Digital-first court service to recharge London

The Law Gazette

20 October 2020

Digital legal services will play a key role in the 'recharging' of the City of London following the devastation caused by lockdown, the City's governing body proposed today. This will include updating existing court systems to make them 'user centric, tech agnostic and digital-first'.

In a 'call to action' published today, the corporation says that, although Covid-19 has 'hit London hard'' the pandemic creates an opportunity to create a more inclusive, innovative and sustainable future. The legal sector is proposed as a case study. The report notes that 'legal and judicial services in London have gone through a radical process of accelerated technological adoption this year'. This 'great success story' opens up opportunities for London as a legal centre.

The report recommends:

Updating court systems to make them easy to navigate while being user-centric, tech agnostic, and digital-first. 'Members of the profession and the public should be consulted and best practices from other jurisdictions incorporated.'
Courts should be approached as a service rather than a place, 'ensuring access as a fundamental pillar of democracy'. Continuing to hold court hearings remotely after the pandemic will provide a more resilient and accessible system.
Livestreaming or other formats of public viewing is essential for civic engagement and open justice. Courtrooms must be properly equipped with screens and adequate, high-speed internet connectivity.
The report says the corporation and Ministry of Justice should conduct a formal review of the lessons learned from holding court hearings remotely during the crisis. 'This will help to understand the long-term impacts of remote hearings and areas for improvements.'

Meanwhile the corporation should encourage developments in lawtech tools and infrastructure. To support digital legal services, it should 'establish clear policies and procedures and a supportive legal regulatory environment'. London should become a hub for lawtech development, testing and adoption, helped by a digital sandbox, providing a safe environment for lawtech and legal innovation to grow.

According to the report, initiatives in this direction have already begun. An 'innovation programme' to be piloted next month 'will provide a broad forum for the entire legal industry – with participants from in-house, private practice, innovation, technology, and data teams – to collaborate on identifying challenges in legal services delivery.'

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