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SRA calls on tech start-ups to apply for Legal Access Challenge

7 May 2019

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), in partnership with innovation foundation Nesta, is calling for expressions of interest in the Legal Access Challenge.

The Legal Access Challenge is a legal technology incubator, which will offer development funds to successful candidates and opens to applications on 30 May.

£700,000 of government money has been invested into the Challenge, which aims to uncover technological solutions to the justice gap. 

Applications are being sought from those developing solutions, with the onus on ideas that have a direct impact on access to justice by consumers, rather than simplifying the process from practitioners’ point of view.

Finalists will be awarded a £50,000 development grant in September and then pitch their idea to judges in March/April 2020, when the winner will receive a further £50,000. 

Applications are being welcomed from a variety of entities, including legal tech startups, law firms, alternative legal providers, advice sector organisations and law schools. Joint applications from two or more entities are also encouraged.

The idea being entered should be at an early or proof-of-concept stage but there are no restrictions on whether it is the first legal technology solution the team has worked on, or if they have brought similar solutions to market in the past. 

The application criteria also say that the solution can apply to one, or many areas of law. However, particular interest will be shown in solutions to problems that affect large numbers of people or create substantial harm for those affected.

Describing the aims of the project on its website, the SRA said the kinds of technology featured in the Challenge could include “guided pathways, expert systems, chatbots, automated document assembly, natural language processing, machine learning and online dispute resolution platforms”.

The regulator said it was “not expecting any quick fixes” but hoped the project would “accelerate [participants] progress in 2019/20”.

The SRA also hopes to access a “wider coalition of experts and organisations to make sure we maintain the right regulatory framework to create longer term change in the market”.

The development grants and prize award will be equity-free and non-repayable, and applicants will retain control of their intellectual property.

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