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Ethics principles to guide lawtech development

By Michael Cross >>

The Law Society has stepped up the debate about the governance of digital legal services by publishing a set of ethics principles to guide the development and use of lawtech. Society president I. Stephanie Boyce announced the principles last night in a presidential address marking the re-opening of 113 Chancery Lane. 

Boyce described the principles as the culmination of two years of work, including consultations with law firms, developers and regulators. They are:

  • Compliance: ‘The design, development and use of lawtech must comply with all applicable regulations.’
  • Lawfulness: ‘Lawtech should be underpinned by the rule of law.’
  • Capability: ‘Lawtech producers and operators should understand the functionality, benefit, limitations and risks of products used in the course of their work.
  • Transparency: ‘Information on how a lawtech solution has been designed, deployed and used should be accessible for the lawtech operator and for the client.’
  • Accountability: ‘Lawtech should have an appropriate level of oversight when used to deliver or provide legal services.’

‘All five of these exist under one overarching principle: that of client care,’ Boyce said. ‘The client should be at the centre of lawtech, determining business requirements and how to consider the other principles in a proportionate way.’

In her speech, Boyce also spoke of her personal mission ‘to leave the profession more diverse and inclusive than the one I entered’. She announced the award of 15 scholarships in the Society’s Diversity Access Scheme, which supports aspiring solicitors from less advantaged backgrounds.  ‘We had some truly outstanding candidates and the beneficiaries are a very impressive and diverse set of individuals from less advantaged backgrounds or who have faced multiple obstacles. All of them, we are sure, will be a credit to the profession,’ Boyce said. 

The presidential address was delivered simultaneously online and to an invited audience in the Law Society’s common room – the first such in-person event since the start of lockdown last year. 

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)