Home Finance & Investments Funding helps barrister launch new system to record witness statements

Funding helps barrister launch new system to record witness statements

Sophie Walker with Will Schaffer of Mercia

A barrister who recognised the value of accurate transcriptions while working as a legal aid lawyer has launched a new system that can automatically capture witness statements.

Sophie Walker’s software is the only AI-driven transcription tool designed specifically for the legal sector. Her Leeds-based company JUST: Access developed the technology with the help of a £300,000 investment from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), and private investors last year.

The software has now been incorporated into video conferencing systems to assist lawyers when interviewing clients or conducting investigations, allowing them to take accurate statements and comply with new regulations.

Sophie, who started her career in London, initially developed the software for use in her own business JUST: Access, which aims to improve access to justice by providing transcription services. Since moving the business to Leeds in 2021, the funding provided by NPIF enabled her and the CTO, Vinay Kumar, to develop the system as a standalone product for use by law firms and others in the sector.

The launch of the new system follows the introduction of the Court Practice Directions, which specify that witness statements must be drafted in the witness’s own words and require a signature from both the witness and the lawyer attesting to this.

Sophie, who was also a founding director of the legal aid charity APPEAL, said: “Our system makes it easy for law firms to comply with the new rules by enabling witness statements to be taken by video call and automatically transcribed to text. We believe it will help to play a major role in improving accuracy and efficiency and could have much wider applications within the legal sector and the justice system.”

Dan Thomas of Mercia added: “Transcription is vital to legal practice, but predominantly relies on old-fashioned processes, making it ripe for transformation. The funding has helped Sophie and her team to commercialise the software and explore new opportunities in the legal sector.”

Sean Hutchinson at British Business Bank, said: “Access to finance can be transformational for ambitious businesses looking to fulfil their clear potential. The software that Just Access has developed is a great example of Northern innovation, and the kind of organisation that NPIF seeks to support. We’re proud to assist businesses in a wide range of sectors and look forward to providing even more funding to organisations looking to grow.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.