Launching the Legal Access Challenge

The Legal Access Challenge, a new challenge prize which aims to help more people access legal support through digital technology, has launched today. We’re excited to be working with the Solicitors Regulation Authority on this Challenge, which has been made possible by a grant from the Regulators’ Pioneer Fund launched by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and administered by Innovate UK.

Widening access to legal support

Just one in three individuals with a legal problem get help from any kind of expert advisor, and only one in ten individuals or small businesses gets advice from a solicitor or barrister. With around half of adults having a legal need in the last three years, millions of people are missing out on getting the support they need.

This can have a lasting impact on people’s lives if they are not able to defend their rights when dealing with family breakdowns, unfair dismissal, difficulties with landlords, problems accessing the help and benefits they are entitled to and faulty products/services.

The implications are just as serious for small businesses. Legal services can help them succeed - enable them to take on their first employee, their first lease, or complete their first online sale. Accessible legal services support our economy - but only if businesses can reach and afford them.

How can technology help?

Technology holds potential to transform the legal sector in many ways, from improving the efficiency and quality of service provided by advisors, through to moving court processes online.

The Legal Access Challenge is focusing on technology innovations which improve the way that people and SMEs experience legal services, using digital technologies to make obtaining legal support more affordable, understandable and convenient. Technology can help achieve this by reducing costs through automation and presenting tailored information in an easily digestible format.

Technology has transformed many sectors in ways that benefit consumers, but digital solutions have been slow to emerge in legal services for the majority. The Legal Access Challenge aims to demonstrate the potential of digital solutions to help many more people access the legal support they need.

Working with the Solicitors Regulation Authority

The Legal Access Challenge builds on Nesta’s previous work on how regulators can best support responsible innovation and competition. It also forms part of the SRA’s wider programme to drive innovation in the legal sector. The Solicitors Regulation Authority will be engaging with innovators throughout the Challenge to find out if their regulatory approach needs to be adapted to enable the safe adoption of technology-enabled services and to learn about any barriers.

What we’re looking for

The Legal Access Challenge is seeking 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.

We welcome applications from a diverse mix of entities, including legal tech startups, law firms, alternative legal providers, advice sector organisations and teams based at law schools.

Four finalists will receive grants of £50,000 to develop their solutions, with an additional £50,000 prize in Spring 2020 awarded to a winner from the four. Finalists will also have access to tailored, expert support, based on their individual needs.

Visit the challenge website to find full details about the Legal Access Challenge and to apply.


Nicola Tulk

Nicola Tulk

Nicola Tulk

Programme Manager, Nesta Challenges

At Nesta Challenges, Nicola was programme manager of The Legal Access Challenge, delivered by Nesta in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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