One law firm and five lawtech businesses have each received around £100,000 of government money to develop and accelerate commercialisation of their products and services during the pandemic.
They were in the latest round of funding for projects through the Sustainable Innovation Fund, managed by Innovate UK, part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).
As part of a £550m package of measures to support the response of SMEs to the pandemic, UKRI is supporting businesses that require funding “to keep ideas alive during a climate of uncertainty”.
The projects were independently assessed for innovativeness, sustainability and impact on Covid-19 recovery, either to the business or more broadly.
The law firm is London employment practice Monaco Solicitors, which has received £99,000 for its online Virtual Lawyer service to help provide representation to people whose employment rights have been infringed during the pandemic.
Its submission said: “In these challenging times, most people are unable to afford representation from a traditional lawyer due to the high costs typically involved, averaging around £300+VAT per hour.
“The user completes a series of dynamically generated questions based on their case, plus a chronology of events.
“Virtual Lawyer uses cutting edge natural language generation methods, with algorithms trained on our wealth of real case data, to produce advice letters to the employee setting out their rights, and legal letters to send to the employer, with the aim of reaching a negotiated outcome of their dispute.”
The other five are:
Wyser Ltd, which has received £95,000 to develop a disputes triage tool which will use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency, reduce case backlogs and improve engagement between law firms and clients.
Resolv Dispute Management, which has received £100,000 for RESOLV, a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform that provides seamless and remote access to online dispute resolution services to lawyers, mediators and firms.
The service facilitates end-to-end mediation sessions via video meetings which are encrypted and transcribed using AI, with the information stored for further use if the mediation is not successful. It is aimed at supporting elderly and cognitively impaired clients.
Uhura Solutions, which has also been awarded £100,000 for the development and commercialisation of AI software that is able to review agreements and provide automatic identification of high-risk clauses in a body of contracts, especially in light of the debate around force majeure clauses since Covid struck.
The money will go towards ‘teaching’ the software to recognise a far broader range of agreement clauses and improve its AI engine.
Office & Dragons, which has received £98,000 to develop a machine learning-based platform that could efficiently help legal professionals “elaborate” contracts. The company says that, in addition to creating jobs during the current economic crisis, this technology has the potential to generate a year-five post-project revenue of £27m.
Juralio, which will put its £98,000 award towards an experimental development project to prototype and pilot a highly scalable legal dispute management and collaboration platform which will be attractive to neutral decision-makers as well as to lawyers and their clients.
UKRI said it has seen an increased level of interest from lawtech businesses since the launch of its Next Generation Services programme in 2019, that set out to support the responsible development and adoption of AI and data technologies in accountancy, insurance and legal services.
We reported last month  how UKRI hoped its investment would help make the UK the world’s leading developer of high-tech innovations in legal services.
UK Innovate made a series of smaller Covid-related awards  to lawtech businesses in the summer, while last year UKRI issued grants totalling over £6.4m  to 18 legal AI and data analytics projects.