The future of LawtechUK is unaffected by the imminent closure of Tech Nation, the government-funded body that hosts its operations, its director confirmed yesterday.
LawtechUK was set up in 2019 by the Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the legal profession. Backed by an initial £2m of public money, the Ministry of Justice last year agreed to fund the next two-year phase with £3m.
Tech Nation announced yesterday that, after a decade as a government-backed organisation serving the “scaleup tech ecosystem”, it would close on 31 March after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport awarded Tech Nation’s core grant funding to Barclays Bank instead.
“With this foundation removed, Tech Nation’s remaining activities are not viable on a standalone basis,” it said.
“As a direct result of the DCMS grant withdrawal, Tech Nation will be ceasing all existing operations through a carefully planned wind-down and has commenced a redundancy consultation process.”
Last October, the Ministry of Justice issued a tender for an organisation to take forward the work of LawtechUK in its next phase.
This said the grant objectives were to “increase innovation and the adoption of lawtech in the delivery of UK legal services”, support the growth of the lawtech sector in the UK and “enable English and Welsh law and the UK’s jurisdictions to become the foundation for emerging technologies”, by supporting and promoting the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce’s work.
The winner of the grant should be named shortly, ahead of starting work on 1 April.
Alexandra Lennox, director of LawtechUK, said: “The LawtechUK team and I are immensely proud of all that we have achieved as LawtechUK, which was started in and incubated by Tech Nation.
“LawtechUK will continue and has an exciting future ahead with a further £3m in government funding secured by the LawtechUK team and much more work to be done to continue to support the digital transformation of the UK legal sector.”
However, the future of the current staff and operations are not clear at the moment.
LawtechUK is currently still working through its existing delivery plan; the highest-profile achievements have been supporting dozens of lawtech start-ups through its sandbox and the UK jurisdiction taskforce’s legal statement on cryptoassets and smart contracts.
Last autumn, the taskforce took the next step in its work with a consultation on the issue and transfer of digital securities under English private law, and earlier this month published a consultation seeking to work out exactly what concerns regulated law firms have about using artificial intelligence.
Also last autumn, 31 businesses joined the Lawtech Sandbox, supporting them to develop new products and services. This represented a significant scale up, as only 13 businesses had been in the sandbox across two cohorts.
They are going through two new programmes, one providing expert mentoring and the other helping them to navigate the regulatory landscape.
LawtechUK is supported by the industry-led, government-supported LawtechUK Panel, which provides oversight and expert advice. It is chaired by former Law Society president Christina Blacklaws, and members included the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, Professor Richard Susskind and Law Commissioner Professor Sarah Green.
Tech Nation has supported over 5,000 businesses through its various programmes over the last decade, including Monzo, Revolut, Depop, Bloom & Wild, Zilch, Just Eat, Darktrace, Marshmallow, Ocado, Skyscanner, Peak AI and Deliveroo.