Legal Business Blogs

Government backs University of Oxford legal tech research as Magic Circle trio form data consortium

The University of Oxford has been awarded £213,000 to fund a study into the legal tech ecosystem as a trio of Magic Circle firms join Latham & Watkins in creating a financial data consortium.

The University of Oxford project – funded by the UK Government’s Economic and Social Research Council – will analyse the career trajectories and typical skillsets of start-up founders and law firm innovation leaders. The study will also assess the role of funders and buyers in the market, with such information crucial to start-ups chasing scale.

‘Most of the funding to date has been [for research] looking at the barriers to adoption,’ Saïd Business School’s professor Mari Sako told Legal Business. ‘We felt that it was vital to analyse the prospects and networks of the entrepreneurs themselves.’

Technology giant Thomson Reuters is among the partners supporting the 18-month study, which is also backed by the Legal IT Innovators Group and global innovation network She Breaks the Law. Upon concluding in March 2021, the project hopes to provide new market entrants with salient information to further expand the legal tech ecosystem.

‘This is an open-ended project,’ Sako added. ‘No one has looked at the individuals in this way. We know the types of technology out there but we don’t know much about the individuals. Everybody talks about the hype cycle and how we’re at the top of it, and there’s some truth in that, but something is going on where people are looking at the way these services are delivered.’

Elsewhere, a selection of elite firms have founded a data automation consortium aimed at solving inefficiencies in financial market transactions. Magic Circle trio Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance and Linklaters have joined forces with American powerhouse Latham & Watkins to develop general-purpose legal mark-up language (GLML) technology.

GLML is an open-source language which can be read by humans and machines, according to the consortium. While typical capital markets execution currently relies on multiple intermediaries conveying information between one another, the consortium claims GLML allows for faster and more efficient data analysis.

A&O Capital markets partner Theo Trayhurn commented: ‘We have worked on a number of different capital markets automation projects that utilise GLML and we recognise its potential importance and impact on the capital markets. As founding members of the GLML Consortium and early adopters of the technology, we believe that having a common language for automated securities will benefit the capital markets as a whole.’