Legal Business Blogs

Fuse breaker: A&O brings ‘very different’ focus to second tech lab

In the same week banking giant Barclays joined the rising tide of law-tech innovation spaces, one of the earlier movers, Allen & Overy, is rewiring its Fuse hub.

The firm announced Wednesday (April 25) the second cohort of companies which will join its tech innovation space in London from May, bringing what Fuse chairman and A&O partner Jonathan Brayne describes as a ‘very different’ focus since the first round in September.

Incumbent companies Avvoka, Legatics and Nivaura will transfer from the first cohort to the second, and will be joined by Bloomsbury AI, Kira Systems, Neota Logic, Regnosys and Signal Media. The companies were chosen from 80 applicants – down slightly from last year’s 84 – and had pitched to the Fuse selection committee, which includes Amazon’s Alex Wong and Jordan Elsas, Funding Circle’s Robert Kerrigan, Index Ventures’ Hannah Seal and JP Morgan’s Oli Harris.

Brayne commented: ‘This cohort’s focus is very different to that of the first – there’s a strong AI theme here – but there’s the same sense of anticipation as when we opened our doors last September.’ Fuse head Shruti Ajitsaria added: ‘Opening for the second cohort has enabled us to keep abreast of the constantly changing legal tech ecosystem and we’re really pleased with the standard of the companies joining us next month.’

The second cohort also signals a move to working with more well-established companies, with Kira Systems and Neota Logic already well-known names in the law-tech space. Bloomsbury AI and Signal Media are AI companies without an explicit legal focus, while fintech company Regnosys hits a sweet spot between finance and law in that it focuses on regulatory compliance.

Nearly half of this year’s applicants had a focus on platform solutions, a quarter on workflow, and a fifth were reg tech businesses. About two-thirds of the applicants already have existing users, while 31% are at the prototype phase and 6% only a concept.

A&O says more than 5,500 people from within the firm, clients and others have visited Fuse since it opened last year . The touted benefit the space provides is the ability for the companies to work directly with lawyers and clients as end users to help refine their products.

Other firms with similar initiatives include Mishcon de Reya with MDR LABS early last year, and Dentons’ Nextlaw Labs and Nextlaw Ventures in 2015.