By: 15 February 2021
ACSO calls for lawtech adoption to ensure better civil justice

Organisations working in civil justice will wither unless they adopt lawtech, according to a new report from the Association of Consumer Support Associations (ACSO). 

ACSO’s Technology and Innovation report is published to coincide with the arrival of new Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos, who is a noted proponent of technology and digital solutions in civil justice. 

ACSO executive director Matthew Maxwell Scott said that while the law wasn’t the most obvious place to look for technology and innovation, “the chaos in civil justice caused by the pandemic has put rocket fuel into the lawtech engine”.

He said: “Lawtech can increase efficiency, reduce costs and tackle the problem of incomplete or asymmetric consumer information. Technology is fast becoming the critical component to many claims processes.”

“Law firms and other claims organisations who fail to invest in technology will struggle to survive in a commercial landscape being shaped by changing consumer preferences, government reforms and other regulatory impacts.”

The ACSO report carries a number of recommendations for regulators and organisations, but the key finding for all parties is that consumers need to be at the heart of innovation—both as users of technology and in the context of regulatory safeguards. 

Maxwell Scott said: “Technology has helped keep the wheels of justice moving during the pandemic, for example through remote hearings. Even arcane practices such as sending payments by cheque are finally being consigned to history. Once the pandemic ends, we must not simply turn the dial back and tell consumers that they have to go back to face-to-face appointments and bundles of paper just because it suits some people’s business models.” 

He also cited the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) technology as a means of achieving quick settlements, avoiding lengthy delays for cases to come before the courts. 

“While ADR is widely used as a dispute resolution tool in other industries, including communications, energy and finance, its use is patchy in civil justice. With the support of the senior judiciary this could and should change.”

The report makes 14 recommendations, for both regulators and the claims industry.

For regulators of legal services:

  • Actively anticipate issues and provide guidance;
  • Reflect upon regulatory and auditing processes;
  • Provide clarity on liability in regard to harm caused by a LawTech product; 
  • Consider the regulation of unregulated legal service providers;
  • Consider ways of regulating the use of AI to safeguard consumers; 
  • Engage with stakeholders; and
  • Analyse and provide learnings from the insurtech and fintech markets. 

For the wider sector:

  • Put consumers at the heart of innovation;
  • Ensure technology is ethical in its design;
  • Embrace the momentum of change;
  • Seek commercial and collaborative opportunities with reputable technology organisations;
  • Make best use of lawtech testing initiatives
  • Analyse and provide learnings from insurtech and fintech; and
  • Promote best practice for data security.

Maxwell Scott continued: “These are common-sense recommendations to set a framework around which lawtech can further develop. Without clear guidelines and standards, there is a risk of creating a Wild West where anything goes. That may not be in the public interest.” 

ACSO plans to set up a technology and innovation working group that will be open to all parties with a stake in seeing the successful application of lawtech in the legal sector and the claims industry.

“There are welcome signs of a new spirit of consensus emerging between defendant and claimant sides as a result of the pandemic,” said Maxwell Scott. “ACSO strongly endorses this approach, and through the group we want to see the rapid development of LawTech that works for everyone, especially consumers.”