Lawtech sector given public funding boost

Swallow: We can step change the sector to be truly fit for the future

The Ministry of Justice has injected £2m into boosting the development of lawtech via a government-funded network that backs tech entrepreneurs.

A spokesman confirmed this is the same money that was promised for lawtech investment in June by the then Lord Chancellor David Gauke.

The MoJ announced today that the money was to be given to Tech Nation to deliver and build on the work of the lawtech delivery panel.

The panel is an industry-led and government-backed body that has been working since last year to identify and address both barriers to and catalysts for the growth of lawtech.

Chaired by former Law Society president Christina Blackaws, it has six taskforces, one of which – the UK jurisdiction taskforce – was behind a consultation earlier this year on the status of cryptoassets, distributed ledger technology and smart contracts under English private law.

Tech Nation was launched in 2011 by the then Prime Minister David Cameron, and describes itself as “the UK’s leading network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs”. It offers growth programmes, events, skills and data resources.

Jenifer Swallow, former general counsel of money transfer business TransferWise, has been appointed to lead the executive delivery of the panel’s work, and Tech Nation will also be hiring two full-time employees to support her.

Her remit includes working with the legal services and lawtech community, informing and developing the panel’s programme, and working closely with the panel to co-ordinate and deliver the strategic objectives of the funding.

As an early priority, Tech Nation is to develop and plan the implementation of a 2022 lawtech vision.

Tech Nation has already provided similar support for the government-backed fintech delivery panel and the insuretech board.

Ms Swallow said: “Bringing together industry leaders, our amazing tech talent, the wider legal community and beyond, and engaging candidly on the issues, we can step change the sector to be truly fit for the future, globally.”

Ms Blacklaws added: “A huge amount of foundational work has already been completed by the panel, supported by the Law Society.

“Today’s announcement signifies the critical next step in the future of the panel, with the welcome support of Tech Nation to develop the necessary legislative and regulatory frameworks to ensure that global business uses English and Welsh law and enhances the growth of the lawtech sector, with ethics at its heart.”

Justice secretary Robert Buckland said the funding would help create “the right environment to support the development and use of UK lawtech. It will support wider economic growth and pave the way for a technological revolution in the UK legal sector”.

Other members of the lawtech delivery panel include justice minister Lord Keen, Chancellor of the High Court Sir Geoffrey Vos, Professor Richard Susskind, the well-known academic who is technology adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, Vodafone general counsel Rosemary Martin, and Sonya Branch, general counsel of the Bank of England.

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