Lawtech UK launches Legal Schema for digital documents

June 24, 2021

LawtechUK is a government-backed initiative within Tech Nation, and was established to support the transformation of the UK legal sector through technology, with the aim of benefiting society and the economy. It created a Lawtech Sandbox aiming to bring transformative lawtech to market more quickly, by helping pioneers reinventing the provision of legal services.

As part of the Lawtech Sandbox Pilot, one of its participants set out to demonstrate the practical application of digital document technologies and to enable their adoption, so that legal documents can be produced in structured formats that mean their contents can be easily used for reporting, analysis, automated processing, lifecycle management and more. This is not generally the case today, where legal documents are typically written in natural language text and stored as such or as photographic images (such as PDF), without any supporting code that would act as a map or instructions enabling a computer to read it.

This analogue way of producing and administering legal documentation is limited and inefficient. LawtechUK says that it will be widely restructured and digitised in the coming years, enabling the public and private sectors to realise a wide range of benefits spanning productivity, accuracy, transparency and risk management, at home and across borders.

With support from LawtechUK’s network, a project in the Pilot produced a universal structured data format for the creation and interactivity of digital contracts – called the Legal Schema.

The Legal Schema complements the UK Jurisdiction Taskforce’s Legal Statement on cryptoassets and smart contracts, the Law Commission’s ongoing review of the law on smart contracts, the UKJT’s recently published Digital Dispute Resolution Rules, and the UK Government’s National Data Strategy.

Accompanying the launch of the Legal Schema open source materials is a whitepaper, prepared in collaboration with industry experts, detailing the context and sample use cases for the Legal Schema, and offering insight into how it can be deployed for the benefit of business and the economy.

Lawtech say that this can help restructure how legal service providers approach legal documents and how they think about data and the entire contracting methodology that underpins how they do business. It further says that the way forward is through practical use cases that bring near term benefits to real people and through collaborative working across disciplines, sectors and experiences.

Lawtech says that it looks forward to contributing to the utility and uptake of digital documents and to future phases of work on the Legal Schema, with the UKJT and many across the sector and beyond.