EMBARGOED UNTIL 0001, 26 SEPTEMBER 2019 – Eight finalists have secured £50,000 each in funding to develop technological solutions to broaden access to legal services in England and Wales. Solutions include a tool to aid group litigation, AI technology that supports employees during disputes with their employer, and a one-stop-shop to help consumers exercise their digital rights and access systems of redress when online services fail them.
Run in partnership by Nesta Challenges and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Legal Access Challenge aims to make legal support more accessible and affordable for individuals and small businesses through new technology. The Challenge attracted 117 high-quality applications from a diverse range of teams.
According to previous research commissioned as part of the Challenge, six in ten (58%) people in England and Wales think the legal system is not set up for ordinary people, whilst 43% of small businesses owners and self-employed people believe that legal advice is reserved for big businesses or those that can afford it.
Innovators were challenged to propose technological solutions to this ‘legal gap’ which sees vulnerable people and small and medium businesses trying to solve legal problems without the help they need. From the 117 entries received the judging panel – chaired by the SRA’s Chair Anna Bradley – selected the eight most promising concepts to move on to the final round. Each team has been awarded £50,000 to develop their legal access innovation over the next six months.
The finalists are:
The finalists will work with Nesta Challenges and the SRA to develop their products and bring them to fruition over the next six months. This will include support from the SRA on regulatory implications and consumer testing. In addition, finalists will receive:
Two of the finalists will go on to be named winners of the Legal Access Challenge in March 2020, receiving a further £50,000 each to invest in their product, bringing the total prize fund to £500,000.
Over and above encouraging innovation in legal services for individuals and small businesses, the Legal Access Challenge aims to develop learning to inform the SRA’s regulatory approach to innovation and to help the market provide technological solutions safely and ethically.
The Challenge is also working to support collaboration between innovators and to better understand the barriers to bringing ideas to market.
Anna Bradley, SRA chair and chair of the Legal Access Challenge judging panel said: “With 117 entries and so many excellent ideas, we had a tough job. Many more could have made the cut, but the standard of the eight winners was exceptional.
“We have a great mix of winners, using tech in different ways, and offering solutions that will benefit people in very different situations. People in their personal and working lives, some of the most vulnerable - victims of domestic violence and those with learning difficulties - as well as small business.
“Legal services should be for everyone, not just the minority who currently use them. Technology could be a real game changer. We will be working closely with all the winners to support their work, and make sure our regulatory approach is up to the new questions technology will pose.”
Chris Gorst, Head of Better Markets, Nesta Challenges said: “Too many people and small businesses struggle to access legal services in England and Wales when they need them. We believe technology can contribute to fixing this. From the range of proposals submitted to the Legal Access Challenge the UK’s innovators clearly agree. We’re looking forward to working closely with the finalists announced today to make their concepts a reality for the benefit of people and small businesses across the country.
“The Legal Access Challenge demonstrates the impact policymakers and regulators can have with proactive approaches to innovation where markets aren’t delivering the outcomes we expect from them.”
Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “This government-funded Challenge will kickstart innovation in our legal sector, supporting firms to bring new products and services to the legal advice market that have the potential to change people's lives for the better.
"From providing legal advice for people with learning difficulties through chatbots, to an app that can document bullying in the workplace, I look forward to the creative solutions these successful contestants will develop thanks to our Regulators’ Pioneer Fund.”
The Challenge and associated projects and research supporting the wider programme, have been made possible by a grant from the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund launched by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and administered by Innovate UK. The fund enables UK regulators to develop innovation-enabling approaches to emerging technologies and unlock the long-term economic opportunities identified in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.
For more information about the Legal Access Challenge, visit legalaccesschallenge.org
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Alex Woolley, co-founder, Formily said: “We are over the moon to be a finalist in the Legal Access Challenge. Sorting out finances on divorce is difficult enough, litigants shouldn’t have their access to justice limited by an inability to understand painfully complicated, court-mandated forms. Formily solves that problem. The award will allow us to radically improve the technology behind our solution.”
Georgina Hollis, co-founder, Glow by Duo Ventures said: “We are delighted to be announced as a finalist of the Legal Access Challenge. The challenge is a great initiative and we hope that together, with the other finalists and partners, we can collectively drive change and improve access to justice for individuals and SMEs.”
