Legal Business

Sponsored briefing: Allen & Overy horizon scans to the workplace of the future

Sponsored briefing: Allen & Overy horizon scans to the workplace of the future

A Q&A with Sarah Henchoz, head of employment at Allen & Overy

Sarah Henchoz is a partner and head of Allen & Overy’s London employment team. In this interview, she draws on her experience to explain how the massive shift in workplace culture will define the future world of work.

Legal Business

A&O ups the ante on female partner promotions as Skadden ends City investment drought

A&O ups the ante on female partner promotions as Skadden ends City investment drought

Allen & Overy has promoted 14 London partners amid a scaled up 34-strong global round while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has promoted its first City partner in three years.

The Magic Circle firm made heavier investment in new partners than last year and also significantly improved the promotion of women, minting eight females – equal to 24% of the newest partners – of which two are part-time. Last year, A&O made up only two women in its 20-strong round, having the same month vowed to redouble its diversity efforts.

Notably, Shruti Ajitsaria, the head of its tech innovation space Fuse, was promoted to partner.

Ajitsaria said: ‘After training at A&O, I think it’s fair to say I have taken a slightly alternative career path. The success of Fuse is testament to the spirit of innovation which runs throughout the firm – from management to our trainees and across our global offices.’

Jonathan Brayne, chairman of Fuse, added: ‘Shruti has been fundamental to the highly successful launch and operation of Fuse, A&O’s tech innovation space.  I’m confident she will take it to another level as a partner and will find new ways of keeping Fuse – and with it Allen & Overy – in the vanguard of legal market tech innovation.’

The firm has a target of having 30% female partner candidates by 2021 with a view to having 30% women in its partnership overall. The other London promotions saw five made up in banking, four in corporate, two in international capital markets (ICM) and two in litigation.

Skadden, meanwhile, has promoted Denis Klimentchenko from counsel to partner for its City M&A bench, a rare investment for the firm having bypassed London altogether for two-years running.

While a show of support for the London office, the 11-strong global round is scaled back from previous years when 14 were made up in 2018 and 12 were promoted in 2017. Klimentchenko is the first promotion in London since Sandro de Bernardini was minted to Skadden’s City M&A team back in 2016.

 

The full list of A&O partner promotions:

Arnold Keizer, litigation, Amsterdam

Hilde Van der Baan, litigation, Amsterdam

Sarah Wilson, banking, Bangkok

Thales Mertens, litigation, Brussels

Kyle Nevin, banking, Dubai

Anthony Traboulsi, banking, Dubai

Zeid Qursha, corporate, Dubai

Tina LeDinh, corporate, Ho Chi Minh City

Oleg Khomenko, banking, London

Catherine Lang-Anderson, banking, London

Nick Lister, banking, London

Ed Moser, banking, London

Jodi Norman, banking, London

Michael Bloch, corporate, London

Kate McInerney, corporate, London

Hugh Robinson, corporate, London

William Samengo-Turner, corporate, London

Shruti Ajitsaria, Fuse, London

Peter Crossan, ICM, London

Suril Patel, ICM, London

Brandon O’Neil, litigation, London

Robbie Sinclair, litigation, London

Yannick Arbaut, banking, Luxembourg

Jacques Graas, corporate, Luxembourg

Paul Peporte, ICM, Luxembourg

Santiago de Vicente, real estate, Madrid

Paolo Nastasi, corporate, Milan

Bulat Zhambalnimbuev, corporate, Moscow

Magnus Mueller, tax, Munich

Xavier Jancène, real estate, Paris

Aloysius Tan, ICM, Singapore

Tokutaka Ito, corporate, Tokyo

Bartosz Merczynski, litigation, Warsaw

Maura Rezendes, corporate, Washington DC

 

The full list of Skadden partner promotions:

Christopher Barlow, M&A, New York

Julie Cohen, litigation, New York

Elena Coyle, financial institutions, New York

Alec Jarvis, tax, New York

Denis Klimentchenko, M&A, London

Joseph Larkin, litigation/corporate restructuring, Wilmington

Christopher Murphy, tax controversy, Palo Alto

Alisha Nanda, litigation, Boston

Christine Okike, corporate restructuring, New York

Paloma Wang, capital markets, Hong Kong

Geoffrey Wyatt, mass torts, insurance & consumer litigation, Washington DC

 

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

SRA attempts to prosecute A&O lawyer over controversial Weinstein gagging deal

SRA attempts to prosecute A&O lawyer over controversial Weinstein gagging deal

An Allen & Overy (A&O) solicitor has been recommended for prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over a controversial non-disclosure agreement (NDA) drafted for film producer Harvey Weinstein.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip confirmed today (3 April) that it aims to prosecute an unnamed lawyer from the firm, and is awaiting confirmation from the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) as to whether the prosecution will proceed. Such considerations from the SDT tend to not take longer than six months.

