Below we outline our current policy work on technology and innovation.
State of Legal Services 2020 Report and Strategy for the Legal Services Sector
In November 2020, we published our State of Legal Services 2020 report. This gives an in-depth review of the legal services sector following ten years of independent regulation. It is informed by data, evidence and conversations with a wide range of individuals and organisations, and research by the LSB and others. The report has two volumes – a narrative section and an extensive evidence compendium.
Pre-pandemic, levels of innovation in the sector have been static despite deregulatory reforms removing restrictions on businesses. Culture appears to be a more significant impediment to innovation than regulation. The main regulatory barriers to innovation tend to be ‘soft’ ones, like navigating the regulatory system. But the sector could overcome these by supporting new entrants with information, sandboxes, innovation funds, strategies and similar initiatives.
The permissive regulatory framework created by the Legal Services Act 2007 is more conducive to technological innovation than some other jurisdictions, but it does create some difficulties. For example, For example, technology developers and overseas-based providers falling outside the scope of regulation, the focus on title-based regulation as opposed to activity-based regulation, the complexity involved in navigating the regulatory framework and the potential for different standards as a result of multiple regulators in the sector. These factors could disincentivise innovators from entering the market and create gaps in consumer protection that legal service regulators are unable to mitigate.
Our report concludes that despite the achievements of the last decade, the legal services market is not working as well as it should be and that the basic legal needs of many citizens are not being met. The challenges facing the sector can be condensed into three strategic themes: fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services.
Our Strategy for the Legal Services Sector identifies priority areas of focus over the next three years (2021-24) and how we plan to make a difference. Collaboration is key to our strategy, and we call on individuals and organisations to step forward and identify how they can make a difference.
We are consulting on our Strategy for the Legal Services Sector, and on our Business Plan 2021-22. Technology and innovation will continue to be an important area of focus for the LSB, and we welcome responses to our consultation by 5 February 2021.
Developing the next phase of our work on technology and innovation
We will publish more detail on the next phase of our technology and innovation work in early 2021.
Supporting the Lawtech Sandbox Pilot
Our State of Legal Services 2020 report points to the many challenges facing the legal services sector today, including inconsistency across the profession when it comes to embracing innovation and high levels of unmet legal need. Technology has the power to disrupt the market and widen access to justice.
Technology is becoming an increasing feature of how legal services are delivered. Covid-19 has fast-tracked the scale and pace of technological change across the sector, with many legal service providers now using technology to deliver their services. While the full effects of the pandemic continue to unfold, it seems that technology will become a normal part of how many legal services are designed and delivered in the future.
Technology is not without its risks. How then can the opportunities offered by technological innovation be embraced while also ensuring that society is protected from unnecessary risks? One way to foster innovation is by creating environments where innovators can develop, test and iterate technological solutions with support and guidance. The Lawtech Sandbox Pilot is an example of this research and development-type environment.
The Lawtech Sandbox Pilot has been designed to fast-track transformative ideas, products and services that address the legal needs of businesses and society. The Pilot provides pioneers with access to several tools and services to accelerate the development of lawtech, including access to cross-sector regulators. It will run for three months from December. The LSB is proud to be a part of the Lawtech Sandbox Pilot.
The legal services sector needs to reshape itself to deliver fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services that meet society’s needs. We lay out a strategy for overcoming these challenges in our Strategy for the Legal Services Sector. The success of this strategy relies on a cross-sector, collaborative approach and we look forward to working with others in support of the Lawtech Sandbox Pilot.
If you’d like to learn more about our work on technology and innovation, please contact Aisling O’Connell