A team from the University of Oxford have been awarded £213,000 to study the LawTech “ecosystem”, in the UK and beyond. This new study, funded by the UK Government’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will complement an existing University of Oxford research project – also funded by the ESRC – which is seeking to “unlock the potential for AI for English law”.

This latest project aims to enhance the UK’s LawTech innovation and startup ecosystem, by identifying the mobility and social networks of individuals and key stakeholders in the ecosystem. The career trajectories and typical skillsets of legal practice innovation leaders at law firms and LawTech providers will be explored, with a view to establishing how this talent pool might be expanded. The key funders of LawTech startups – and their prior legal sector exposure – will be identified, which should provide valuable market intelligence for LawTech startups currently seeking finance. The project will also examine linkages between key industry stakeholders, for example, to discover the extent to which LawTech startups depend on the professional networks of their senior management teams to secure funding and clients.

The LawTech ecosystem research project will be headed by Mari Sako, Professor of Management Studies at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Other team members include Professor John Armour from the Faculty of Law, Dr Matthias Qian from the Department of Economics and Dr Richard Parnham, also from the Saïd Business School.

During the 18-month study – due to complete in March 2021 – the team will work alongside several legal sector partners, to ensure the project’s findings have real-world value. Partner organisations, who have offered their support to the research project, include the UK’s Legal IT Innovators Group, She Breaks the Law – a global innovation network – and Thomson Reuters.

Commenting on the ESRC award, Professor Mari Sako says:


Our ongoing research is starting to generate valuable insights into how LawTech is impacting on legal practice, training, and careers. This additional funding will help us develop a parallel understanding of the LawTech sector, in particular how lawyers, solutions vendors and funders interact with each other. We hope the LawTech sector will be able to draw directly on our research, to help it prosper.