SRA reveals how £700k Legal Access Challenge cash is being spent

SRA: £50,000 going to cover its costs

The breakdown of how the £700,000 of government money awarded to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to run the Legal Access Challenge has finally been published, with nearly half of it going to partner Nesta Challenges.

The challenge – which aims to support and accelerate ideas to use technology to improve access to justice – is the centrepiece of an 18-month programme.

The closing date for applications is this Sunday. Four finalists with proposals that will directly help consumers and/or small businesses will each receive a no-strings development grant of £50,000 in the autumn, and go on to pitch their idea to judges in spring 2020, with one winner receiving a further £50,000.

They will also receive bespoke support and organisers hope to build up a community around the use of technology to support access to justice and legal services.

The money came from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) regulators pioneer fund.

Nesta is receiving £300,000 of the funding. A paper before last month’s meeting of the SRA board, published yesterday, said the innovation charity role was:

  • Engaging with stakeholders to design the challenge and provide a package of expert support for participants;
  • Establishing opportunities for collaboration and new partnerships between entrepreneurs, legal professionals, technologists, law schools and charities;
  • Supporting innovators to access investment expertise and funding;
  • Running the challenge; and
  • Providing evaluation and insight “to create an enduring collaborative platform for wider technological innovation in legal service market”.

The paper said that BEIS’s criteria for the funding favoured collaborative bids made with partner organisations. “The separation of costs between ourselves and Nesta was made clear in our application for the funding and BEIS has been fully sighted on it.”

The rest of the money is being spent on raising awareness (£45,000) – website costs, workshops, innovator recruitment and marketing – technical and legal expertise and due diligence on applications (£55,000), and SRA costs (£50,000) to cover dedicated administration of the programme.

The innovation division of City law firm Ashurst was recently announced as technical adviser to the challenge.

As of a month ago, there had been more than 85 expressions of interest in applying for funding, including from entrepreneurs, legal professionals, technologists, law schools and charities.

    Readers Comments

  • Richard Moorhead says:

    Seed corn for the innovators, rather more for the administrators. Not a promising beginning.

  • A Legal Innovator says:

    If the BEIS’s criteria for the funding “favoured collaborative bids made with partner organisations” then surely the SRA should have made this a pre-condition. One can draw from this statement, for example, that innovative ideas from independent legal experts who are being supported by appropriately qualified technologists do not have any innovative insight to offer.

    More importantly however, innovation requires open mindedness. Stating in advance what the preferred approach should be is exactly the opposite.

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