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Expectations high as Thomson Reuters and Slaughters ramp up legal tech incubator competition

Competition for access to legal tech start-ups is heating up as global multimedia giant Thomson Reuters and City blueblood Slaughter and May tool up for legal tech incubator launches early next year.

Thomson Reuters is accepting applications for its first dedicated legal tech incubator until the end of this month, with further details expected to be announced in December. The company is shifting its focus towards legal tech, having also hosted a fintech incubator in Zurich, following the sale its financial risk business earlier this year.

The programme is interested in working with more mature start-ups who have successfully secured significant funding, with Thomson Reuters not seeking any equity in return for access. The initial duration is likely to be a minimum of three months, but can run longer depending on the success. Start-ups will not have to take residence in Zurich as the incubator can run virtually.

The company will also vet out any start-ups considered direct competitors, and believes the company’s tech clout will be a unique attraction for potential cohort members.

‘We have the advantage of knowing what it takes to sell technology into legal,’ Thomson Reuter’s customer proposition lead Jim Leason told Legal Business. ‘Law firms are the buyers of technology whereas we are the creators of it.’

Meanwhile, Slaughters’ highly-symbolic legal tech incubator, which it confirmed in June, is now expected to launch as early as the first quarter of next year.

The incubator, which will sit alongside Slaughters’ existing Fast Forward fintech incubator, mirrors moves from Magic Circle counterpart Allen & Overy, which has its own space called Fuse. Mishcon De Reya and Dentons also have similar ventures, while banking giant Barclays this year entered the legal tech space through its Eagle Labs programme.

A leading start-up’s co-founder told Legal Business Slaughters’ foray into legal tech was an exciting development for start-ups, citing potential exposure to Slaughters’ premium corporate client list. Meanwhile for Slaughters – typically viewed as conservative – the move will further its tech credentials, with the firm also having one of the sector’s leading equity stakes courtesy of a 5% share in AI platform Luminance.

Accelerating development of legal tech incubator programmes come as an increasing amount of money finds its way into the start-up market, with Kira, Legatics, Eigen Technologies and Apperio among the companies winning significant funding in recent months.

Overall interest in legal tech is booming, with about 2,000 people attending yesterday’s (17 October) Legal Geek conference as companies and firms alike look to gain a long-term advantage over their competitors.

For our law tech focus, see ‘The wheat from the chaff’ (£)