The impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated just how critical it is for legal service providers to be able to adapt and respond quickly to unprecedented changes in the way the legal sector operates and the needs of clients. Prior to the crisis, the UK legal services sector had already begun to embrace technology as a means of enabling automation of processes, improving work-flow management and reducing time-consuming work. The necessity to make fundamental changes to the ways in which the legal sector operates and the challenges to the economy resulting from the global pandemic are now bringing an even greater urgency to develop and deploy legal technology. 

With the UK already a leader in legal services and technology, there has been an increasing appetite to support the UK's legal technology sector. In 2018 the then Lord Chancellor, David Gauke, now Head of Public Policy at Macfarlanes, launched the Lawtech Delivery Panel and last year the Ministry of Justice announced £2m funding to support the growth of legal technology. It has now been announced that this investment will be used to fund a legal technology sandbox. 

The sandbox sits at the centre of LawtechUK's vision to transform the UK legal sector through technology. LawtechUK is a collaborative initiative between the Lawtech Delivery Panel, Tech Nation and the Ministry of Justice.

The sandbox will operate in a similar way to the FCA's regulatory sandbox which has played a key role in the growth of the UK fintech sector. It will be an R&D environment within which technology businesses, public bodies and the legal sector can come together to innovate, test and learn about new products.  

Other plans include an SME dispute resolution platform to provide an alternative method to resolve late payment disputes, an online hub and training centre with free digital courses and open access data, and a series of toolkits.

Technology and innovation will be vital to ensuring the economy can adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and enable the economic recovery once the public health crisis has passed and the legal services sector can play a large part in this.

At Macfarlanes, our legal technology practice develops technological solutions for legal problems, offering new and innovative ways of tackling our clients’ most complex issues and enhancing and streamlining the firm’s existing services. As an integrated part of the firm, the team benefits from the strong relationships and in-depth knowledge that we already have of our clients, their businesses and the issues they face. This understanding enables us to work directly with clients to provide custom-built solutions, often designed from the ground up, to fulfil their specific legal needs and requirements.