Access to Justice: using technology to close the gap

Technology has the potential to democratise the law, but up until now,  access to technology was the realm of large law firms. With cuts to legal aid, the government is now keen to help smaller firms use technology to help plug the gap between the cost of legal services and the access to them.

The Legal Access Challenge is a programme jointly administered by Nesta Challenges in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to help more people access legal support through digital technology. It was set to help improve access to justice for all by looking at: 

  • How far can tech go in making legal support accessible and affordable to everybody? Is tech going to transform how people experience legal services?
  • What barriers are holding back innovation in tech that directly helps people to resolve their legal problems?
  • Who should play what part in encouraging a new generation of digital legal services?

I started my career working for a large corporate law firm, then later moved to legal aid. The work I was able to do with legal aid inspired me but government cuts made it very difficult to work in legal aid. I eventually set up my own firm to continue that work, without the pressure of government cuts.

What I’ve seen during this journey is that the difference between the large corporate law firms and the small legal aid law firms is not a difference of skill and expertise but is, instead, a difference of means. The large law firms have the resources and the staff to provide the type of individualised service that many of our clients need, especially with immigration law. 

Technology closes this gap. 

I first became aware of automation technology when I set up my own firm in 2015. When I started, I replicated what I had already experienced as much as possible. However, I realised fairly quickly that there was a simpler and easier way to do things. I set up my firm, Ansar,  to provide a high-quality, personal service to my clients and I discovered that technology helps me do that in a cost-effective way. 

 As I remember, legal aid did not use automation when I worked in that field. Many lawyers felt that technology was not right for their clients. They saw automation as an impersonal service but I see it as the opposite. Clients pay for the personal attention we can provide. Automation gives me the time to provide that service. 

Technology increases the access to legal services despite cuts in legal aid and the stagnation of people’s wages even as government fees for immigration services continue to rise.

Government fees are a fixed cost. This leaves less to pay for legal costs. We can’t bargain with the government so we had to find a way to provide vital services

I can do more with less, more simply. With workflow automation I can establish a procedure to follow for a large customer base. With document automation I can automate the common actions and spend my time on the activities and service that needs to be more personalised to each individual case and each individual client.  

I went into this business to practice law and was surprised by how much non-legal work lawyers do. Using technology enables me to practice law instead of doing all the other stuff.

Is Biglaw ready?

Is Biglaw ready for the benefits of transformational change?

One of the main barriers to the adoption of Lawtech is the oft-quoted misconception that “Lawtech is just a fad.” The more history a firm has and the greater loyalty towards legacy systems, the more likely this sentiment will raise its head.

While trends in new innovation are often surrounded by a certain amount of hype, that doesn’t mean that all new innovation is a fly-by-night fad. There’s a big difference between knowing what is genuinely valuable and discounting something just because it’s not been tried before.

Technology has changed everything in the workplace, both in the legal profession, and in the day-to-day lives of clients. Imagine going back just a few years and working without the easily accessible resources that we now take for granted, for example,  your smart phone. Only a few short years ago most people would have never guessed that we would be able to facetime our loved ones at any time from almost anywhere, through free and accessible wifi. Today a 5-year-old can do it. 

Lawtech is evolving in the same way. Technology is constantly developing to fit the constantly changing demands of the legal sector. Those who embrace these changes have the opportunity to drive business transformation, while others risk being left behind. 

Clients today expect instant access to all services, including their lawyers, while price alerts, peer ratings and social media significantly weaken customer loyalty.  Add to this, the increased use of apps and online services for simple transactions and the future looks grim for law firms that cling to traditional business models.

Innovation is the key to minimizing this risk. However, implementing technology for technology’s sake is never a good strategy. Instead of throwing technology at a problem, the most successful digital transformation looks at business challenges first, then integrates the right technology. This gives Biglaw an advantage over seemingly more agile, smaller law firms. Larger firms have the resources to evaluate, integrate and test technology to achieve the best business outcome. 

According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036. The report estimates that technology has already contributed to the loss of more than 31,000 jobs in the sector. There’s a silver lining here, though: an overall increase of approximately 80,000 roles.  Most of these roles are higher skilled and better paid than the ones lost to automation. 

By lowering the price of law it becomes accessible to a broader market while freeing highly skilled workers to spend more time on the tasks humans do best, such as advising clients, leading negotiations and appearing in court.  Instead of replacing staff, Lawtech can help law firms do the work they were already doing, but better, for more clients.   

What’s not to like about that?


An Intro To AUTTO

How to Automate a Complex Process without Writing a Line of Code

  • Date: 31 March 2022
  • Time 14:00 BST
  • Host: Ian Gosling, Founder of AUTTO

Hi there,

AUTTO is a no-codebusiness and document automation platform. No-code means you can build tailor-made automated processes without having to be a developer.

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