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Law Society outlines multiple barriers hindering lawtech

19 September 2019

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Widespread confusion, variation and fragmentation are all barriers to improving access to justice through innovation and technology, according to a Law Society report.

Other barriers which emerged in Technology, access to justice and the rule of law: is technology the key to unlocking access to justice innovation?  include access to common data and lack of trust; inequality of resources in providers and limited offer of products available for non-commercial purposes; duplication and repetition; time, capacity and skills; capabilities, digital literacy and legal literacy; funding; and regulatory concerns.

The report concluded that while barriers to technology adoption in the justice and legal sector are significant, the benefits of technology outweigh the challenges

The report said: “The above barriers have, thus far, fettered potential developments of the technology applicable to the access to justice sector. Those interviewed acknowledged that although these barriers are significant, they are not unsurmountable. The benefits in overcoming them outweigh the challenges outlined in this report.”

Based on an assessment of 50 initiatives, qualitative interviews with more than 45 stakeholders, and an academic literature review, the researchers concluded that, while it certainly has a role, “technology is not the silver bullet to making the justice and legal system more accessible”.

Organisations are overcoming these barriers by developing solutions which are centred on the person who requires legal help and by re-deploying their resources (including technological solutions) to meet these needs, the report said.

To achieve its potential, it is important that a blueprint for innovation is developed, the report added. “This blueprint should be centred on the person with legal needs and framed by the principles and resources of the organisation. The government should recognise that any technology-based initiative aiming to promote access to justice will only be successful if users are ultimately able to understand and access legal advice directly from a qualified lawyer who can help them resolve their problems.”

The Law Society pledged to provide an initial forum to facilitate the sharing of information and, in collaboration with the advice sector and private practices, create and develop a preliminary depository for the information.

It called for government bodies, private sector and third sector organisations offering funds for legal technology and access to justice initiatives to agree on a set of principles to encourage long-term investment in the sector through coordination and collaboration.

“Technological solutions can help to unlock justice for those with legal needs but not the means,” Law Society president Simon Davis (pictured) said. “New user-focused innovations have overcome some of the traditional obstacles to access. Firms, advice clinics and in-house teams are utilising technology to serve more effectively the needs of often vulnerable clients.”

However, he added much more support is needed for meaningful impact. “This includes better coordination, information sharing and resources. There are still too few solutions designed specifically for this purpose – instead, the sector is over-reliant on a trickle down from the commercial legal market.”

The Law Society report can be viewed here.

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Regulation Regulators Technology Technical legal practice