Law Society looks at how to boost legal aid innovation

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

For all that we hear the legends of Steve Jobs designing his first Apple hardware from out of a damp and mildewy garage, presumably while living on Pot Noodles and sporting very worn-out jeans, there’s no getting away from it: building new tech innovations takes money. And money, as we are all only too well aware, is does not grow on trees. 

With this in the mind, the Law Society is turning its mighty intelligence to the question of how legal aid can be supported by the use of IT innovations. Presenting a submission to a legal aid review for the Labour party, the Society noted that there was  ‘scope for innovation’ to create ‘bespoke technological solutions that reflect their businesses and meet the needs of their clients’.  As ever, the key question hanging over this promising-sounding proposal was: how much is it going to cost? And where we will get the money from? 

Undaunted, the Society is considering whether there may be ways to develop an ‘innovation fund’, which would give grants ‘to firms that have ideas for ways of using technology to improve access to justice.’  A paper is set to be presented at the Labour Party conference to the former justice minister Lord Bach. Nor is this proposal entirely without precedent: the Partnership Initiative Budget operated under what was once the Legal Services Commission, and could offer a model for future ways to find innovation developments.  It’s hoped that the fund could comprise streams of income a variety of  sources, focusing specifically on the thorny issue of how to use tech to boost the notoriously beleaguered legal aid scheme. 

In its submission, the Society said, ‘We are still in the early stages of considering this idea, but our initial thinking is that such a fund might be generated from a combination of private, third sector and public sector sources. We believe it is worth looking again at the fundamental point that legal aid currently works on the basis of paying individually for each of millions of pieces of advice provided.’ 

At Legastat, we warmly welcome the Regulator’s moves to embrace tech innovation as a means to improve access to justice. It is all to easy to think of IT and tech as being intriguing, clever ways to make the daily business swifter, more efficient and more bearable: digital bundles instead of several pounds of paper wheeled in a suitcase, predictive coding software instead of thousands of hours of manual review. It’s encouraging to see the Law Society ‘thinking big’, and looking at how legal tech can tackle some of the most serious and pressing issues facing the legal landscape today. 

If you are considering how to make use of the often bewildering range of legal tech on offer, call the expert litigation support professionals at Legastat now, and we can begin working with you as soon as possible.  

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