What was the Legal Access Challenge?
Delivered by Nesta Challenges in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the challenge called for legal tech startups, law firms, alternative legal providers, advice organisations and law schools to develop ambitious direct-to-user products, services and platforms.
The technologies used could include guided pathways, expert systems, chatbots, automated document assembly, natural language processing, machine learning and online dispute resolution platforms. This was an open call however, and we welcomed new ideas beyond what is currently available in the market.
Challenge timeline (click and scroll to the right)
30 May 2019
11 Aug 2019
8 Sept 2019
8 finalists announced
8 April 2020
2 winners announced
Why did we run the Challenge?
At present, too many people and small businesses struggle to access or afford legal help when they need it. Consumer research carried out for the Legal Access Challenge in England and Wales showed that 58% of respondents believe the legal system is not set up for ordinary people, with the vast majority wanting it to be easier for people to access legal support. The legal services market lags behind other sectors in embracing digital technologies and adopting the kinds of innovation that have transformed and enhanced other parts of the economy. While there are increasing resources going into lawtech, much of this is focused on commercial law and large corporate use cases. Direct to consumer lawtech solutions promise to make legal services accessible and affordable to far greater numbers of people, and it is these types of solutions that the Legal Access Challenge has sought to promote.
The Challenge supported eight finalists whose innovations aimed to make legal services more accessible and affordable for individuals, families and small businesses. Backed by a £50,000 grant and expert support programme, each finalist had until April 2020 to develop their solution. Two of the most promising finalists were then awarded £50,000 to help bring their solutions to market.
63% of people...
do not believe that professional legal advice is affordable for ‘ordinary people’
of individuals gets professional help with their legal problems
The average small business...
faces 8 legal issues every year, but only 1 in 10 takes advice from a solicitor or barrister
The finalists in the Legal Access Challenge
The Legal Access Challenge attracted 117 applications from a diverse range of teams. Applications were assessed against the published assessment criteria, with an expert judging panel selecting eight finalists to participate in the Challenge.
The challenge supported eight finalists whose innovations aimed to make legal services more accessible and affordable for individuals, families and small businesses. Backed by a £50,000 grant and expert support programme, each finalist had six months to develop their solution.
Developed by two specialist family lawyers, Formily is a web application that helps litigants in person, solicitors and their clients automate the lengthy and mandatory completion of Form E during a divorce proceeding.
Glow by Duo Ventures
Glow provides a central hub for victims to unite, take collective action and shine a light on civil rights injustices by running a campaign, lobbying the Government or taking legal action.
Litigation Friend by Solomonic
A web based diagnostic tool that helps unrepresented employees bring a claim against their employer.
A legal information virtual assistant that provides free, accessible legal information 24/7, helping people, including vulnerable customers and people with a learning disability, to know their social care rights and challenge unlawful decisions.
MyDigitalRights by Doteveryone and Resolver
An accessible one-stop-shop for the public to exercise their digital rights and access redress for issues they’ve experienced online
CourtNav and FLOWS are tools which enables survivors of domestic abuse to get legal help to protect themselves from abuse, gain court-orders, access legal aid and navigate court-processes, as well as allowing the frontline workers who assist them to be confident using legal remedies.
Resolve Disputes Online
A series of online negotiation and mediation tools which helps consumers and businesses resolve disputes.
TakeNote app by Organise
Take Note is a mobile app that documents evidence of discrimination, harassment and wrongdoing in the workplace.
86% of applicants...
were motivated by the positive social impact to take part in the challenge
The quantity, quality and breadth of the entries was so impressive...
that we were able to secure extra funding to double the number of finalists
51% of the proposed solutions...
covered multiple legal problems, reflecting the potential for tech-based solutions to cut across legal silos
Two winners were announced in April 2020 and were each awarded an additional £50,000 prize to bring their solutions to market. Read more below about the innovations that are empowering people and small businesses in need of legal help.
The winners of the Legal Access Challenge
CourtNav and FLOWS by RCJ Advice and Rights of Women
Support to help domestic abuse survivors through innovative platforms that effectively integrate technology with human advice and support. CourtNav collects evidence for a non-molestation order application and links female and male survivors in England and Wales with an accredited domestic abuse legal aid solicitor. A referral app for frontline workers (such as police officers or refuge staff) refers people at risk to the legal help they need. Meanwhile, FLOWS (Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors) specifically empowers women survivors to easily find clear information and local legal support as well as offering a secure webchat app that women can use quickly and discreetly. The FLOWS Discussion Forum also enables practitioners to share advice with peers via a secure platform.
The Chatbot, developed by Mencap and Access Social Care
A legal information service for the hundreds of thousands with social care needs, the chatbot uses IBM Watson technology to provide free, accessible legal information, particularly for those who are experiencing challenges accessing care. The chatbot enables Access and Mencap to more effectively meet demand for advice by using technology to complement the human expertise of their advisors, allowing them to answer more queries and help more people. Using artificial intelligence, it learns from interactions as people use it, including legal caseworkers and care managers who have been involved in the testing. It helps people understand their rights and access justice, as well as allowing lawyers and advisers to allocate more time to the most complex cases. The chatbot can also be hosted on the websites of other advice organisations to reach even more people.