UK LawTech R&D Sandbox launched

Plans to create a UK LawTech research and development (R&D) environment - the Lawtech Sandbox - have been announced today by LawtechUK, a government-backed initiative between Tech Nation, the Lawtech Delivery Panel and the Ministry of Justice.

The sandbox is one of four initial programmes LawtechUK has announced in the publication of its vision to help the legal sector harness technologies that improve or replace traditional methods of delivering legal services and systems.

The sandbox is inspired by the Financial Conduct Authority's pioneering Regulatory Sandbox, set up in 2016 to support innovative UK financial services firms testing new products and services in a safe space.

The Lawtech Sandbox will bring together technologists, the legal and business community, and public bodies, to support more innovative legal technology coming to market. It will be delivered in collaboration with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, Legal Services Board, Information Commissioner's Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Work is underway to establish the framework and processes for the pilot phase and LawtechUK is launching a call-out for a technical delivery partner.

In addition, LawtechUK has announced a new SME Dispute Resolution Platform, offering small businesses an alternative, elective method to resolve late payments and address the £11.6 billion paid in litigation fees and the £50 billion in late payments arising each year.

It has also launched the Lawtech Online Hub and Training Centre - an online hub with free digital courses on legal technology and open access data on the lawtech sector - as well as Lawtech toolkits to issue guidance responding to areas of legal uncertainty or challenge around new technologies.

The vision and work programme set out today is drawing on funding from the £2 million announced by the Ministry of Justice last year to support the growth of LawTech in the UK.

While the pace of technology adoption in the legal sector has been slow to date, investment in UK LawTech tripled in the last two years, attracting £290 million in investment in 2019 and employing over 4,000 people.

Lord Keen of Elie QC commented: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the legal sector’s versatility and resilience, using technology to continue delivering justice.

“The sandbox is an important next step in delivering cutting-edge technology and furthering our reputation as a globally trusted destination for legal practice.”

Caroline Dinenage, minister of state for digital and culture, said: “The current crisis has highlighted the potential of technology to transform how we work and this new initiative will help entrepreneurs develop viable new products and services so our legal sector can be fit for the future.”

Jenifer Swallow, programme director for LawtechUK at Tech Nation, added: “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.”

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