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‘Legal catching up’: TLT launches £500k fund to improve tech and consulting lines

TLT has created a £500,000 investment fund to help test technology and other ideas more quickly before providing them to clients.

The initiative, called Future Law, is expected to generate revenue this year and will be led by digital sector head James Touzel. The firm has ring-fenced the fund as part of its budget for this year.

Touzel told Legal Business that dedicated budget and internal resource would allow it to try new technology and ideas more quickly than getting bogged down in presenting business cases as part of the normal governance process. The firm’s business services professionals and fee earners will be involved.

‘If you’re doing innovation no one has a clue what the return on investment is yet, that’s the whole point,’ he said. ‘This will be an educated playing around: identifying the client need, trying a few things out, getting the one that works and rolling it out.’

Future Law will complement TLT’s captive shared services centre, launched in 2015, and a regulatory consulting service it launched in the last year with the hire of former BT regulatory affairs director Stuart Murray. The firm also partnered with AI contract review company LegalSifter last December, taking a minority stake in the business.

Touzel said Future Law was implemented in response to changing client expectations in the last year or so. The largest clients had effectively built their own law firms in-house and were facing the same challenges around people, process and technology that law firms had faced for decades.

‘There is no reason why a law firm cannot, and should not, be a consultant on how to run in-house legal functions. The next change will come in advising which technology to use. What’s the best e-discovery platform? We should be able to answer that question.’

TLT will resell technology to clients, similar to the LegalSift partnership. It wants to partner with other early stage tech companies to improve their products, as well as advise and sell mature technology in areas it could be used more effectively.

Touzel said there would be a few early wins this year around new offerings in e-discovery and contract automation, but the aspiration was to create multiple business models at the firm by selling more technology and more consultancy services. The firm’s revenue rose 10% to £82m in the most recent financial year.

‘The consistent message from clients is that they are getting increasingly frustrated with law firms bringing forward products that they don’t need. We’re trying to start off on the right foot,’ Touzel said. ‘This isn’t a model I’ve invented, it happens in other industries: it’s just legal catching up.’