24 May 2019

Lawtech lacking in trust

British Consumer watchdog issues paper raising concerns over lawtech and lack of consumer trust, and provides regulatory checklist.

The UK's Legal Services Consumer Panel has published a discussion paper advising all legal services regulators to be proactive and creative in promoting the development of lawtech.

“Robust” lawtech

The Panel emphasised the potential for lawtech to address the access to justice gap, as well as boost competition in the legal services market. The paper sets out nine ideas, including a call to regulators that they should consider giving incentives to law firms to adopt digital innovations to broaden access to justice. A checklist has been developed for regulators to use when supporting the profession and consumers in the use of lawtech, which the Panel says is rooted in well-established consumer principles. The Panel also highlighted the need for adequate consumer protection to bolster consumer trust and confidence in lawtech. Though positive the paper stresses a need for a ‘robust regulatory framework’ to ensure lawtech is 'fair, available and accessible'. Sarah Chambers, chair of the Panel, said “The Panel wants to see lawtech thrive for the benefit of consumers. This means that regulators, in partnership with lawtech developers and service providers, must work towards maximising the potential of technology. At the same time regulators must anticipate and mitigate the inevitable risks and shortcomings, by ensuring that their respective regulatory frameworks are fit for purpose and future proof.”

Lack of trust

Ms Chambers  explained “Our research shows that 47 per cent of consumers lack trust in AI technology used to deliver legal services. Regulators could use the recommended checklist to revise their regulatory framework and build consumer trust in innovation and aid access to justice. We are at the inception stage of lawtech, it is therefore an opportune time to create a shared regulatory strategy, and creative plans for enhancing lawtech while protecting consumers.” She said the panel will explore these themes at a roundtable event scheduled for 9 July 2019, “designed to advance the dialogue on lawtech.” The Legal Services Consumer Panel was established under the Legal Services Act 2007 to provide independent advice to the Legal Services Board about the interests of consumers of legal services in England and Wales. The Panel investigates issues that affect consumers and use this information to influence decisions about the regulation of legal services, and is made up of eight lay members whose appointments are approved by the Lord Chancellor. The Panel’s report can be found here.

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