Legal regulation should be “open for business” when it comes to technology and innovation if the public and consumers are to benefit

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has today outlined how legal services regulators can actively support technology and innovation that safely increase access to legal services. By working together, regulators can create an environment that ‘de-risks’ innovation and reduces uncertainty for tech providers and consumers.

In a new paper [PDF], the LSB makes it clear that regulation has an important role in removing perceived barriers to innovation, building consumer trust and confidence, and managing risks. Technology can help open the legal services market up to citizens and small businesses that are currently excluded. It can also improve service quality by enabling providers to deliver services in ways that better meet people’s needs.

The LSB also notes that technology carries risks that need to be considered and managed if its full potential is to be realised. This includes ensuring that those with low digital capability and digital literacy are not excluded from accessing essential services. The ethical and regulatory challenges of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence must also be considered while ensuring they are not stifled.

The paper identifies several practical steps that regulators should consider and the questions they should keep in mind when considering their regulatory arrangements. The LSB notes that initiatives, such as the Regulatory Response Unit convened by Lawtech UK, demonstrate how regulators can collaborate to support innovation directly.

The paper also offers an overview of the research and evidence that the LSB and others have produced, and it draws together key themes.

Matthew Hill, Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board, said:

“Technology has the potential to improve access to legal services. It can enable citizens to get advice and support in a way, and at a time, that suits them. It can also help legal professionals carry out their work in new ways that make them more competitive, reduce costs and support growth.

“Covid-19 has accelerated the pace and scale of technological change, with many providers adapting and using technology to offer their services in new ways. We have started to see what is possible, but there is a long way to go to unlock the full potential.

“Regulation can help build on the momentum that Covid-19 has created and harness technology to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society. Regulation can also help secure consumer confidence and build trust in new technology. Legal services regulators can take encouragement in opening up their regulatory arrangements to support new ways of delivering services for the benefit of consumers.

“As the oversight regulator for legal services, we have an important role in fostering innovation. From considering technology as part of our regulatory performance framework to exploring a statutory statement that can underpin proactive regulatory arrangements, we can create, and maintain, a regulatory environment that unlocks the role of technology and innovation in increasing access.”

New podcast on technology on regulation

The report is accompanied by a podcast on how legal services regulators can actively support technology and innovation that safely increase access to legal services and explore the ways in which technology can help open the legal services market up to citizens and small businesses.

This follows the LSB’s first phase of work on legal technology, which included a series of articles, papers, and podcasts on legal technology.

Future work

The next phase of the LSB’s work will be shaped by its recently published strategy for the legal services sector [PDF]. It will include considering whether the current regulatory framework adequately protects consumers from the risks posed by technology and how more and better open data can be developed. The LSB will also collaborate with the regulatory bodies in developing their approaches and capabilities and ensure that emerging uses of technology are ethical and trusted.