The Solicitors Regulation Authority is to look at who and what should be regulated as it earmarks an active role in the emerging legal technology industry.
Outlining its strategy until 2023, the regulator said it must look in the coming years at the part it should play in regulating those bringing technology and innovation to the sector.
In a consultation paper on the strategy, the SRA says it can either leave to others managing the changes and challenges that technology will bring, or choose to shape those changes.
By getting involved now, the regulator says it can help to increase access to justice and integrate ethical standards to the technology sector.
Anna Bradley, SRA chair, said: ‘Technology has the potential to help address the problem that far too many people struggle to get the legal help they need. We want to help unlock those opportunities for the users of legal services and for the profession.
‘And in this fast-changing world, we know regulators need to be on the front foot. Our new strategy sets out our commitment to looking ahead and finding new ways of working with other organisations to best serve the public.’
In its consultation, the SRA says it has already acted to ensure regulation is not placing unnecessary barriers on innovation. But as the sector develops, regulators may need to consider the types of technological products, how they will be used in the sector and whether this has ethical and practical implications for consumer protection.
Earlier this year, a report commissioned by the Legal Services Board, the oversight regulator, concluded that the development and application of technology in the legal sector ‘raises questions’ about the scope, objectives and form that regulation should take.
The report found little evidence that legal regulators had focused on legaltech but suggested a ‘tipping point may have been reached and regulators can no longer ignore technology developments’.
Law Society president Simon Davis said: 'Technology can help make justice more accessible - but it is not a silver bullet. Regulation of legal technology should be considered very carefully. It is important that regulation does not stifle innovation in legal services. Lawtech products and services reduce cost and increase efficiencies for clients and law firms-to the overall benefit of the public.'
The SRA’s focus on technology is one of three priority areas in the strategy, alongside more predictable aims of ensuring high standards and responding to change in the sector. Consultation closes on 23 January.