The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is considering creating an ‘innovation space’, which it said would “help existing firms develop their businesses and encourage new firms to come into the market”.
Issuing a short report on IT and innovation in the legal market, the SRA explained: “Our thinking is at a very early stage, but we hope to provide a safe space within which regulated firms and individuals can prototype innovative products, services, business models and methods of delivery with support around how our regulation interacts with their ideas.”
Crispin Passmore, SRA executive director for policy, said: “Demand is driving rapid change in the legal market. Solicitors and law firms are responding by introducing new services to meet the needs of their clients. However, there are still serious barriers to accessing a legal system that is, in the words of the Lord Chief Justice, ‘unaffordable to most’.
“An innovative legal sector is essential for delivering the efficient, affordable services the public needs.”
With the ‘digital divide’ narrowing, the report continued: “Technology-led innovation can make a big difference in helping firms provide more affordable, high quality services. We want to support firms to grow and develop. Regulation should pose as few barriers as possible to the introduction of new working practices.
“Our ongoing reform programme and initiatives such as SRA Innovate are encouraging legal services providers to respond to the changing market in new, creative ways.”
The report highlighted ways in which technology could be used to improve practices, including artificial intelligence. “There is ongoing debate as to how far AI will change the work of solicitors,” it acknowledged.
“At present, it can replace very specific parts of a broader legal process; it assists, rather than replaces, human legal effort. The constantly increasing power of computers means that the role of AI in professional work such as legal practice will grow.”
The report also looked at information security, noting: “For most attacks, the ‘cyber’ label may be a distraction. Activities such as ‘Friday afternoon fraud’ more resemble confidence tricks than the popular idea of hacking. Most malware similarly depends on tricking a user into agreeing to install it.”
The regulator has been pushing its role in aiding innovation through the creation of the SRA Innovate part of its website, and is holding an event on innovation next week in London.