Government puts money and influence behind lawtech industry

Gauke: We must foster an environment to embrace new technologies

The Lord Chancellor last night threw his weight behind the UK’s lawtech industry, announcing the creation of a panel of industry professionals “to support and accelerate the development and adoption of innovative new legal technologies”.

It will be chaired by incoming Law Society president Christina Blacklaws, who has made technology a key part of her agenda.

The Ministry of Justice said the group “will provide direction to the legal sector and help foster an environment in which new technology can thrive”, but did not provide any more details at this stage on what exactly it will do and who will join Ms Blacklaws on the panel.

In a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Dinner for HM Judges at Mansion House last night, Lord Chancellor David Gauke said: “I am determined to ensure our world-leading legal services sector continues to thrive and that the UK remains the primary choice for international business.

“The lawtech industry is experiencing rapid growth and cutting-edge initiatives are already underway across the country.

“It is of paramount importance that, working together, we foster an environment in which these new technologies are embraced and take advantage of every opportunity created.”

The move follows the government creating a fund to encourage work between businesses and researchers to help the service industry, including the legal sector, take advantage of new technologies.

Last month, applications opened for a share of £12m from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for its ‘next generation services challenge’, which will contribute to the funding of projects that aim to “speed up the responsible adoption of AI and data technologies and solutions to transform the accountancy, insurance and legal services sectors”.

The Economic and Social Research Council, which is running the scheme, said: “These sectors, in which the UK can be regarded as a global leader, share an ultimate reliance on the knowledge, experience and skills of their trained professionals to maintain their competitive advantage in delivering the services they provide.

“However, the deployment of new AI technologies in principle offers the potential of transformative change in current business models.

“This could be achieved by processing complex data faster and more accurately than can be done by humans, identifying patterns in the data which would otherwise not be visible and using this to forecast, target relevant information, recognise mistakes and spot inconsistencies.”

Some £8-10m of the money is earmarked for ‘large consortia projects’ with costs of £2-4m addressing “common, sector-wide challenges requiring a co-ordinated approach across, for example, supply chains or regulators”.

The rest will go to smaller projects with costs of up to £400,000 that aim “to apply AI and data techniques in new ways”.

Projects should plan to start by 1 December 2018 and must complete by 31 March 2021. Applications close on 15 August. For the large projects website, click here, and for the small projects website here.

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