The Law Society of England and Wales published their ‘Law Society Lawtech and Ethics Principles’ report last week (28th July 2021). The report, influenced by interviews with the UK’s largest law firms, states it is intended to guide informed decision-making in relation to Lawtech and encourage uptake of the advantages it has to offer. By outlining the benefits (for all parties) of implementing Lawtech and reporting on the experiences of lawyers in using it, the Law Society has advanced five main principles that it believes should inform the design, development and deployment of Lawtech into the profession. The purpose of such principles is to empower Lawtech users to apply best practice in relation to the potential ethical considerations its usage might raise.
The Law Society defines Lawtech as technology which assists and enables the delivery of legal and dispute resolution services. Document automation and smart legal contracts are listed as an example of products that fit under this umbrella term.
The Benefits of Lawtech
As aforementioned, the Law Society commenced their report (Section II) by outlining the ‘Benefits of Digital Transformation’. The report discusses how these capabilities empower people to work in new ways, unlocking new benefits. Figure 1 shows how the report identifies the benefits for each of the parties.
An overarching theme of the report is that the client should be at the centre of Lawtech. We agree. By providing contracts for the unlawyered, Legislate aims to ensure the client is at the very epicentre of contracting: they make, amend and use the contracts themselves.
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Guiding Lawtech Principles
The Law Society, on review of Lawtech and following interviews held with lawyers across the UK, has published a guidance note on the principles that it believes should be endorsed when developing, integrating and using Lawtech in service. Figure 2 outlines these principles.
The Law Society suggests that Lawtech, from design to use, should be underpinned by regulatory compliance. Lawtech users should ensure that the technology complies with existing standards and policies, record how the solution meets regulatory obligations, make the information accessible (and non-technical where possible) and ensure that communication is clear and reflected in contracts with Lawtech providers.
At Legislate, we ensure our product is compliant at every stage. Our contracts are reviewed by our Chief Legal Officer before they are added to the platform and are frequently updated to reflect any statutory or regulatory changes. We are also keen to share any regulatory changes with our user base, by circulating materials that affect their businesses, such as our section 8 updates for rentals. The questions asked to tailor a contract are also reviewed to ensure that undesirable outcomes are prevented. Finally, Legislate leverages technology to guarantee the quality of its contracts by using its knowledge graph to scan each new set of contract terms for inconsistencies.
The Law Society holds that the Rule of Law should underpin the design and use of LawTech. This extends from ensuring GDPR compliance to ensuring that LawTech is fair, clear and transparent.
At Legislate, our contracts are fair and robust. By erasing the legalese we aim to ensure equality between both parties on the contracting table. As a third party, impartial supplier of contracts, we endeavour to ensure that our agreements are fair.
Producers, operators and users should ensure they understand the LawTech, including its functionality, benefits, limitations and risks.
Being able to Legislate in five simple steps, our aim is to provide anyone with the power to contract.
The Law Society considers that transparency is ‘crucial’: information should be accessible to users, clients and it should be sufficiently clear and accessible so that users can run adequate analyses as to risks and benefits of the product. Each contract on Legislate is accompanied by explanations to help users understand what the key terms mean.
Finally, the Law Society states that Lawtech should have sufficient oversight when used. Legislate provides a duty of care to its users by ensuring they understand each step of the contracting process. Contracts are generated logically from answers to contract questions which means that each contract is explainable. Contract outcomes are also limited to a fixed set which is pre-approved by our Chief Legal Officer.
Innovation in legal services through technology is critical to extend legal services to the unlawyered. Legislate’s approach of marrying transparent technology with legal expertise is aligned with Lawtech’s principles of compliance, lawfulness, capability, transparency and accountability. To find out how, watch a demo and join the Legislate community today!
Legislate is an early-stage legal technology start-up which allows large landlords and small businesses to easily create, sign and manage contracts on their own terms. Legislate’s knowledge graph approach (United States Patent No. 11,087,219) is unlocking the full potential of contract data.
The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.