The ideal legal regulator needs a clear approach to technology and innovation and proactively engage with legal service technology, the Legal Services Board (LSB) said.

In a paper published today on how regulation can foster responsible technological innovation, the legal super-regulator set out how regulators can support technology and innovation and increase access to legal services. 

The LSB said regulators working together can reduce uncertainty for tech providers and consumers; and that technology can help open up legal services to currently excluded consumers and small businesses.

It said regulators need to be proactive rather than their “typically reactive approach”. 

However, it warned: “The overarching lesson from the first phase of our work is a simple one: technology and innovation can widen access to legal services, but the associated risks need to be considered and managed” to realise its full potential. 

“This includes ensuring that those with low digital capability and digital literacy are not excluded from accessing essential services”, said the LSB, adding that the ethical and regulatory challenges of advanced technologies such as AI must also be considered.

The LSB’s chief executive Matthew Hill said: “Technology has the potential to improve access to legal services. It can enable citizens to get advice and support in a way, and at a time, that suits them. It can also help legal professionals carry out their work in new ways that make them more competitive, reduce costs and support growth.”

He said covid-19 has accelerated the pace and scale of technological change and that regulation can help build on this momentum and “harness technology to reshape legal services to better meet the needs of society”.

“We have started to see what is possible, but there is a long way to go to unlock the full potential,” added Hill. “As the oversight regulator for legal services, we have an important role in fostering innovation. 

“From considering technology as part of our regulatory performance framework to exploring a statutory statement that can underpin proactive regulatory arrangements, we can create, and maintain, a regulatory environment that unlocks the role of technology and innovation in increasing access.”

The paper acknowledged: “Technology is not a silver bullet. It offers opportunities, and carries risks, that need to be understood so that it is deployed in ways that are compatible with the regulatory objectives.”

The LSB’s work will include considering whether the current regulatory framework adequately protects consumers from the risks posed by technology and how more and better open data can be developed.”

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