The Legal Services Board (LSB) is to launch a project to investigate the regulatory implications of the latest technology, including artificial intelligence (AI).
It has also promised to be “an agent of change” for the legal services sector.
Launching a consultation on its draft 2018-19 business plan, the oversight regulator said: “We expect technology to be a significant driver for change over the coming years. What sort of change is as yet unknown, but we are already seeing ways in which artificial intelligence and technology more broadly can contribute to the delivery of legal services.
“These changes could bring significant benefits to consumers. However, there are also ethical considerations and evolving challenges and risks for regulators to deal with.
“We will lead a project which seeks to improve our understanding of the regulatory implications associated with new technology and how regulators can respond to these without stifling innovation or reducing consumer protection.”
The LSB said the project would involve “convening regulators, providers and consumers to understand more about the latest developments and what is coming over the horizon, drawing insights from other sectors” and publicising findings.
The LSB also published its draft 2018-21 strategic plan for consultation, with three main strands: promoting the public interest through ensuring independent, effective and proportionate regulation; making it easier for all consumers to access the services they need and get redress; and increasing innovation, growth and the diversity of services and providers.
Among the indicators of success were “fewer independence-related disagreements between regulators and representative bodies”; consumers finding it easier to access information on firms’ prices, terms of service, quality and regulation; greater availability of digital comparison tools covering legal services; fewer consumers, particularly vulnerable consumers, ‘doing nothing’ when they have a legal problem; and more consumers shopping around.
The strategy also explained how the LSB would act as an “agent for change” across these various areas, including continuing to push its vision for fundamental reform of legal regulation.
It would also expect to monitor the impact of regulation on innovation and to encourage innovation more generally by identifying measures to remove barriers to entry to the legal market and also stimulate competition.
Dr Helen Philipps, interim chair of the LSB, said: “The Legal Services Board is currently in the last year of its existing strategic cycle.
“While there have been improvements in legal services regulation over the last three years, our 2016 market evaluation and the CMA’s recent market study have demonstrated that there is more to do to make the legal services market work for consumers and the public more widely.
“Effective collaboration with stakeholders in the legal sector will be key to maximising our impact and improving outcomes for consumers and the public.”