How the Legal Access Challenge is designing legal services for all
For many people, getting legal help when you need it is a complex, confusing and costly experience. As a result, many simply don’t get the support they need. This includes both the most vulnerable but also a majority of the public and small businesses.
According to previous research commissioned by Nesta Challenges, six in ten (58%) people in England and Wales think the legal system is not set up for ordinary people, whilst 43% of small business owners and self-employed people believe that legal advice is reserved for big businesses or those that can afford it
Whilst advances in technology are being embraced within larger law firms and large corporate legal departments, progress in the use of technology to make legal services work better for the public and SMEs has been slower. Technology is not a silver bullet that will solve the serious access to justice problems faced by many. However, we think that it does have an important role to play in improving accessibility and affordability of legal support.
Getting legal help when you need it is a complex, confusing and costly experience
In late May 2019 Nesta Challenges launched the Legal Access Challenge in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Innovators were invited to apply with solutions which demonstrate how digital technology can directly help individuals and SMEs to understand and resolve their legal problems in more affordable and accessible ways.
Applications closed on 11 August, and with 117 applications received the number and quality of entries meant that the judging panel had a difficult task selecting 8 finalists.
The finalists will each receive a £50,000 grant and expert support to develop their proposals over the next six months. Two of the finalists will go on to be named winners of the Legal Access Challenge in April 2020, receiving a further £50,000 each to invest in their product.
In addition to accelerating the development of the finalists’ solutions, the Challenge aims to develop learning to inform the SRA’s regulation. Engaging directly with the finalists is intended to provide the regulator with deeper insights into the barriers to innovation in lawtech, as well as insight into where further guidance or adaptations to their regulatory approach might be needed.
We are excited to announce the finalists of the Legal Access Challenge:
Doteveryone and Resolver
MyDigitalRights is a free and independent one-stop shop for people to exercise their digital rights and access systems of redress when online services fail to respect them.
People are being left behind by the pace of regulatory and technological change online. Even those with the understanding and capital to keep up with this flux face complex and onerous complaints systems to hold online services accountable.
MyDigital Rights users will answer 8 simple questions to articulate the issue they face online, understand how their rights are affected and access streamlined support from ombudsman, regulators, legal support and digital advocates.
Formily is a web application that breaks down Form E and FDA disclosure documents for litigants in family financial remedy proceedings, and helps users to complete them through ‘plain English’ questions and easy-to-understand guidance.
Completing Form E is compulsory; the cost, time and litigation consequences of getting it wrong can be immense. It is a long, complicated form to complete correctly without a lawyer – but contains information that is exclusively known by the litigant, not their adviser.
Formily allows litigants-in-person to attend their first hearing with the confidence that their documents are properly prepared and presented as a lawyer would.
Glow is a public facing platform enabling individuals and SME’s to efficiently take legal action against organisations in the form of Group Litigation Orders, a legal mechanism allowing groups of common individual claims to be treated as one, enabling collective bargaining power and cost sharing amongst claimants.
At present forming and managing these groups is incredibly arduous and time-consuming as these claims often affect large numbers of people.
We aim to simplify the process, not only for claimants but for solicitors, litigation funders and insurers. Glow enables these parties to unite and become a powerful force against organisations acting illegally.
Mencap’s legal chatbot will deliver early legal help and advice around community care and welfare benefits, directly to people that need it most.
It will be accessible and free to users, available 24/7, and will provide essential information and advice for people with learning disabilities, their families and carers.
A legal chatbot is like an automated legal brain. Users will ask the chatbot questions about legal problems, and the chatbot is programmed to respond to these messages with the relevant advice needed. The chatbot uses IBM Watson technology and as it develops, it will converse and answer more complex queries.
Organise is developing an anti-harassment app to help employees record and challenge workplace harassment.
Thousands of people in the UK face harassment, bullying and discrimination at work. Gathering evidence is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to holding companies to account. We’re helping people gather evidence and challenge illegal behaviour by employers through our ‘TakeNote app’. The app lets you log time-stamped emails, diary entries, photos or voice entries, then helps you download a legal friendly case file that you can take to HR, lawyers, or your union rep.”
FLOWS is at the proof-of-concept stage with the three main tools which will enable women and children to protect themselves from violence, gain court-orders, access legal aid and navigate court-processes and the front line workers who assist them be more confident in using legal remedies.
Our tools are:
- CourtNav – the online application for FL401, the Non-Molestation order
- The online app that Police and Statutory organisations can use to refer a woman to CourtNav and FLOWS
- The FLOWS online form for front line workers which supports frontline domestic abuse workers and facilitates peer-support and the sharing of best practice.
Resolve Disputes Online (RDO)
Disputes cost small and medium sized enterprises millions of pounds in lost revenue, legal costs and opportunity cost. Disputes are a costly distraction for running a business and the emotional and cultural stresses can also be significant.
Imagine if UK business leaders could get their disputes resolved quickly allowing them to get on with the things that really matter like running their business?
RDO is creating an online dispute service for SMEs in the UK where businesses can resolve their disputes with the help of independent mediators and arbitrators.
Solomonic’s AI technology analyses 1,000s of previous employment tribunal judgments, applies data analytics to such cases and then packages the information into an SaaS “Litigation Friend” platform.
Employees will use “Litigation Friend” in their dispute with their employer to gain access to key decision making information which they would only usually get if they could afford to pay for legal advice.
Information such as “What are my chances of success?” “What damages am I likely to receive?”,“Should I settle?” “How has my judge decided cases like mine before?” “How long will it take for my case to be heard?”