LSB consultation on technology and innovation guidance – Law Society response

We have responded to the Legal Services Board (LSB) consultation on its draft statutory guidance on promoting technology and innovation to improve access to legal services.

The proposals

The LSB’s draft statutory guidance for legal services regulators aims to promote:

  • greater access for consumers to a broader range of legal services that better meet their diverse needs;
  • a legal services market that is open to technology providers and legal services innovators who wish to enter the market and deliver services to consumers; and
  • improved access to justice and a reduction in unmet legal need.

If the guidance is introduced, the LSB will consider how regulators take account of it through its annual regulatory performance assessment.

Our view

We are broadly supportive of the LSB’s intentions to support the adoption of technology and innovation in the delivery of legal services to address legal needs.

However, while the consideration of technology and innovation to improve access to legal services and identification of regulatory obstacles to innovation by providing guidance is important, we do not believe that statutory guidance by the LSB is an appropriate or effective response given that:

  • the barriers to technology adoption, particularly amongst SME firms, are typically driven by financial and resource constraints; statutory guidance will neither change this landscape nor address these issues without additional support
  • there are different levels of skills, knowledge, and expertise regarding technology across firms of different sizes; there is a risk that regulators may not be sensitive to the context in which different legal service providers operate when implementing the guidance
  • addressing unmet legal needs and improving access to justice are complex, multifaceted challenges that technology alone cannot solve
  • wider consideration of challenges and potential risks for firms in technology and AI adoption, such as data protection and cybersecurity need more detailed consideration
  • we would have concerns if mandates for technology adoption (or similar) are a practical consequence of how regulators interpret the guidance
We recommend that exploring the need for overarching principles or non-statutory guidance, and sharing best practice, would be alternative, positive and sufficient first steps to promoting technology and innovation in the legal sector. This approach would also ensure a greater consistency of approach across the different regulators.

What this means for solicitors

Technology and AI innovation are evolving at a rapid pace and there is significant momentum driving its development that may have long-term transformative impact on the practice of law.

As a profession, this involves understanding both the opportunities and challenges new technologies bring.

We believe that statutory guidance will place significant regulatory and financial burdens that disproportionately affect SMEs, who are in a different position to large firms with higher capacity for technology innovation and dedicated teams to implement it.

Further, the legal profession itself is not a barrier to technology adoption.

Instead, there are significant historical, technical, financial, as well as human and organisational barriers that can prevent the adoption of technologies.

While technology can play an important role in improving access to legal services or addressing unmet legal need, it is not a silver bullet.

We believe that more fundamental remedies to address unmet legal need are necessary, such as restoring the availability of legal aid at sufficient monetary levels.

Next steps

The consultation closed on 2 October 2023.

Read the consultation on the LSB website.

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