A new report on providing legal services to people on low incomes urges the government to allocate resources to settling small claims online.
The Ministry of Justice and the courts service should pilot digital dispute resolution for small claims from 2016, after lessons have been learned from schemes in the Netherlands and British Columbia, Canada, it recommends.
The report on the digital delivery of legal services was written by Roger Smith (pictured), former director of Justice and a Gazette columnist, and backed by the Legal Education Foundation. It builds on Face to face legal services and their alternatives – global lessons from the digital revolution, published by Smith in February this year with law professor Alan Paterson.
Among the new report’s 15 recommendations is the proposal that 1% of the annual legal aid budget be allocated to a competitive innovation fund similar to the Technology Initiative Grants programme of the USA Legal Services Corporation.
Smith also calls on the lord chancellor to: study the provision of services in British Columbia, which seek to address problems arising from the withdrawal of legal aid in family cases; and endorse the commitment of the government to encourage citizens to deal with their own legal problems through free access to statutes.
The report also recommends more funding for national advice websites and more freedom for the Legal Aid Agency to drive digital innovation.