A&O was dragged into the spotlight a year ago, after it was revealed the City firm had drafted an NDA for Weinstein in 1998 after Zelda Perkins (pictured), who worked at the producer’s company Miramax, alleged Weinstein had sexually harassed a colleague.

Last April, A&O employment partner Mark Mansell (who was involved in drafting the agreement) was grilled by a Women and Equalities select committee as part of a probe into the ethics of NDAs. The SRA announced it was investigating A&O shortly after.

The case against the unnamed lawyer is one of 13 NDA-related investigations the SRA is currently pursuing. In March 2018, the SRA issued a warning notice reminding lawyers of their responsibility to ensure that such agreements are not used to prevent the signatory from reporting to the regulator or police in the event of alleged sexual misconduct.

Philip today (3 April) commented: ‘There is no doubt, with the benefit of hindsight, there has been a lack of clarity [before the guidance]. There is now more of a discussion and heightened awareness about this and [solicitors] are less likely to engage without thinking very carefully about it.’

He added: ‘I don’t think an ex-employee who leaves the business should be left in any doubt who they can and cannot tell.’

An A&O spokesperson said: ‘We cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.’

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

For in-depth coverage of the Weinstein NDA and the controversy over the profession’s role in concealing harassment, see last year’s piece ‘Draining the swamp’ (£)

Legal Business

No Kira in latest Fuse cohort as A&O announces new start-ups set to join incubator

No Kira in latest Fuse cohort as A&O announces new start-ups set to join incubator

Leading AI platform Kira Systems will not feature in the latest cohort of tech companies in Allen & Overy (A&O)’s  Fuse incubator, making room for more nascent start-ups to enter the Magic Circle firm’s tech space.

In September of last year Kira secured $50m in private equity backing in what was a benchmark for the legal tech sector, while Kira enjoyed year-on-year revenue growth of more than 100% for 2017. Meanwhile Bloomsbury AI, which was purchased for $23m by Facebook in July of last year, has also left Fuse.

However the departures made space for new entrants. Apiax, Define, HighQ and Scissero will all join the programme, alongside Fuse veterans Avvoka, Legatics and Nivaura. Scissero is an AI platform that aims to automate the drafting of legal agreements, while HighQ operates as a project management platform and Apiax looks to turn financial regulations into machine-readable rules. Define looks to speed up the legal drafting process for lawyers.

Kira, meanwhile, counts Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and DLA Piper as clients, and is widely considered the leading machine-learning contract analysis start-up in the sector. The decision to leave Fuse undoubtedly signals an increasing maturity for the much-touted company.

Applicants opened for the third cohort of Fuse in January of this year, while the incubator occupies an increasingly competitive space, with Magic Circle counterpart Slaughter and May announcing its own incubator Collaborate last month.

Shruti Ajitsaria, head of Fuse, commented: ‘A large part of the success of Fuse relies on identifying cohort members which will have a good synergy with A&O lawyers and our clients. I believe we have found that with this new cohort.’

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Magic Circle leads tech foray as Slaughters unveils tech incubator and Linklaters and A&O back Nivaura in $20m funding round

Magic Circle leads tech foray as Slaughters unveils tech incubator and Linklaters and A&O back Nivaura in $20m funding round

Slaughter and May has announced today (27 February) its much-anticipated legal tech incubator, Slaughter and May Collaborate, with the firm primed to select about six legal tech companies for its first cohort.

Magic Circle counterparts Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters, meanwhile, have both featured in fintech company Nivaura’s $20m funding round as the City elite bustle to achieve a technological advantage.

Collaborate is the first tech incubator at Slaughters with an exclusively legal focus, following the firm’s fintech effort, Fast Forward. The incubator will use a cohort model that will expose participants to clients and lawyers within the firm.

Collaborate will also feature an advisory panel of the firm’s top blue-chip clients, with GlaxoSmithKline, John Lewis Partnership, Santander, Standard Chartered and Vodafone all providing feedback on their technological needs. The programme will not include permanent office space or look to take equity in applicants.

