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21 May 2020

Plans unveiled for legal tech sandbox to fuel innovation in the UK

Lawtech Sandbox backed by regulators is inspired by scheme credited with kickstarting fintech boom

More women need to pursue careers in legal tech

Christina Blacklaws is chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel and former president of the Law Society All Things Business

A government-backed initiative to boost the UK’s legal tech industry has unveiled plans to launch a regulatory sandbox.

The Lawtech Sandbox has the backing of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, the Legal Services Board, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Ministry of Justice.

It is inspired by the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA’s) regulatory sandbox, which was launched in 2016 and has been credited with kickstarting the UK’s burgeoning fintech sector by allowing the testing of new products in a controlled environment.

Plans for the sandbox were announced today by the technology industry body Tech Nation, which has teamed up with the government-backed Lawtech Delivery Panel and the Ministry of Justice to create LawTech UK, the umbrella for a range of initiatives to boost the legal tech industry. It has £2m of public funding at its disposal.

The programme of initiatives, dubbed the LawtechUK vision, also includes the establishment of an online dispute resolution platform offering SMEs with a cheaper alternative to resolving late payment disputes and the development of the Lawtech Online Hub and Training Centre, containing free digital courses on legal technology and open access data on the legal technology sector.

Christina Blacklaws, chair of the Lawtech Delivery Panel and former president of the Law Society, said: “The exciting and broad range of projects we are launching today as LawtechUK will help place technology at the heart of a new era of legal services.”

According to Tech Nation, investment in UK legal technology has tripled in the last two years, with starts ups and scale ups attracting a total of £290m in investment and employing nearly 4,500 people. 

Jenifer Swallow, director for legal technology at Tech Nation, said: “Covid-19 is bringing urgency to the task of restructuring the delivery of legal services and systems worldwide. Through the LawtechUK work programme we have announced today, we will bring practical support and advancement to enable this, helping the UK legal sector lead this global transformation.”

London is among 10 ten cities across the world that were identified by a recent Law Society report as leaders in the $15.9bn legal tech market as competition hots up to become the preferred global destination for start-ups.

In March, Singapore’s government pledged $10.8m towards a legal tech research programme to digitise laws, rules and agreements in the city state.

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