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Government allocates £2m to support growth of lawtech

New government funding unlocked to help break down barriers to the adoption of emerging technologies in the legal sector

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has allocated £2m in government funding to entrepreneurial network Tech Nation to support the digital transformation of the UK’s legal sector.

The funding was originally announced in June, but has only now been allocated by the MoJ.

“Technology promises to be a key component in the success of our legal services sector and this funding will help support emerging lawtech in the UK and wider economic growth,” said justice secretary David Gauke at the time.

After the funding allocation, Tech Nation will now be responsible for driving forward technological innovation in law by supporting and building on the work of the industry-led LawTech Delivery Panel.

The panel was announced by the Lord Chancellor in July 2018, and was set up to support the adoption and growth of emerging technologies in the legal sector.

Its members include Chancellor of the High Court Sir Geoffrey Vos, Anna Donovan from University College London, Bank of England general counsel Sonya Branch and justice minister Lord Keen of Elie.

The priority for Tech Nation and the panel at this early stage is to develop a 2022 “lawtech vision”, to be delivered through a series of projects over the next three years.

Tech Nation has appointed Jenifer Swallow, former general counsel at international money transfer platform TransferWise, to lead the effort, and she will work alongside panel chair Christina Blacklaws to coordinate and deliver the strategic objectives for the funding.

“Today’s announcement signifies the critical next step in the future of the panel, with the welcome support of Tech Nation to develop the necessary legislative and regulatory frameworks to ensure that global business uses English and Welsh law and enhances the growth of the lawtech sector, with ethics at its heart,” said Blacklaws.

Tech Nation will also be hiring two new full-time employees to assist Swallow in her role.

The organisation has provided similar support in the past to the government-back Fintech Delivery Panel and the Insurtech Board.

Read more about tech in the legal sector

  • You may not be surprised to learn that lawyers don’t expect AI to replace them, but the potential for the technology in law and other professional services must not be underestimated.
  • Law firms are harnessing artificial intelligence to reduce the manual creation and checking of legal documents.
  • International law firm Taylor Wessing is implementing artificial intelligence (AI) across the organisation and wants to ensure staff have the necessary skills to make the most of the technology.

According to the Tracxn legal sector report, UK investment in lawtech has increased threefold to £61m over the past year.

Looking globally, the report found that international investment in lawtech increased by 714% on the previous year.

It also estimated that the adoption of new technologies could increase productivity growth in the legal sector from 1.3% to 2.7% a year.

An earlier report in January 2017 by the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, also said technology could have a “profound effect” on law firms’ staffing, pricing and location.

A number of law firms already incorporate various emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), into their work. International law firm Taylor Wessing, for example, is using AI to augment its lawyers’ capacity to review lengthy documents and contracts.

“We are using AI quite extensively in looking at things like lease reviews,” said Kevin Harris, IT director at Taylor Wessing. “We’ve got large document stores where there’s myriad quite complex legal terms and the AI is really helping us sort those legal terms out,

“It is making things more efficient and making us quicker in service times, but it’s also really accurate, so we’re finding AI to be a good quality check as well.”

The UK is the second-largest legal services market in the world, worth about £25bn to the economy and employing more than 300,000 people.

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