The Technology, Access to Justice and the Rule of Law report is out today (16 September) following The Law Society’s research into whether technology is the key to improving access to law, justice and rights. Based on an assessment of 50 initiatives, qualitative interviews with more than 45 stakeholders, and an academic literature review, it concluded that, while tech certainly has a role, it is not the silver bullet to making the justice and the legal system more accessible.
The report’s main findings were as follows:
1. The barriers to technology adoption in the justice and legal sector are significant, however, the benefits of technology outweigh the challenges.
The research showed that the barriers to improve access to justice through innovation and technology are:
• widespread confusion, variation and fragmentation
• 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
• regulatory concerns (GDPR and Data Protection, Professional Indemnity Insurance, Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Handbook).
The above barriers have, so far, “fettered potential developments of the technology applicable to the access to justice sector.” According to its report, those interviewed by The Law Society acknowledged that although these barriers are significant, they are not unsurmountable. The benefits in overcoming them outweigh the challenges outlined in this report.
2. There is best practice across the legal and justice sectors on innovative uses of technology which enhance access to justice.
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.
3. Recommendations
The report found that with increased support from the Government, and the right processes from practitioners and the third sector, technology can be the key to unlocking access to justice innovation. Some of the emerging recommendations are as follows:
• Acknowledging that technology is not, in itself, the silver bullet to making the justice and legal system more accessible. To achieve its potential, it is important that a blueprint for innovation is developed. 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 advice sector and private practices should share information on the adoption and application of legal technology within their organisations, as well as any evaluation of these projects. The Law Society says it will 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.
• Government bodies, private sector and third sector organisations offering funds for legal technology and access to justice initiatives should agree on a set of principles to encourage long-term investment in the sector through coordination and collaboration.
You can access the report here: