Categories
Research Themes

Flexibility

Innovations need to be flexible so that they can adapt quickly to the regular changes in the legal sector. Flexible innovations allow users and legal professionals to access better, tailored support. It is also important that the regulation of technology is flexible to allow for innovation within the justice sector.

Overview

The flexible and dynamic nature of technology may help to improve access to justice (Sela, 2017, p. 241). In relation to users, flexibility afforded by technology offers the opportunity to remotely access legal resources and support (Phillips and Farrell, 2015, p. 133); this is particularly beneficial for self-represented litigants (Cabral et al., 2012, p. 258). It will be important for an innovation to consider different types of users as technology also needs to be flexible enough so that it can be adapted to meet different needs (Good Things Foundation, 2019). Some users may need additional support whereas others will not. As discussed under the Support theme, an innovation will need to incorporate a variety of support options in order for it be adaptable for a diverse range of users.

As well as being valuable for clients, innovations in this area offer volunteers and lawyers more flexibility (Cabral et al., 2012, p. 250). They may help to take pressure off overrun pro bono centres and allow legal service providers to use their time to deal with the more complex legal or support issues (Carneiro and Novais, 2014, p. 282). Legal professionals naturally place a lot of value on reliability and therefore may be reluctant to engage with design thinking for legal technology innovations (Rajoo, 2019). Reassurance for lawyers may only come through the testing and prototyping phase of the design approach (Cabral et al., 2012, p. 304). Making an innovation flexible will boost its reliability which may improve trust in the service, for legal professionals and clients.

The nature of legal work means that a legal technology innovation will need to be flexible enough to allow continuous readjustments as new circumstances arise (Dorin and Clément-Grandcourt, 2020, p. 40). The court reform programme has been looking at allowing enough flexibility in the technology architecture to support a diverse and complex programme (Anbil, 2020). As an example, the Below the Belt app was developed in Australia which aimed at supporting young people with legal issues (Smith, 2019, p. 8). One factor that appears to have affected its demise was that it was incompatible with new Android software and had therefore stopped working on a number of devices (Victoria Legal Aid, 2016). This offers an indication of the importance of creating an innovation with flexible technology architecture. Additionally, most people own a phone but not all own a computer (Hagan, 2018, p. 217), as such, it is important to ensure the architecture of an innovation can be adapted to suit mobile use (Cabral et al., 2012, p. 278).

In addition to ensuring the technology itself is flexible, the flexibility and adaptability of regulation is essential for enabling innovation in the legal sector (Legal Services Consumer Panel, 2019). Regulation needs to offer protection to keep users safe but should also be flexible enough not to stifle the opportunities that technology has to offer considering the fast-changing nature of both the technology and legal sectors (Goodman, 2018, p. 26), therefore innovation specific guidance is important to technology developers (Legal Services Consumer Panel, 2019). The Solicitors Regulation Authority are already exploring methods of adapting regulation to suit innovations in the justice sector with their SRA Innovate pages (Solicitors Regulation Authority, 2020). This resource includes policy reforms and regulatory objectives for firms to follow in relation to developing an innovation (Solicitors Regulation Authority, 2020).

Related themes

Trust and transparency; Support; Use

Case studies

  1. Good Things Foundation
  2. Below the Belt app
  3. SRA Innovate

References

1. Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service (2018) 18th January 2018 to 29th March 2018, Fit for the future: transforming the Court and Tribunal Estate Consultation Paper [online]. London: Ministry of Justice. Available from: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-court-tribunal-estate/supporting_documents/hmctsstrategyapproachconsultation.pdf [Accessed 27 February 2020].

2. Sela, A. (2017) The Effect of Online Technologies on Dispute Resolution System Design: Antecedents, Current Trends, and Future Directions. Lewis & Clark Law Review [online]. 21. p. 657. [Accessed 1 April 2020].

3. Phillips, E. and Farrell, J. (2015) Queensland Community Legal Centres’ Use of Information Technology to Deliver Access to Justice. Legal Information Management [online].15(2), pp. 131-136. [Accessed 14 January 2020].

4. Cabral, J. et al. (2012) Using Technology to Enhance Access to Justice. Harvard Journal of Law Technology [online]. 26[1]. pp. 241-324. [Accessed 17 March 2020].

5. Good Things Foundation (2019) Powering up: how more people, communities and businesses can participate in the digital economy [online]. Good Things Foundation. Available from: https://www.goodthingsfoundation.org/sites/default/files/power-up_report_final_web.pdf [Accessed 3 April 2020].

6. Carneiro, D. and Novais, P. (2014) Making Justice More Accessible. ICEGOV: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance [online]. pp 279 – 287. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2691195.2691284 [Accessed 16 March 2020].

7. Rajoo, N. (2019) Law by Design: What the Legal Profession Can Learn from Design Thinking. Law Gazette [online]. Available from: https://lawgazette.com.sg/practice/practice-matters/law-by-design-thinking/ [Accessed 21 March 2020].

8. Dorin, P. and Clement-grandcourt, A. (2020) Twelve Takeaways From a Digital Transformation Initiative. Journal of International Banking Law and Regulation [online]. 35 (1), pp. 37-44. [Accessed 20 April 2020].

9. Anbil, B. (2020) Building and Safeguarding for our Digital Justice Platform [online]. GOV.UK. Available from: https://insidehmcts.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/09/building-and-safeguarding-for-our-digital-justice-platform/ [Accessed 14 April 2020].

10. Smith, R. (2019) Annual Report Summer 2019: The Digital Delivery of Legal Services to people on low incomes. The Legal Education Foundation. Available at: www.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Digital-Technology-Summer-2019.pdf [Accessed 12 April 2020].

11. Victoria Legal Aid (2016) Case Study of Below the Belt phone app [online]. Victoria Legal Aid. Available from: www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/sites/www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/files/vla-case-study-below-the-belt-phone-app.pdf [Accessed 14 April 2020].

12. Hagan, M. (2018) A Human-Centred Design Approach to Access to Justice: Generating New Prototypes and Hypotheses for Intervention to Make Courts User-Friendly. Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality [online].6(2). Available from: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3186101 [Accessed 23 March 2020].

13. Legal Services Consumer Panel (2019) Lawtech and consumers [online]. Legal Services Consumer Panel. Available from: https://www.legalservicesconsumerpanel.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/LSCP-Technology-Paper-2019.pdf [Accessed 17 April 2020].

14. Goodman, J. (2018) Technology – AI: The only way is ethics. Law Society Gazette [online]. 21 May. 26. [Accessed 27 February 2020].

15. Solicitors Regulation Authority (2020) SRA Innovate [online]. Available from: https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/innovate/sra-innovate/ [Accessed 14 April 2020].

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