Oxford academics have been awarded £213,000 to study the lawtech 'ecosystem' in the latest government effort to nurture the burgeoning sector. The 18-month project will 'map the movement of people in and out of the system,' according to the project's leader, Professor Mari Sako of the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Investment in lawtech - systems that apply technologies such as machine learning and cloud computing in the legal sector - is booming, latest figures suggest. The Oxford project, funded by the government's Economic and Social Research Council, will aim to enhance the innovation and startup scene by identifying principal players. 'The career trajectories and typical skillsets of legal practice innovation leaders at law firms and lawtech providers will be explored, with a view to establishing how this talent pool might be expanded,' the business school said. 'The key funders of lawtech startups – and their prior legal sector exposure – will be identified, which should provide valuable market intelligence for startups currently seeking finance.'

The project will complement existing University of Oxford research, also funded by the research council, which is seeking to ’unlock the potential for AI for English law’.

Sako, professor of management studies at Saïd Business School, said that the surge in investment is due to a 'happy coincidence of factors' including the availability of cloud computing and a 'new generation of lawyers'.

Other members of the team include Professor John Armour of Oxford University’s Faculty of Law, Dr Matthias Qian from the Department of Economics and Dr Richard Parnham, also from the Saïd Business School. 

The project is due to complete in March 2021. 'We hope the lawtech sector will be able to draw directly on our research, to help it prosper,' Sako said.