Technology and regulation

Click here for the latest paper/podcast – updated 6 May 2020


In its business plan 19/20, The LSB introduced a new policy objective focused on ensuring that regulation keeps pace with technological innovation. Projects being undertaken to deliver this objective are detailed below:

New technological innovations, including artificial intelligence applications like algorithmic decision-making, automated document assembly, and chatbots as well as other developments such as blockchain, have the potential to transform how legal services are provided, including making them more accessible and cheaper for consumers, but they also create risks for consumers and providers.

In November 2018, the LSB published a research report entitled Technology and Innovation in Legal Services which found that legal services providers want to make use of technological innovations, but many do not because of real, or perceived, regulatory, ethical and practical risks.

It will be up to the legal service regulators to anticipate and respond to the risks raised by new technologies so that legal service providers can use them to deliver better services to consumers.

As part of fulfilling its commitments in its current Strategy and Business Plan, the LSB is undertaking the following projects to assist the regulators in this work.

Developing approaches to regulation for the use of technology in legal services

We’re developing a new resource of information and advice for legal services regulators to use as they develop their respective approaches to technology regulation that meet the needs of the professions and consumers. To do this, we’ve invited experts in legal services and technology – including academics, legal professionals, and tech specialists – to contribute their views on these issues.

These experts have submitted papers examining a range of topics regulators will need to consider including:

  • International approaches to regulating technology in legal services
  • What legal services regulators can learn from other sectors – medicine and finance
  • Technological innovation and the Legal Services Act
  • Blockchain
  • The impact of technology on legal education
  • Ethics, technology and regulation

To complement these papers, each author has talked to us about their findings in ‘Talking Tech’, the LSB podcast.

Read the papers and listen to the interviews with their authors below. ‘Talking Tech’ is also available on iTunes, Spotify and Amazon’s Alexa.

Alongside these papers and podcasts, we have also published a collection of articles entitled Perspectives on LawTech and Regulation by several individuals and organisations. These articles show how different participants in the legal services sector perceive technological innovation and its capability to improve access to justice. They also outline the potential risks that face the sector, as well as the likely opportunities of lawtech, and how regulators can help ensure the benefits are realised.

NB: The views expressed in these papers and podcasts are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of the Legal Services Board. The Board will respond to the papers upon conclusion of the project in early 2020.

During the course of the project, the LSB also has written articles on the issues raised by the use of technology in legal services.

Part 1: Alison Hook: Lessons from abroad – international approaches to regulating legal technology

About this paper 

The paper explores the adoption of legal technology in key jurisdictions and how legal regulators are responding, before looking for possible lessons from other sectors. The report concludes with some recommendations addressed both to the LSB and the frontline legal regulators in England and Wales. The paper is accompanied by a podcast which is available below.

The Use and Regulation of Technology in the Legal Sector beyond England and Wales – Alison Hook [PDF]

Podcast transcript: Talking Tech part 1: Lessons from abroad

About Alison Hook

Alison is the co-founder of Hook Tangaza following the merger of Hook International and Tangaza Advisory Services in 2016. Alison leads on Hook Tangaza’s technical assistance, trade and regulatory work.

Before setting up Hook International in 2011, Alison was the Director of International at the Law Society of England and Wales where she played a leading role in advocating for more open legal markets and working with government to develop an export promotion strategy for UK legal services.

Earlier in her career, Alison worked for the European Commission, both in London and Brussels and for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and Lagos. She graduated in economics from the University of Edinburgh and holds a Masters in Economics from Warwick University and an MBA from the Open University.

Part 2: Professor Roger Brownsword: What can legal services regulators learn from medicine and finance?

About this paper

This paper considers how regulators in professional services sectors other than law, particularly health and financial services, are regulating new technologies used to deliver consumer services, and what lessons legal services regulators can learn from their experience.

The paper is accompanied by a podcast which is available below.

The Regulation of New Technologies in Professional Service Sectors in the United Kingdom: Key Issues and Comparative Lessons [PDF]


Podcast Transcript: Talking Tech episode 2: What can legal services learn from medicine and finance

About Roger Brownsword

Roger Brownsword holds professorial positions in Law at King’s College London and Bournemouth University, and he is an honorary Professor in Law at the University of Sheffield.

