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Harassment reporting app and legal chatbot for people with learning disabilities among SRA tech challenge finalists

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Eight teams secure £50,000 in funding

An app which aims to tackle workplace harassment and a legal chatbot for people with learning disabilities are among eight fledgeling startups to have scooped £50,000 each as part of a competition to broaden access to legal services in England and Wales through technology.

The Legal Access Challenge, run in partnership by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and innovation foundation Nesta Challenges, saw over 100 legally-minded innovators pitch their techy solutions to narrow this ‘legal gap’ which sees vulnerable people and small businesses left trying to solve legal problems without the necessary support.

The judging panel, chaired by the SRA’s Anna Bradley, selected its eight most “promising concepts” to progress to the final round. Each team will receive £50,000 in funding to develop their innovative ideas over the next six months.

The eight finalists are:

Formily — The brainchild of two family lawyers, this tool will aim to take the pain out of complicated and time-consuming financial disclosure exercises during divorce proceedings.

Glow by Duo Ventures — This tool will enable small businesses to bring legal action against organisations in the form of group litigation, enabling collective bargaining power and cost sharing amongst claimants.

Litigation Friend by Solomonic — An artificial intelligence platform which will help employees and small businesses involved in employment tribunal claims make more informed decisions.

Mencap — This legal chatbot will deliver early legal help and advice around community care and welfare benefits to people with learning disabilities.

MyDigitalRights by Doteveryone and Resolver — An accessible one-stop-shop to help people tackle problems they face online and hold tech companies to account.

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RCJ Advice — This platform will enable women and children to get legal help to protect themselves from violence, gain court orders, access legal aid and navigate court processes.

Resolve Disputes Online — A series of online negotiation and mediation tools which will help consumers and businesses resolve disputes.

TakeNote app by Organise — An app for documenting harassment, discrimination and bullying in the workplace.

As well as cash, the finalists will receive free legal advice courtesy of Hogan Lovells and guidance on privacy and data protection issues via the Information Commissioner’s Office. Two of the finalists will go on to be named overall winners next year in March, receiving a further £50,000 each to invest in their product.

“We have a great mix of winners, using tech in different ways, and offering solutions that will benefit people in very different situations,” Bradley said. “People in their personal and working lives, some of the most vulnerable — victims of domestic violence and those with learning disabilities — as well as small business.”

Chris Gorst, head of better markets at Nesta Challenges, added: “Too many people and small businesses struggle to access legal services in England and Wales when they need them. We believe technology can contribute to fixing this. From the range of proposals submitted to the Legal Access Challenge the UK’s innovators clearly agree. We’re looking forward to working closely with the finalists announced today to make their concepts a reality for the benefit of people and small businesses across the country.”

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15 Comments

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

Kudos to these innovators!

Anonymous

I’m concerned that the Take Note app could be used to construct false accusations in the workplace in the hope of gaining a payout. Hopefully the app will have tools in place to protect people against false accusations.

Anon

Well so can Microsoft Word.

Anonymous

Unlikely the app would have won £50,000 if was no different from Word. Microsoft Word wasn’t designed as an anti-harassment tool and it’s likely that anyone using a set of notes recorded on Word as the sole evidence of harassment would be given short shrift.

Anon

Not at all. In neighbour disputes the police / council tell compainants to keep a log of all the events. The diary is then exhibited. The point is an app is just some software for recording information. The app cannot tell whether the information being recorded in it is true or untrue.

Anonymous

They do indeed,but such logs don’t constitute evidence – all they prove is that the person keeping them can write. What is the point of the app if it is no different to Microsoft Word?

Fatassma

You’re desperately worried you’re about to be reported, aren’t you?

How about not saying anything to a woman that you wouldn’t want a fellow man in prison to say to you?

Anon

Contemporatinious Logs are evidence in both civil and criminal cases. Have it your own way though. No Jury has ever convicted anyone and no judge has ever found against anyone based on a Section 9 Witness Statement recorded in a Microsoft Word. Go and read the CJA 2003. A Section 9 Witness Statement, which the CPS record in a Word Template is evidence of the truth of its contents.

Anon

Bit of a leap from neighbours keeping logs to Section 9 Witness Statements. Judges and juries make decisions base decisions on evidence. Just because something is written on Word does not mean it actually happened. For example, if you wrote on a Word Document that you owned the crown jewels it is unlikely that a judge would give them to you. You’re point about a Section 9 Witness Statement being true because it on Microsoft Word is plainly wrong – any Witness Statement is what the witness states they believe to be true – the actual truth may be very different.

Anon

Yes. That is why I (and Parliment) said it is evidence of the truth of its contents not proof of the truth of its contents. Any written record whether it is recorded on an App, Word, a IRB Notebook or on paper is evidence if the truth of its contents. It is not proof. An App has no more or less evidential status than a record recorded in any other way.

Anon

Yes, but what Parliament said (but not you) is that the Statement has to be agreed by the Defence, otherwise it is neither evidence or proof, even if it’s on Microsoft Word. But a neighbour keeping a log is no evidence at all, other than evidence that they can write. What would the point of the app be if it is no different from Microsoft Word or just a nosy neighbour type log?

Can of Fanta

I think a lot of people are worried about being reported for things they haven’t done. In false allegations, the accused is alleged to have said something they didn’t actually say – that’s why they’re called ‘false’ allegations. Advising the accused what not to say in cases of false accusation cases is victim blaming.

Anonymous

And worse vigorously defending the falsely accused can end up with the SRA taking proceedings against you.

Anon

No fresher. Parliment said in Section 114(d) and Sections 119 and 120 CJA 2003 that the evidence is admissible whether the parties agree it or not. See S120 in particular. Try reading the section. Evidence contained in a S9 Witness Statement is evidence of the truth of its contents.

Anon

Parliment may have said that but Parliament did not. The Defence really do need to agree in order for a Section 9 Witness Statement to be admissable as evidence. If you’ve been progressing otherwise in criminal cases you ought to put your hand up. If I’m a fresher and you’re not you look doubly as bad. Of course none of this gets away from the fact that merely putting something in a Word doc or putting it in a log in any way constitutes evidence.

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