2021 - A year of practical delivery and opportunity for UK lawtech

3 mins
- 23 December 2021

We started the year firmly in delivery mode with our pilot Lawtech Sandbox underway as we looked to help fast-track innovations from our first five pioneer lawtech companies.

During the first months of the pilot Sandbox which kicked off in December 2020, the LawtechUK team were busy matchmaking pioneers to potential future clients, collaborators and data sources, and hosting workshops to brainstorm and interrogate solutions to regulatory issues that can often challenge emerging lawtechs. The pilot Lawtech Sandbox was the first time we had harnessed the power of the Regulatory Response Unit, which brings together relevant regulators into a single, fast response forum, to make it easy for pioneers to access and navigate the rules and move forward with confidence.

In January, we launched the Data Commons for Lawtech, developed by Tech Nation, in collaboration with Dealroom, Data Commons for Lawtech is an iteration of the highly popular Data Commons for UK Tech. It provides an interactive database containing key information about UK lawtech startups and scaleups, including founder and investor information, job opportunities, firm valuations and latest news.

Concluding the pilot Lawtech Sandbox in March, we brought together the legal community at our Showcase event to demonstrate the innovation journey of our Pioneers through their time in the Sandbox. Our flagship event also included reflective sessions from industry experts on data matchmaking and navigating regulation, as well as a forward look at insights from the Sandbox to be captured and built on.

Spring saw the groundbreaking Digital Dispute Resolution Rules published by the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce of LawtechUK, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls. The rules are designed to enable faster and more cost effective resolutions to legal disputes relating to novel digital technology such as crypto assets, smart contracts, and blockchain applications, and foster confidence amongst businesses in the adoption of these technologies.

Greater access to data is one of the biggest opportunities for the legal community today, for individual businesses and the customers they serve, unlocking a wide range of benefits. In collaboration with Lawtech Sandbox pioneers and network partners, we developed a legal data toolkit to make it easy to explore bi-lateral data access opportunities.

May saw the publication of ‘Shaping the future of law’ which highlights the opportunities ahead for the legal sector and shines a light on the priorities on which the legal community can focus, to accelerate digital transformation of the legal sector. The report revealed the annual market opportunity across lawtech at £22bn, based on £11.4bn of revenue generated from serving unmet demand, £8.6bn of cost-savings for SMEs and £1.7bn from productivity gains in legal businesses.

As well as ‘Shaping the future of law’ we also published, the Regulatory Navigation Tool in conjunction with the Regulatory Response Unit. The tool is a quick reference guide that helps those innovating in law to navigate the regulatory landscape and quickly see which activities require regulatory approval or exemption and which - the vast majority - do not.

In early Summer, we were delighted to launch the Lawtech Hub, a central resource for all who want to learn about lawtech and shape the future of law. The Hub contains a number of resources including bitesize courses that give an introductory understanding of core technology topics in lawtech, so the entire sector can have a common baseline of understanding and a jumping off point for further exploration and application.

Through the early part of 2021, we worked with a consortium of legal, technology and alternative dispute resolution experts to establish a feasibility study and proof of concept for an SME online dispute resolution platform, to provide an affordable, easy to use environment for small businesses to recover unpaid debts, as an optional alternative to the courts. Late payments have a crippling impact on business owners, their employees and wider communities, and cost the UK economy £2.5bn each year. Resolving late payment disputes in traditional courts takes too long, is disproportionately expensive, and can jeopardise ongoing business relationships. Our vision for the platform would enable disputes to be resolved within six to eight weeks, significantly faster than through the court process, deploying a non-adversarial methodology to enable business relationships to be preserved and providing a digital self-service experience, innovating on how disputes can be resolved.

In October, we announced at Legal Geek, the next eight companies making up our latest version of the Lawtech Sandbox, the design and deployment of which we had iterated in the months following the Sandbox Pilot.The Lawtech Sandbox brings people together to address barriers and help lawtech pioneers accelerate through their development cycles faster than they could alone. The goal is for that support ultimately to benefit the whole market and push the boundaries of what is possible. The LawtechUK team and the eight pioneers are working hard to maximise the opportunities that the Sandbox brings with just over a month still to run in its current iteration. We look forward to reporting back at the Sandbox Showcase in January 2022.

Together with the Legal Services Board, we worked with Community Research to carry out a qualitative study with 40 SMEs from different sectors (10 of whom had previously used lawtech) asking them about their business’s legal problems and how they access legal advice and support. Our report revealed a readiness with the SME community to explore technology enabled services and solutions to support with their legal needs, and in particular those with a strong human touch, demonstrating an opportunity for both technology providers working with legal professionals, and legal services businesses working with technology.

We hope the above gives a small snapshot of some of our work in 2021. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many collaborators who have helped us realise our ambitions throughout the year and have shared their insights and wisdom in order to support the entire community. Early 2022 is already shaping up to be a busy quarter, with the Lawtech Sandbox coming to a crescendo in our Sandbox Showcase event, and public launches of our data and smarter contract workstreams.

Want to know what 2022 has in store? Our Director, Jenifer Swallow, recently gave her predictions for the year to Artificial Lawyer alongside industry experts which you can read here https://www.artificiallawyer.c...

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