Legal Education Foundation reports a lack of progress on the digital delivery of legal services

September 11, 2019

The Legal Education Foundation has issued a report on digital delivery of legal services to people on low incomes.

The Legal Education Foundation promotes the advancement of legal education and the study of the law in all its branches, including the use of technology. The report follows the fourth annual report on the subject of delivering services to people on low incomes by digital means. 

Publicly funded legal services are under considerable strain. However, there is unparalleled interest in innovative products and the possibilities of artificial intelligence. The report points out that there must be opportunities for technological innovation in the access to justice sector of the legal services market. However, tangible progress remains elusive. There have been neither “killer apps” nor an overwhelming single innovation. Most legal provision in areas such as consumer, immigration or housing law remains face to face in traditional form.

The report charts the development of different strands of technology and considers the context, current developments and emerging issues. The main focus of the report is on legal advice and information services. The report partly discusses the development of online dispute resolution in courts and tribunals but because the topic is so large it is only partially reflected in the report.

The report considers the “false dawns” – initiatives that looked as if they might be transformative but did not prove to be. For example, the drive by alternative business structures in England and Wales, like Cooperative Legal Services, to revolutionise the low-cost legal services market. A second development was the Dutch Rechtwijzer which promised to transform self-help divorce. And finally, there was Nadia, the Australian AI-powered bot, that might have shown the way to a new approach to automated information provision. None of these developments fulfilled their early promise, although the CLS and the Rechtwijzer continue to exist to a limited extent.