What We’re Looking For

The section below provides a short overview of what we are looking for. We encourage you to read the eligibility and assessment criteria further down this page for the full details.

We welcome applications from a diverse mix of entities, including legal tech startups, law firms, alternative legal providers, advice sector organisations and teams based at law schools. We also welcome joint applications from two or more entities.

The solution you submit to the Challenge should be at an early or proof-of-concept stage. If this is the first legal technology solution your team is working on, that’s fine. If your team has already brought another legal tech solution to market, that’s also fine, provided the solution you submit to the Challenge is at an early or proof-of-concept stage.

Your solution might apply to just one area of law, or to multiple areas of law. We have not prioritised any one area of law, but we’ll be particularly interested in legal problems that affect large numbers of people and/or create substantial harm for those affected.

If you’re not sure whether your solution is eligible, we encourage you to contact us before ruling yourself out.

Understanding & Resolving

We’re seeking solutions which demonstrate how digital technology can directly help individuals and SMEs to understand and resolve their legal problems in more affordable and accessible ways.

The Challenge will reward innovative solutions which appropriately support people through the stages of:

  • Diagnosing their issue and whether it is a legal problem, understanding their rights, and understanding the options to resolve a problem; and/or
  • Resolving the problem, for example resolving a dispute or generating legal documents, including where appropriate accessing the services of a legal professional.

Within SMEs we include both small businesses and small charities.

Standout User Experiences

Individuals, or people who own or work for SMEs, should interact with your solution directly. We’ll be looking for legal solutions that create standout user experiences. When users interact with your solution, they should make progress in understanding or resolving their legal problem and save as much time, money and stress as possible. We want to see solutions that are substantially better than existing options available in the market.

Examples of Potential Solutions

Examples of what we have in mind include technologies such as expert systems, guided pathways, document automation, machine learning, natural language processing and other advanced technologies.

We are open to solutions which don’t yet exist in the market, as well as substantial improvements to existing solutions. We are also interested in standalone solutions, as well as solutions which integrate a digital technology service with access to individual support from a solicitor or other legal professional. Applicants operating in both the regulated and unregulated sectors can apply.

Below are examples of the kinds of propositions that we would welcome, but the list isn’t exhaustive. We are interested in solutions which provide or support:

  • tailored guidance to help identify and/or evaluate a problem and the options to resolve it;
  • the identification and collection of information and relevant evidence in a suitable format;
  • the completion of court documents;
  • the creation of legal documents;
  • earlier, lower cost and less adversarial resolution of problems, including online dispute resolution platforms.

Prize Fund

Development Grants & Prize Award

The Challenge will provide funding to help you develop your solution and bring it to market:

  • if you’re accepted onto the Challenge as one of our four Finalists, you’ll receive a £50,000 Development Grant in September 2019;
  • one of the four Finalists will go on to receive an additional £50,000 Prize Award in March/April 2020.

The Development Grants and Prize Award are equity-free and non-repayable. You’ll retain control of your intellectual property (see Do you take any intellectual property? in the Prize Fund section of the FAQs for more on this).

Expert Support

In addition to the funding, the Challenge will provide non-financial support. We are working to finalise the expert support program, but you can expect it to include:

  • One-to-one support from experienced SRA technical and legal staff to help you work through any potential regulatory issues. A minimum of two touch-points will be offered to all Finalists, including an introduction and follow up.
  • Supported access to the SRA Innovation Space. If your solution requires a regulatory waiver, your request may be prioritised.
  • One-to-one support from the Regulators’ Business Innovation Privacy Hub within the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if you need guidance on privacy and data protection issues.
  • Opportunities to engage with HMCTS if your solution will interface with HMCTS systems. This will include guidance on integration principles, one-to-one engagement, and access to insights from HMCTS research into user needs.
  • One-to-one pro bono legal advice from Hogan Lovells International LLP and/or its group affiliates to address a specific legal (or business) issue. This advice will be offered subject to undertaking standard procedures and requirements for undertaking pro-bono client services work
  • Opportunities to test your hypotheses with consumer focus groups, law charities, HMCTS and other stakeholders. We’ll tailor these interactions based on your specific needs.
  • Participation in an investment readiness workshop delivered by the Nesta Impact Investments team to help you raise additional funding.

Timeline

  • 2019

    30 May

    Application window opens

  • 11 August (23.59 GMT+1)

    Application window closes (we won’t accept late applications)

  • Late September

    Finalists announced

  • September 2019 – March 2020

    Finalists develop their solutions and undergo assessment and judging

    2020

  • April

    Prize Award winner announced

Eligibility Criteria

You, your team or your organisation

  • You can apply to the Challenge as an individual, team or legally constituted organisation. You don’t need to be legally constituted to apply for the Challenge. However, if you are selected as a Finalist and you are not yet legally constituted, you will need to become legally constituted before receiving the funding.
  • We welcome applications from a diverse mix of entities, including legal tech startups, law firms, alternative legal providers, advice sector organisations and teams based at law schools.
  • We also welcome joint applications from two or more entities. If you’re applying as a group, we’ll ask you to identify a lead applicant and we’ll pay the funding to the lead applicant.
  • You, your team or organisation may be based anywhere in the world, but your solution must be designed for individuals and SMEs in England and Wales.
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion are important to us. The Judges will be supportive of teams encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion. (See What do you mean by ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ in the eligibility criteria? in the Assessment section of the FAQs for more on this).
  • You must be 18 or over to apply

