Britain has an opportunity to be a global leader in new technologies transforming legal business and access to justice – but should beware of complacency, the minister for legal services said last night. ‘There is a lawtech revolution happening all over the world and I want to make sure the UK not only keeps pace with it but leads it,’ Lord Keen of Elie (Richard Keen QC) told an event to launch the latest ‘lawtech incubator’. However Keen warned ‘We cannot afford to be complacent’, pointing to competing initiatives in Canada and Singapore. 

‘There is an increased expectation that law firms are not only competent in advising on the latest technology but that they are adopting them to drive down costs and improve service quality. It is my firm belief that those jurisdictions which embrace innovative technology will increase their share of the international legal services market, and succeed in the future.’

Keen was speaking at an event to promote an initiative by Barclays in partnership with the Law Society. An ‘Eagle Lab’ to be opened in Notting Hill Gate, West London, will aim to bridge the gap between emerging innovations and law firms by housing start-up businesses and acting as a hub for collaboration. It is one of several technology incubators set up by the bank around the country and the first to focus on legal technologies.

The sector is generating strong interest because of the potential for technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain encryption to transform legal services. Lawtech community Legal Geek, which is also backing the Eagle Lab, predicts that the number of start-ups in the sector will double this year.

Simon Davis, deputy vice president of the Law Society, told last night’s event that lawtech is an important area of focus for the Law Society. ‘From automation tools that can reduce administrative costs to cloud solutions that enable agile working and AI tools which can arm lawyers with previously unavailable insights, lawyers are being presented with a growing list of possibilities to augment their careers and their businesses with technology, he said.

The Eagle Lab venture ‘will create a forum for solicitors to learn and innovate with entrepreneurs and developers for the common good of the legal sector’, Davis said.

Law Gazette

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