Kari Gerstheimer, director of information and advice, Mencap said: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for us. Mencap works to improve the lives of the 1.5 million people with a learning disability and their families in the UK. We are overwhelmed with requests for help from people who are being denied access to social care and welfare benefits. Mencap’s legal chatbot would revolutionise the way people with a learning disability can access justice.”
Hannah Kitcher from Doteveryone, creators of MyDigitalRights, said: “Doteveryone is thrilled to be a Legal Access Challenge finalist and join a community of organisations using technology to improve people’s rights. Our research shows people struggle to navigate digital services with complex T&Cs and opaque complaints processes. Our service will empower people to understand their rights and seek redress when things go wrong.”
Tara Grossman from Solomonic, creators of Litigation Friend, said: “Solomonic is developing a platform to assist employees and SMEs who have employment law issues to gain access to key information which is not currently available. The Legal Access Challenge funding will allow us to analyse thousands of employment tribunal judgments, apply data analytics to such cases and then package the information into a software as a system (SaaS) platform. Our solution is targeted to help individuals and SMEs. Ultimately, we expect it will make for more rational decision-making in the context of employment litigation.”
Alison Lamb, chief executive, RCJ Advice said: “The Legal Access Challenge funding will help us embed and further develop several solutions we have devised to ensure women facing abuse are safe, including CourtNav, our online application to complete a non-molestation order and be linked with a legal aid solicitor; a referral app for police where they can safely share details of women who have experienced domestic abuse with our FLOWS team, and; an online discussion forum for front line workers that creates a safe peer supported space. We want to ensure women experiencing domestic abuse access the protection afforded by legal aid and representation and that our technological developments widen access to legal advice.”
Joe Al-Khayat, co-founder, Resolve Disputes Online (RDO)
"The Legal Access Challenge's mission to improve access to justice speaks to our whole ethos and why RDO started in the first place. We are very much aligned to the UN's sustainability goal to improve global access to justice and already we provide our technology to governments and private mediation centres in jurisdictions such the USA, Canada, Singapore, Thailand and Australia. As a team of UK lawyers, we are thrilled to be able to help our home jurisdiction innovate and ease the pain points of disputes for consumers and businesses in England and Wales."
Nat Whalley, executive director, Organise, creators of TakeNote app said: "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. That’s why Organise applied to the Legal Access Challenge. We’re helping people gather evidence and challenge illegal behaviour by employers through our ‘TakeNote app’”
Further quotes from and details about all eight finalists are available.
Methodology: Nesta commissioned Opinium to carry out research with 1,776 UK adults from England and Wales, including 183 self-employed and small business owners and was weighted to reflect a nationally representative audience. The research took place between 29 March-2 April 2019.
About Nesta Challenges
Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better.
Within Nesta, Nesta Challenges uses challenge prizes to stimulate innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face. Challenge prizes are a simple but powerful idea. A problem or opportunity is identified, the challenge is publicised and rewards are offered to those who can deliver the best solutions.
Nesta Challenges’ Better Markets team works with regulators, policymakers and innovative enterprises to make markets more competitive and open. We advise regulators and policymakers how regulatory reforms and targeted public investment programmes can work together to achieve greater impact.
About the Solicitors Regulation Authority
The SRA is the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales, protecting consumers and supporting the rule of law and the administration of justice. The SRA does this by overseeing all education and training requirements necessary to practise as a solicitor, licensing individuals and firms to practise, setting the standards of the profession and regulating and enforcing compliance against these standards. Further information is available at www.sra.org.uk
Legal Access Challenge
The Legal Access Challenge is a £500,000 legal technology fund. We want to see a legal services market which uses technology to make legal services more affordable and accessible, helping more people and SMEs get the legal help they need.
Delivered by Nesta Challenges in partnership with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the Challenge has three aims:
The Challenge has been made possible by a grant from the £10m Regulators’ Pioneer Fund launched by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and administered by Innovate UK. The fund enables UK regulators to develop innovation-enabling approaches to emerging technologies and unlock the long-term economic opportunities identified in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.