Your solution

  • Your solution should be at early or proof-of-concept stage. If this is the first legal technology solution your team is working on, that’s fine. If your team has already brought another legal tech solution to market, that’s also fine, provided the solution you submit to the Challenge is at an early or proof-of-concept stage. Applicants who only require funding for scaling-up operations will not be eligible.
  • The solution you submit to the Challenge may be: a new solution you have only recently started developing; a solution you’ve been working on for some time which is still at the testing stage; or a significant update to an existing solution, such as new functionality.
  • Individuals, or people who own or work for SMEs, should interact with your solution directly.
  • An ‘individual’ might be someone experiencing a potential legal problem as a consumer, family member, neighbour, citizen/resident, employee and so on. An SME might be a business, social enterprise, co-operative, charity and so on with fewer than 250 employees.
  • By ‘interact directly’, we mean that there should be some sort of interface between your solution and the intended user, and that the user should be aware that they are interacting with your solution. The user might interact with your solution independently and without supervision. Alternatively, they might interact with your solution in the presence of a legal professional or trained advisor (for example, an application on a tablet that an advisor and client work through together).
  • We’re not looking for legal technology solutions that help legal professionals, or trained advisors, do their jobs but don’t involve any interaction with the end client. We recognise that these enterprise legal technologies will help make the legal services market more efficient and effective. Right now, less investment is flowing into user-facing legal solutions compared with enterprise technologies, so we’ve chosen to make these user-facing solutions our focus.
  • Your solution might apply to just one area of law, or to multiple areas of law. We have not prioritised any one area of law, but we’ll be particularly interested in legal problems that affect large numbers of people and/or create substantial harm for those affected.

Assessment Criteria

The Judges will assess eligible applications relative to the published assessment criteria. There are no ‘hidden’ criteria or expectations. We’ve been as transparent as possible about what we’re looking for. The Judges will deliberate and come to a collective decision.

Keep in mind that the Judges are making a forward-looking judgement. They will select Finalists who they anticipate will make substantial progress – absolutely and relative to other applicants – against the assessment criteria between time of application and the final Prize Award in March 2020.

Innovation & Impact

We’re looking for entries which could, if available at scale, have a clear impact on addressing the current unmet legal need of individuals and SMEs. The Judges will be looking for solutions which:

  • Demonstrate how technology could directly help individuals and SMEs to understand and resolve their legal issues better than at present.
  • Are accessible, intuitive and user-friendly for their intended users. The best entries will explain how their solution meets a real need (or needs) of its target users better than current solutions. The best entries will engage, or demonstrate plans to engage, users in the design, development and testing.
  • Are affordable for the widest range of individuals or SMEs.
  • Have considered ethical and equality, diversion and inclusion opportunities and risks associated with the solution and how these could be evaluated and managed. (See What do you mean by ‘ethical and equality, diversity and inclusion opportunities and risks’ in the assessment criteria? in the Assessment section of the FAQs.)

All else being equal, the Judges will favour solutions which:

  • Help address legal problems faced by a significant number of users and/or which have significant consequences for those not able to address the problem satisfactorily.
  • Are replicable, for example representing an approach which is in principle extensible to other types of legal problem.

Adoption

We’re looking for solutions which have the greatest potential to reach and support many individuals and SMEs in resolving their legal problems. The Judges will be looking to understand how credible an entrant’s path to adoption is and will be looking for solutions which:

  • Have a credible distribution plan to enable the solution to reach the greatest possible number of potential users.

All else being equal, the Judges will favour solutions which:

  • Have a credible sustainability plan for supporting the solution into the future. This could be a business or funding plan, or a plan for how the solution could be integrated with existing systems or programmes.

Capability

We’re looking for capable teams with the skills, commitment and capacity to successfully deliver on their submitted plans. The Judges will be looking for entries from teams which:

  • Have the problem area expertise, legal knowledge and technological capability to develop their solution successfully.
  • Have a clearly articulated, ambitious yet achievable plan for the next 6-months of the development cycle. The judges won’t be looking to review detailed development plans, but they will want to see clear articulation of the outcomes at the end of the development period, the key milestones and how the team will achieve these.

Application Form

Apply using the online application form. You can also download a pdf copy of the application form for reference (but you must apply via the online form).

Frequently Asked Questions

Please check the FAQs before contacting the Challenge team with any questions. We’ll update these as we receive new questions. You can also download a pdf copy of the FAQs.

Terms & Conditions

Please read the Legal Access Challenge Terms & Conditions before applying. You can also download a pdf copy of the Terms and Conditions.