The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has been awarded a £120,000 government grant to explore ways to increase the use of technology-enabled dispute resolution.
It is the third time that the regulator has made a successful bid for funding from the regulators pioneer fund, this time in a consortium with the Access to Justice Foundation and the Law Society.
The project will launch in September 2023 and last for 12-18 months. It aims to encourage the development of technological solutions which will promote and expand the use of dispute resolution across England and Wales; the SRA said it would also seek to work with the Law Council of Wales.
In its application, the consortium said greater use of alternative methods of dispute resolution, especially through the use of technology, could reduce both the workload of the courts and the backlog of cases that has been compounded by the pandemic.
“We see an opportunity to carry out further research with partner organisations, experts and others interested in better understanding the use of dispute resolution as a mechanism for resolving disputes.
“We believe there is an opportunity to look at creating technological pathways that help individuals and businesses resolve disputes or reach agreement on an issue that might otherwise be contentious…
“Ultimately the outcome of our project should provide consumers and businesses with accessible and affordable alternatives to court proceedings.”
The SRA said the project would work with consumers and public representative groups to explore the potential barriers and benefits to using dispute resolution, in particular via digital and online platforms. This will include sharing and developing best practice.
Research indicates that more than two-thirds of users see the civil courts as a last resort.
The regulators pioneer fund, run out of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, backs projects designed to drive forward innovation, remove regulatory red tape and establish the UK as world leader in technologies of the future.
In this round, it handed out £12m to 24 projects – the maximum grant available was £1m.
The first SRA project backed by the fund was the Legal Access Challenge, which received £750,000, followed last year by £168,000 for a project to help connect those using new legal technologies with those who need their services.