Government puts £4m behind lawtech adoption push

Bellamy: Supporting the market

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has committed £4m to the second phase the LawtechUK programme, which aims to increase innovation and the adoption of lawtech in the delivery of legal services.

The goal is also to support the growth of the lawtech sector in the UK, as well as enable English and Welsh law and the UK’s jurisdictions to become the foundation for emerging technologies, by supporting and promoting the work of the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce.

LawtechUK launched in 2019 as a partnership between the MoJ, the Lawtech Delivery Panel – an advisory panel of industry experts chaired by former Law Society president Christina Blacklaws – and growth platform Tech Nation, with £2m funding from the government.

The MoJ said its continued backing would help ensure “the UK retains its competitive global edge, create jobs and boost access to legal services for individuals and businesses through technology”, such as machine learning and data analytics tools.

Tech Nation will continue to deliver the LawtechUK programme until December 2022, with the MoJ set to run a competitive process to award the next stage of funding. The new provider will deliver the programme from January 2023 to March 2025.

LawtechUK recently produced a ‘what we have achieved’ summary to mark the departure of founding director Jenifer Swallow. It focused on a number of areas, such as the lawtech sandbox, which connects start-ups with regulators and decision-makers to accelerate their development.

LawtechUK says it has supported the growth of over 100 start-ups and scale-ups, and leveraged £5.2m of in-kind contributions from cross-sector collaborators.

Other achievements included a proof-of-concept online dispute resolution platform, the UK’s legal statement on cryptoassets and smart contracts, an online learning and resource hub, various reports, guidance and projects on such issues as multi-party data access.

Justice minister Lord Bellamy QC said: “A thriving lawtech sector will help ensure the UK continues as a world-leading legal services centre and attracts the very best talent.

“This investment will support the market to develop the technology it needs to drive modernisation and deliver first-class legal services.”

The new LawtechUK director, Alexandra Lennox, who has been promoted from within, added: “Technology has the potential to transform business’s and people’s experience of law, meet unmet legal needs and support professionals to deliver the next generation of legal services.

“We have seen great progress towards this future since LawtechUK’s inception and this next phase of funding will build on those important foundations, helping cement the UK’s position as a global hub for technology and law.”

Minesh Patel, founder of Amplified Global – a start-up that aims to make consumer-facing legal documents more intelligible and participated in the sandbox – said: “Accelerators, incubators and sandboxes are a lifeline for start-ups bringing novel solutions into the market. It’s fantastic to hear about the next series of MoJ funding, which will enable pioneering solutions to push the boundaries within the legal space.

“Without the lawtech sandbox, an organisation of our size and stage would have found it really difficult to be working, or even engaging, with a telecoms giant and the cross section of stakeholders and regulators that we did.

“The LawtechUK programme has rapidly accelerated our growth and helped us to get the product to market quicker than we could have ever imagined.”

Ms Lennox has in turn been replaced as head of LawtechUK – responsible for delivery and operations – by Aleksandra Wawrzyszczuk, who has experience of managing legal projects and transforming in-house legal functions, as well as advising law firms on business strategy.

Last month, the MoJ announced that it would also award around £4m in the current financial year to charities and organisations that sustain and improve access to early social welfare and family legal advice, £1m more than in previous years. They have to apply for the money through the Access to Justice Foundation.

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