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Swansea University and the Welsh Government have today (30 October 2019) announced a £5.6 million investment in LegalTech and Access to Justice, as well as in countering terrorist and criminal use of the internet.

Backed by £4 million of funding from the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, Legal Innovation Lab Wales will be a unique research and innovation facility housed in the University’s Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law.

The project will deliver a range of sector-leading facilities, including:

  • A cyber-threats research suite, with data research laboratories and facilities that support collaboration with partners such as security agencies, law enforcement and technology companies.
  • A “Legal AI” laboratory where researchers in Law and Computer Science can develop, test and apply new techniques in artificial intelligence, machine learning, legal design and natural language processing, t0 improve efficiencies in legal service delivery.
  • A Legal Innovation Centre where law firms and technology companies can work with researchers and with a software development team, on the development of innovative products and services.
  • A Law Clinic where LegalTech innovation and collaboration can be piloted, leading to the deployment of applications and platforms that support access to justice.

The funding also supports the appointment of new researchers to work with law firms, technology companies and security organisations with the aim of:

  • Maximising opportunities for research and development in the emerging LegalTech sector.
  • Deploying digital products and services that help communities to access legal guidance and information.
  • Developing toolkits and frameworks to mitigate the risk of online platforms and social media being exploited by criminals and terrorists.

The project builds on the work of the Law School’s Cyber Threats Research Centre (CyTREC), which has an international reputation for its applied research on cyberterrorism and terrorists’ use of the internet, and of the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Law (CIEL), which aims to address the challenges and opportunities arising from the impacts of technology on legal service delivery.

Dr Chris Marshall, Director of Knowledge Economy at the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, said: “A core focus of the Legal Innovation Lab Wales operation is to help law firms innovate at the intersection of law and technology, whether that means through the better use of data, improving the design of legal processes, or applying machine learning to legal matters.

“The project will also work with law enforcement, security agencies and technology companies to advance understanding of how terrorists and criminals exploit digital platforms and emerging technologies, and to develop tools and safeguards that can be integrated into technological design.”

Professor Elwen Evans QC, Head of the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, said: “This is fabulous news for the Law School and for Wales. It is a significant endorsement of our ambition to drive innovation in legal services and will enable us to transform the scale and impacts of our work. We are delighted to have secured this investment from the European Regional Development Fund.”

Counsel General and Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles said: “The Justice Commission report, published last week, identified opportunities to strengthen the legal sector in Wales. Being able to find and understand the law with reasonable ease goes to the heart of a nation governed by the rule of law.

“This Legal Innovation Lab is exactly what we need right now, providing the facilities to discover the potential of emerging technologies such as machine reading techniques and artificial intelligence, and enabling Welsh Government, legal professionals, professional bodies and academia in Wales to work in partnership to develop and promote the technological capabilities of the legal sector.

“I’m delighted that Wales is leading the way in this ground-breaking research. EU funds continue to play a vital part in modernising our economy, increasing productivity, and developing employment and business opportunities, and I look forward to seeing how far legal technology can help promote access to justice for the citizens of Wales.”

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