Profession takes strides to formalise digital transformation

The Law Society of England and Wales has today published the outcomes from its lawtech, ethics and the rule of law discussion paper, unveiling a set of principles and guidance that would be beneficial for the solicitors’ profession.

In the face of COVID-19, the justice system moved online, pushing the profession to modernise quicker than expected.

But digital transformation is only successful when the capabilities of people are built and the functionality, limits and benefits of tools are understood.

Solicitors are bound by ethical standards and lawtech solutions must serve their needs while complying with these regulations.

In 2020, we conducted a series of 30 interviews with law firms, sole practitioners and alternative business structures to understand how lawtech solutions are designed, developed, used and procured and the ethical considerations that come into play.*

“We have proposed five main principles to inform lawtech design, development and deployment. At its heart is client care, so lawtech can be used in a way which meets solicitors’ professional duties to their clients,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“These principles include compliance, lawfulness, capability, transparency and accountability and they will likely increase consumer choice, create clarity and reduce time spent on procurement.

“A more stable and predictable environment will also be created for lawtech developers, as they will have a better understanding of the profession’s standards and match their products with these standards.

“We hope this research will be the first step to digitally transforming the profession in a way which stays true to solicitors’ ethical obligations.”

Notes to editors

In late 2019 we conducted extensive desk research on use of technology in legal services, barriers to adoption and innovation, and lawtech governance landscapes at home and abroad.

The comparator jurisdictions were selected based on a lawtech: comparative jurisdiction analysis, which identified emerging lawtech ecosystems globally. We sought to understand how practitioners were being empowered to design, develop and adopt technologies.

In 2020 we conducted extensive interviews with the profession to understand their experience and ask whether best practice on ethical considerations that should be made during the development, procurement or use of legal technology would be helpful.

We published a discussion paper considering these questions and a summary of the main literature available.

We recommend that our framework includes a clear definition of lawtech terminology, in order to dispel confusion and create a common terminology that is accessible for solicitors and lawtech providers.

* We received 11 written responses from the largest 50 law firms, lawtech providers and trade associations, as well as 17 verbal responses from other legal service providers. We also conducted qualitative interviews with stakeholders including the SRA, Legal Services Board, Financial Conduct Authority and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

Solicitors must comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Standards and Regulations (STaRs).

Read our lawtech and ethics principles report

Read the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Standard and Regulations

Read the lawtech, ethics and the rule of law discussion paper

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Naomi Jeffreys | 020 8049 3928

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