its second legal statement, on digital securities, last month.

Stephen Coleman, chief executive of CodeBase, said it and Legal Geek were “eager to push the boundaries of innovation and transformation” in the legal industry.

“We truly believe that LawtechUK will have a significant impact on the future of the legal sector, and we feel privileged to be leading the charge in this endeavour.”

Beth Fellner, director of Legal Geek, commented: “LawtechUK has been foundational in transforming the legal technology landscape, and we are immensely proud to develop their work.”

The MoJ said the pair would “showcase the UK as a leading place for lawtech innovation, raising the quality of start-ups and generating industry-level views to shape the country’s lawtech agenda”.

Justice minister Mike Freer added: “The UK is a world leader in delivering legal services and expertise, and our ongoing investment in new technologies will make sure we are continuing to lead the way in advances and new ways of working.

“CodeBase and Legal Geek bring a wealth of experience and knowledge of LawtechUK that will nurture new, cutting-edge innovation in the UK.”

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