Slaughters’ head of innovation Jane Stewart (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We spoke to a lot of tech companies who had participated in existing incubators to get an idea of what they wanted out of it, we really wanted to find out what was practically useful. One surprising thing that came out of that was companies don’t consider office space something of high importance.’

Part of the offering from Slaughters will include two mentors assigned to each Collaborate member, one coming from the innovation team and another a practicing lawyer relevant to the company’s business. Applications are open until 27 March, with the firm hoping to get the programme underway in April.

Collaborate is mostly aimed at early and mid-stage ventures rather than established businesses, but applications are open to all stages of maturity.

Steward added: ‘Already we have had a very established company express interest.’

Elsewhere, Linklaters and A&O both featured in a funding round for leading fintech prospect Nivaura, a longstanding participant in A&O’s Fuse tech incubator. The funding round raised $20m for the start-up, and was led by the London Stock Exchange Group.

For Linklaters, the investment marks a first for the firm, having never before taken equity in a technology start-up. A&O, meanwhile, has a longer relationship with Nivaura, with the firm investing approximately £100,000 in the company prior to Nivaura entering A&O’s tech incubator Fuse. The latest funding round has seen the firm increase its equity in the company, but the stake remains a small percentage of Nivaura’s overall shareholding.

‘They have a unique proposition,’ A&O debt capital markets partner Philip Smith told Legal Business. ‘They have granulised the various steps involved in a capital markets transaction, from the inception to the finalisation. There are other companies we are working with and we have considerable interest in investing with the model we have developed alongside Nivaura.’

Founded three years ago, Nivaura focuses on the deployment of digital investment banking platforms for banks. Compared to the fledging legal tech scene, fintech remains a more mature and sophisticated market, with Nivaura now set to rapidly expand its leadership, business development and technical teams to focus on large-scale projects throughout 2019.

‘The investment gives us an opportunity to help Nivaura,’ Linklaters capital markets partner Richard Levy told Legal Business. ‘It also gives us the opportunity to be at the centre of innovation. We look at start-ups in different ways and would consider future investments as part of a wider collaboration with a company.’

The funding round also saw US law firm Orrick, Santander InnoVentures and Transamerica Ventures invest, and is the latest influx of capital into the space after Slaughters stepped up earlier this month to help AI company Luminance secure a further $10m of funding, giving the company a valuation of $100m.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Deal watch: Latham joins Freshfields and A&O on €5.7bn European buyout as Eversheds acts on €590m UK takeover

Deal watch: Latham joins Freshfields and A&O on €5.7bn European buyout as Eversheds acts on €590m UK takeover

Continental Europe provided rich pickings to the global legal elite this week, as Blackstone and Hellman & Friedman agreed to one of the largest ever takeovers of a German listed company by a private equity group.

It was a busy week for the UK market too, as Eversheds Sutherland joined Allen & Overy (A&O) on the €590m takeover of a British chemical business by a New York-listed company.

Latham & Watkins and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer acted for Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone as the two PE houses announced a bid to acquire German online business Scout24, which was advised by A&O.

The cash offer for the entirety of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange-listed company is €46 per share, valuing Scout24’s equity at €4.9bn and giving the company an enterprise value of €5.7bn.

London private equity partners David Walker and Huw Thomas led the Latham team advising on the M&A, debt and equity finance aspects of the deal. The team also saw two of Latham’s most recent hires from the Magic Circle feature: Düsseldorf corporate partners Nikolaos Paschos and Tobias Larisch. The former joined the US firm from Linklaters in August 2017, the latter from Freshfields in March last year.

Larisch’s former colleagues, Freshfields partners Stephan Waldhausen and Arend von Riegen, advised the bidders on M&A matters, while A&O’s Christian Eichner and Hans Diekman acted for Scout24.

Latham previously advised Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone on the acquisition of Scout24 in 2013, and then on the company’s listing in 2015.

‘This is a major deal for the European private equity market,’ Walker told Legal Business. ‘There is, of course, uncertainty about the impact of Brexit, and indeed the general economic climate, but there continues to be a very healthy appetite for high quality assets and this deal shows that.’

The offer is subject to a minimum acceptance threshold of 50% plus one share and was brought forward to Pulver BidCo, a holding company jointly controlled by the two private equity houses.