His many publications in the area of law and technology include Law and Human Genetics: Regulating a Revolution (Hart, 1998) (co-edited with W.R. Cornish, and M Llewelyn), Human Dignity in Bioethics and Biolaw (OUP, 2001) (with Deryck Beyleveld), Rights, Regulation and the Technological Revolution (OUP, 2008), Regulating Technologies (Hart, 2008) (co-edited with Karen Yeung), Law and the Technologies of the Twenty-First Century (CUP, 2012) (with Morag Goodwin), the Oxford Handbook on Law, Regulation and Technology (OUP, 2017) (co-edited with Eloise Scotford and Karen Yeung), and Law, Technology and Society: Re-imagining the Regulatory Environment (Routledge, 2019).

He is the founding general editor (with Han Somsen) of Law, Innovation and Technology; and he has been a specialist adviser to parliamentary committees as well as being a member of various committees, research groups, and working parties focusing on aspects of law and technology, most recently the Royal Society Working Party on Machine Learning.


Part 3: Professor Noel Semple: ‘Tending the Flame: Technology and the Legal Services Act 2007’

About this paper

This paper considers the different types of challenges that technological innovation poses to the Legal Services Act 2007’s regulatory framework, and whether the framework is capable of supporting technological innovation that benefits consumers while also addressing the risks it poses to them.

The paper makes some recommendations about how the current regime could be adapted to better address these challenges, but its overall conclusion is that the LSA regime remains capable, for the time being, of responding to them.

The paper is accompanied by a podcast which is available below.

Tending the Flame: Technological Innovation and the Legal Services Act Regime (PDF)


Podcast Transcript: Talking Tech episode three: Technology and the Legal Services Act

About Noel Semple

Noel Semple is Associate Professor at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. He studies access to justice.  His work asks how the law and legal institutions work in real life, and it aspires to improve their ability to do so. Empirical research (both quantitative and qualitative) and policy analysis are key tools in his scholarship. He draws upon and seeks to contribute to the law and society and empirical legal studies traditions. He teaches and writes in the fields of civil dispute resolution, legal ethics and professionalism, and family law.

Noel’s work has appeared in the International Journal of the Legal Profession, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, and the Family Court Review, among other journals. He has taught Legal Process at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and Children and the Law at the University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law.

Part 4: Dr Anna Donovan: Blockchain: Developing Regulatory Approaches for the Use of Technology in Legal Services

About this paper

This paper charts the evolution of blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies as tools for radically simplifying common legal tasks such as identity verification and contract fulfilment.

The paper is accompanied by a podcast which is available below.

Blockchain – Developing Regulatory Approaches for the Use of Technology in Legal Services [PDF]

Podcast Transcript: Talking Tech episode four: Reacting to new technologies: Blockchain

About Dr Anna Donovan

Anna Donovan is the inaugural Vice Dean (Innovation) at the Faculty of Laws, University College London and is also a member of the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies. Anna is a member of the UK LawTech Delivery Panel where she chairs the Education Taskforce. Anna regularly advises global law firms, tech companies and financial organisations on the adoption and regulation of LawTech and distributed ledger technologies, with a particular focus on smart contracts. Anna is currently a member of the BSI Steering Group developing industry standards for the utilisation of smart contracts. Anna is a qualified solicitor in England and Wales (currently non-practising), having spent eight years in corporate practice prior to academia. Anna is also admitted as an attorney-at-law in New York.

Part 5 – Dr Adam Wyner: LegalTech Education – Considerations for Regulators

About this paper

The paper considers what regulators can do to ensure that legal education addresses the challenges presented by LegalTech so that lawyers have the knowledge and skills required to shape and use technology to deliver legal services effectively and ethically. It outlines several propositions which it recommends the regulators promote to achieve this. It also reviews challenges in delivery and education and discusses ways that LegalTech education may be future-proofed, in accordance with the recommended propositions.

The paper is accompanied by a podcast which is available below.

