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‘Not just blue sky thinking’: Linklaters launches innovation group and pilots coding training

Linklaters has set up a partner-led global innovation team to oversee the firm’s use of technology, including plans to teach its lawyers to code.

Led by a trio of partners including Paul Lewis in London, Sophie Mathur in Singapore and Christian Storck in Frankfurt, the group is tasked with managing the use of technology and assessing future innovation at the firm.

The new team was launched by managing partner Gideon Moore at the firm’s Berlin partners meeting in April. The three partners coordinate developments with different practices at the firm, working with ideas from partners, associates and trainees.

Some of the current firm-wide initiatives include working on artificial intelligence (AI) projects, while the group has also worked to skill-up the firm’s lawyers. One idea from a trainee at the firm led to the launch a pilot programme teaching lawyers the basics of coding and blockchain.

Lewis (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We see coding as very useful for lawyers who are involved in technologies such as blockchain, smart contracts and AI. But, at an even more basic level, it’s also just useful for lawyers to have a grounding in computational logic – it complements all sorts of traditional legal skills.’

Another initiative came through an associate in the banking practice, growing into a regulatory advice project for clients known internally as Link RFI. ‘We have no monopoly on good ideas,’ said Linklaters’ Lewis, ‘an associate saw the need and helped develop it.’

Lewis added that clients were looking for more from law firms to drive innovation and efficiency: ‘It’s absolutely something general counsel are looking for. The legal industry has evolved in its own little world and there are all sorts of things we can do to be more effective.

‘In the last year or two we have had real buy-in with clients wanting us to be more efficient. For us it’s not just about doing blue sky thinking, but it is about having three partners making sure we work across the board, with ideas come from ground up rather than top down.’

Although Linklaters has kept most of its technology work internal, others in the Magic Circle have gone public on their use of AI and other programmes. Clifford Chance launched a partnership with Canadian AI provider Kira, while Slaughter and May’s senior partner Steve Cooke launched a high-profile deal with Cambridge-based Luminance to develop a new AI product.

Read more on Linklaters in: ‘Rain men – goodbye Harvard Kool-Aid, hello plain speaking at Linklaters’ c-suite’