A&O was busy north of the channel too, as London corporate partner Stephen Lloyd led the team advising Swedish chemicals company Perstorp as it sold its UK chemicals division Capa to US rival Ingevity.

Eversheds corporate partner Nicola Brookes led the team advising New York Stock Exchange-listed Ingevity, while Swedish firm Mannheimer Swartling provided Sweden law advice to Perstorp.

‘The special thing about this deal for our client is that it is their first acquisition outside of the US,’ Brookes told Legal Business.

The deal comes at the end of a competitive process, with private equity house Cinven also showing interest towards the end of last year.

Brookes said that Brexit was something ‘we had to deal with in terms of due diligence. The parties discussed Brexit and how they would protect themselves given that their suppliers are based across Europe.’

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Former banking chief Trahair takes the helm of A&O’s consulting and tech arm

Former banking chief Trahair takes the helm of A&O’s consulting and tech arm

Andrew Trahair, Allen & Overy’s (A&O) former banking co-head, has been enlisted to head the firm’s Advanced Delivery technology and consulting group a week after its Peerpoint chief executive stood down.

Trahair, who was co-head of A&O’s banking practice from 2008 to 2016, will lead the firm’s dedicated resources and technology services group, which includes flexible lawyering platform Peerpoint and tech innovator Fuse.

Trahair, who has been at the firm for nearly three decades, was also in the running for managing partner but was pipped to the post by Andrew Ballheimer in 2016.

The move comes after Richard Punt, chief executive of Peerpoint, last week stepped down from his role after more than four years. Peerpoint founder and managing director Ben Williams and Asia-Pacific head Carolyn Aldous will take his place.

The Magic Circle firm is aiming to increase crossover between these tech initiatives with its mainstream legal advisory services to expedite the creation of new client solutions.

The Advanced Delivery group will work closely with the A&O’s regulatory tech division, the Markets Innovation Group; Consulting, its strategic advisory and consulting arm; and its online cross border legal information subscription business, aosphere.

Angela Clist, A&O’s securitisation partner and co-head of the global financial institutions group, has also been appointed as head of the Legal Services Centre, also part of the Advanced Delivery Group.

She will take over the role at the firm’s cost-efficient hub in Belfast to replace Jane Townsend when she retires.

The group also includes the eDiscovery team (offering document review and analysis for litigation and investigations), the Project Management Office (managing matters that involve scoping, planning, budgeting, executing and reviewing) and the Legal Technology Group.

Wim Dejonghe, A&O’s global senior partner, commented: ‘Advanced resourcing, technology and our client solution capabilities are core to the firm’s strategic vision. These senior appointments reflect the seriousness of our commitment to accelerate our level of investment in these areas.’

Trahair said: ‘Allen & Overy is committed to innovation and we are widely recognised for being a market leader in advanced resourcing, technology and client solutions. Our Advanced Delivery group is part of our forward looking philosophy that allows us to align our expertise and tackle client challenges in a way that goes beyond what law firms have conventionally done.’

Dejonghe said of Punt’s exit: ‘Richard has been instrumental in the success of Peerpoint, which is the market-leading consultant lawyer business and is at the heart of A&O’s Advanced Delivery capability. We will miss his energy and intellect and wish him every success in the future.’

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

White & Case duo among four solicitors made up in reduced 2018 silk round

White & Case duo among four solicitors made up in reduced 2018 silk round

White & Case arbitration partners Dipen Sabharwal (pictured) and Aloke Ray make up half of the solicitor-advocates taking silk in this year’s Queen’s Counsel (QC) appointments, with 108 making the cut overall.

Completing the all-male group of solicitor-advocates taking silk were Allen & Overy partner Mark Levy and Stephen Fietta, founder of disputes boutique Fietta.

Sabharwal is head of White & Case’s EMEA international arbitration practice, and was promoted to partner in 2012. Ray joined the firm in 1999, and was promoted in 2006.

Sabharwal described taking silk as ‘the ultimate badge of recognition’. Ray, meanwhile, told Legal Business: ‘The pleasure and privilege comes from the fact it is associated with the high quality standard of work we do as a firm. Not all clients will react the same, but I can’t see how the extra recognition would hurt.’

The four solicitors appointed in this round marks the third consecutive year of decline, however: five solicitors took silk in 2017, and six the year before.

