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Regulators urged to foster innovation and improve access to legal services

Regulators urged to foster innovation and improve access to legal services


The Legal Services Board (LSB) has issued guidance to regulators, urging them to proactively create an environment conducive to innovation among lawyers and law firms

The statutory guidance, formulated after extensive research, consultation, and stakeholder engagement, outlines three key outcomes that regulators should aim to achieve:

  1. Facilitating Technological Innovation: Regulators should ensure that regulations support the use of technology and innovation to improve access to legal services and address unmet needs.

  2. Balancing Benefits and Risks: Regulation should strike a balance between the benefits and risks, as well as the opportunities and costs, associated with technology and innovation, in the interest of the public and consumers.

  3. Fostering an Open Regulatory Environment: Regulators should actively promote a regulatory environment that welcomes technology providers and innovators.

The need for such guidance is highlighted by the fact that a significant portion of individuals in England and Wales facing legal disputes do not receive timely professional assistance. Research indicates that increased utilisation of innovation and technology could help alleviate this issue. Surprisingly, while consumers exhibit a strong preference for technology-enabled legal services, many law firms have been slow to adopt such innovations. For instance, only a fraction of firms utilise advanced technologies like blockchain, tech-assisted review, or robotic process automation.

The LSB's guidance aims to bridge this gap by providing a technology-neutral framework that offers flexibility and compatibility with existing regulatory structures. It emphasises the importance of striking a balance between promoting innovation and managing associated risks without stifling progress. Additionally, recognising the diverse nature of legal services regulators and their respective approaches, the guidance encourages regulators to make strides at an appropriate pace.

Alan Kershaw, Chair of the Legal Services Board, highlighted the imperative of fostering an environment that fosters innovation while remaining vigilant about potential risks. He emphasised the LSB's commitment to ensuring that regulation does not impede innovation but instead encourages the legal sector to embrace technological advancements.

Moving forward, the LSB will monitor regulators' progress in implementing the guidance through its annual regulatory performance assessment. Additionally, the LSB is preparing a strategic approach to artificial intelligence (AI) in response to a government request.

The issuance of this guidance marks a pivotal step toward modernising the legal sector, promoting innovation, and ultimately enhancing access to justice for all.