LegalTech Education – Considerations for Regulators [PDF]

Podcast transcript: Talking Tech episode five: LegalTech Education – Considerations for Regulators

About the author

Adam Wyner has PhDs in Linguistics (Cornell University, 1994) and Computer Science (King’s College London, 2008). Currently an Associate Professor at Swansea University and holding a joint position in the School of Law and Department of Computer Science, he lectures and conducts research on Artificial Intelligence and Law. He has published on natural language processing (rule-based and machine learning), information extraction, ontologies, argumentation, controlled languages, case based reasoning, policy consultations, semantic web, and a machine-readable standard language for legal rules.

Part 6: Professor Lisa Webley – Ethics, Technology and Regulation

This paper considers the latest technological developments in the legal services context and how these may affect the current practice of law. Further, it will examine how these changes may give rise to ethical considerations similar to or distinct from those already affecting the profession and whether these may require a regulatory response. The paper will then examine questions that are raised about regulation in this context. Finally, it will provide some tentative conclusions about the ethics and regulation of use of technology in legal services.

Ethics, Technology and Regulation [PDF]

Podcast transcript: Talking Tech episode six: Ethics, Technology and Regulation

About the author

Professor Lisa Webley’s is Head of Birmingham Law School at the University of Birmingham. Her research concerns the regulation, education and ethicality and professionalism of the legal profession, and broader access to justice and rule of law concerns. She has been the Principal Investigator on several large research projects and has undertaken funded empirical research for public bodies and organisations including the European Commission; the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Trade and Industry, Jersey Finance Limited in the context of lawtech adoption and currently Innovate UK working with Engine B on a secure data exchange platform for professional services including legal work. She is head of research in CEPLER.

Lisa is General Editor of Legal Ethics and Co-Director of the Legal Education Research Network. She holds visiting professorships at the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre at Victoria University Australia and at the University of Portsmouth, and has been a visiting scholar at Melbourne University and Hong Kong University. She holds a Senior Research Fellowship at IALS, University of London. She is co-author (with Harriet Samuels) of the Complete Public Law: Text, Cases and Materials (OUP) and Legal Writing (Routledge). She was awarded the OUP Law Teacher of the Year prize 2016. She holds the Chair in Legal Education and Research and is Head of Birmingham Law School, at the University of Birmingham.The Legal Services Act 2007 (the Act) created the LSB as a new regulator with responsibility for overseeing the regulation of legal services in England and Wales. The new regulatory regime became active on 1 January 2010.

Perspectives on Lawtech and Regulation

About the papers and list of contributors

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has published a new collection of articles on legal technology by 11 individuals and organisations, including a judge, a national barristers’ chambers, tech firms and regulators.

The articles show how different parts of the legal services sector perceive technological innovation and how, in their view, technology may improve access to justice. They outline the potential risks that face the sector, as well as the likely opportunities of lawtech, and how regulators can help ensure the benefits are realised.

The articles’ authors are:

  • Owen Derbyshire, Member of the Legal Services Consumer Panel
  • Julia Salasky, CEO, Legl
  • Chris Handford, Director of Regulatory Policy, Solicitors Regulation Authority
  • Felix Brown, Policy Officer, CILEx Regulation
  • Simon Davis, President, The Law Society
  • Dr Birgit Clark, Lead Knowledge Lawyer IP & Technology at Baker McKenzie, on behalf of CITMA
  • Sir Geoffrey Vos, Chancellor of the High Court.
  • Mariette Hughes, Head Ombudsman, Legal Ombudsman
  • Stephen Ward, Managing Director, Clerksroom Barristers Chambers
  • Elizabeth Comley, Deputy General Counsel and Head of Data Protection, Slater & Gordon
  • Lorraine Robinson, Head of Legal, Farewill

Technology Articles

During the course of this project, the LSB has published articles looking at various aspects of legal technology and its regulation, which are collected here.

Further information

For more information on this project, please contact the project manager, Aisling O’Connell.

Promoting the wider use of regulatory sandboxes

In addition to the work described above , we will also be undertaking a project to promote the wider use of ‘sandboxes’ by sector regulators. Sandboxes are a way for regulators to create a ‘safe space’ where providers  can develop  their innovations and test them with real consumers under the regulators’ supervision. Further details of this project are forthcoming.

Next steps

The LSB has also announced plans to provide practical support to regulators by setting up an expert reference group to share knowledge, consider issues and act as a route for partners to engage with the legal regulators collectively. The group will involve technology experts and practitioners from outside of the regulatory bodies as well as representatives from the regulators.