Solicitors were far more successful on average this year, however, with four out of five succeeding in their applications. Last year, only half of the ten solicitor applicants were successful.

There were also significantly less overall appointments, falling 9% to 108 from 119. There was an even greater fall in applicants, however, to 240 from 272.

Four barristers’ chambers shared the honour of having the highest number of tenants take silk: Brick Court Chambers, 39 Essex Chambers, Red Lion Chambers and Littleton Chambers each had four barristers appointed.

It continues a strong run for Red Lion Chambers, which topped the list outright last year with six barristers taking silk. For elite London set Brick Court Chambers, it is a return to form after only one tenant was made up last year.

Male appointees far outweighed successful female applicants: 78 to 30. Women were more successful on average though, with 55% of female applicants making the cut compared to 42% for men.

Ethnic minority representation remained sluggish, with 13 out of 30 non-white applicants taking silk compared to 18 out of 33 last year.

Sir Alex Allan, chair of the Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel, commented: ‘We remain concerned that the number of female applicants remains comparatively low, but I am pleased that of those women who did apply, well over 50% were successful. I was also pleased to note that the number of BAME applicants appointed was in proportion to their representation amongst applicants, and amongst the relevant cohort of the profession.’

Sabharwal added: ‘The Queen’s Counsel Appointments and the Bar Council have been making strenuous efforts in improving diversity in recent years. Why the needle isn’t moving in the right direction is a complex story, but perhaps it’s a case of laying the groundwork now for a better result in a few years’ time.’

The silk swearing-in ceremony will be held on 11 March 2019.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

For a longer read on the pageantry and magic of the ceremony, read ‘The Silk Round: One fine day’.

 

The full list of appointments (in alphabetical order):  

