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Legal system is failing ‘ordinary people’

30 May 2019

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Research has found that 58% of people in England and Wales think the legal system is not set up for ordinary people.

Meanwhile, 80% said it needed to be easier for ordinary people to access legal guidance and advice. When asked about barriers to accessing legal advice, 68% cited the high cost, followed by the uncertainty of the cost (56%) and knowing who to trust (37%).

The survey found that although 15% of people in England and Wales had experienced a legal issue in the last 10 years, only half (51%) of all respondents were confident they could identify whether a problem is a legal matter.

The research was conducted to mark the launch of the Legal Access Challenge – a technology incubator run by Nesta Challenges in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

The initiative is part of the SRA’s programme to drive innovation in the sector and will offer £250,000 in grants to help innovators develop new technology solutions to help make legal advice more affordable and accessible for the majority.

Of the survey respondents, 59% said they think technology could lead to better services to help people resolve their legal problems.

People believe that the biggest benefits to using a digital service for legal advice would be having a fixed price upfront for legal fees (38%), being able to understand their rights (26%) and having access to cheaper legal advice and information (23%).

Nesta Challenges head of better markets Chris Gorst said: “Technology is not a panacea, but in many areas of our lives it has transformed the choice, convenience and quality available to us and this could be true in legal services too.”

He said Nesta and the SRA would be looking for “digital solutions” that make access legal services convenient and affordable for individuals and small businesses, closing the “‘legal gap’ we currently face”.

SRA chair Anna Bradley added: “Whether they are dealing with a personal legal matter, or running a business, people need to be able to get legal support when it really matters. Having access to professional advice is important at those life changing moments. And for small businesses, it can make the difference between success and failure. There are real barriers for people looking for help and the innovative use of technology is one way of tackling those barriers.”

The Legal Access Challenge is open to entrants from today until 11 August 2019. More information can be found at legalaccesschallenge.org.

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Legal services Technology