Zubair Ahmad, 2 Hare Court

Narita Bahra, 2 Hare Court

James Bailey, Wilberforce Chambers

Charles Banner, Landmark Chambers

William Bennett, 5RB

Balraj Bhatia, No. 1 High Pavement Chambers

Anna Boase, One Essex Court

Tim Buley, Landmark Chambers

Edmund Burge, Five St Andrew’s Hill

Peter Burns, Byrom Street Chambers

Victoria Butler-Cole, 39 Essex Chambers

John Cammegh, 9 Bedford Row

Giles Cannock, Kings Chambers

Lorraine Cavanagh, St John’s Buildings

Mark Chacksfield, 8 New Square

Richard Chapman, 18 St John Street Chambers

Nicholas Corsellis, QEB Hollis Whiteman

Catherine Cowton, Queen Elizabeth Building

Nicholas Craig, 3 Verulam Buildings

Timothy Cray, 6KBW College Hill

Clifford Darton, Ely Place Chambers

Andrew de Mestre, 4 Stone Buildings

Peter de Verneuil Smith, 3 Verulam Buildings

Katherine Deal, 3 Hare Court

Kevin Dent, 5 St Andrew’s Hill

Thomas Dumont, Radcliffe Chambers

Rory Dunlop, 39 Essex Chambers

David Durose, Furnival Chambers

Nigel Edwards, St Pauls Chambers

David Emanuel, Garden Court Chambers

Stephen Fietta, Fietta

Dean George, 2 Bedford Row

Katherine Goddard, Bank House Chambers

Michael Goodwin, Red Lion Chambers

Nina Grahame, Garden Court North Chambers

Margaret Gray, Brick Court Chambers

Jaime Hamilton, Nine St John Street

Jonathan Hand, Outer Temple Chambers

Mark Harries, Carmelite Chambers

Christopher Harris, 3 Verulam Buildings

Alec Haydon, Brick Court Chambers

Thomas Hickman, Blackstone Chambers

Isabel Hitching, Crown Office Chambers

Fiona Horlick, Outer Temple Chambers

Mozammel Hossain, 187 Fleet Street

Nicola Howard, 25 Bedford Row

Nicholas Isaac, Tanfield Chambers

Sarah Jones, Pump Court Chambers

Robert Kellar, 1 Crown Office Row

Charlotte Kilroy, Doughty Street Chambers

Ronit Kreisberger, Monckton Chambers

Lindsay Lane, 8 New Square

James Leabeater, 4 Pump Court

Mark Levy, Allen & Overy

David Lewis, Hardwicke

Richard Littler, Exchange Chambers

Dale Martin, Littleton Chambers

Jane McCafferty, 11KBW

Constance McDonnell, Serle Court

Nicholas Medcroft, Fountain Court Chambers

Christina Michalos, 5RB

Sian Mirchandani, 4 New Square

Keir Monteith, Garden Court Chambers

Giles Mooney, 9 Gough Square

Alison Morgan, 6KBW College Hill

Aparna Nathan, Devereux Chambers

Michelle Nelson, Red Lion Chambers

Brian Nicholson, 11 South Square

Robert Palmer, Monckton Chambers

Christopher Paxton, Red Lion Chambers

Alan Payne, 5 Essex Court Chambers

Simon Pentol, 25 Bedford Row

Fionn Pilbrow, Brick Court Chambers

Nigel Povoas, 7 Bedford Row

Steven Powles, Doughty Street Chambers

Sarah Pritchard, Kings Chambers

Aloke Ray, White & Case

Jonathan Rees, Churchers Solicitors

Jamie Riley, Littleton Chambers

James Rivett, Pump Court Tax Chambers

James Roberts, 1 King’s Bench Walk

Daniel Robinson, Red Lion Chambers

Dipen Sabharwal, White & Case

Daniel Saoul, 4 New Square

Diya Sen Gupta, Blackstone Chambers

Mohinderpal Sethi, Littleton Chambers

Daniel Shapiro, Crown Office Chambers

Neil Sheldon, 1 Crown Office Row

Nicholas Sidall, Littleton Chambers

Katherine Sloane, Monckton Chambers

Julia Smart, Furnival Chambers

Christopher Smith, Quadrant Chambers

Jessica Stephens, 4 Pump Court

John Thackray, Wilberforce Chambers

David Thomas, 39 Essex Chambers

James Todd, 39 Essex Chambers

Stephanie Tozer, Falcon Chambers

William Upton, Six Pump Court

Guglielmo Verdirame, 20 Essex Street

Jeremy Wainwright, 3 Temple Gardens

Victoria Wakefield, Brick Court Chambers

Robert Walton, Landmark Chambers

David Whittaker, 2 Hare Court

Adam Wolanski, 5RB

Damian Woodward-Carlton, 42 Bedford Row

Richard Wormald, Three Raymond Buildings

David Yates, Pump Court Tax Chambers

Hossein Zahir, Garden Court Chambers

Legal Business

A&O opening Fuse tech lab for third round as it partners on £1.2m AI legal services project

A&O opening Fuse tech lab for third round as it partners on £1.2m AI legal services project

Allen & Overy (A&O) will open its technology incubator space Fuse to a third group of companies from early next year, as it partners with a University of Oxford AI project.

The firm announced today (December 13) that applications to enter Fuse will be welcomed from companies until 25 January. A selection pitch to the firm will follow in February before successful applicants move into the space shortly after. Both early stage and mature companies can apply, joining Fuse for about six months.

Shruti Ajitsaria, head of Fuse, commented: ‘Fuse acts as a radar enabling us to understand what is out there in terms of technology-driven solutions to the challenges that our lawyers and clients face every day. Selecting a new cohort will enable us to continue to be a destination and a collaborative partner for best-in-class tech companies with whom we find synergies.’

The firm rewired its Fuse initiative last April, when the incubator announced a host of established names to take part in the second cohort. Last time around incumbent companies Avvoka, Legatics and Nivaura all retained their places, while Bloomsbury AI, Neota Logic and the highly-rated Kira Systems made up the new additions. The second cohort also saw companies without an explicit legal focus win spots, such as AI company Signal Media.

Magic Circle counterparts Slaughter and May and technology powerhouse Thomson Reuters are both primed to launch their own tech incubators next year, directly competing with established names such as Mishcon de Reya’s MDR LABS and Dentons’ Nextlaw Labs and Nextlaw Ventures.

A&O, meanwhile, has also been named a partner to the University of Oxford’s AI and legal services project. The project was recently awarded £1.2m by the Economic and Social Research Council, which will be used to fund the ‘Unlocking the Potential of AI for English Law’ project.

The initiative will see the university’s law, economics, social policy, computer science and education departments collaborate. The research team will then work with private-sector partners to address research questions such as AI’s potential for dispute resolution and applying AI to legal reasoning. A&O joins Slaughters, The Law Society and Thomson Reuters, among others, as project partners.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Banking and finance focus: Back to the future

Banking and finance focus: Back to the future

‘The truth is no-one’s got the faintest idea what finance practices will look like in the future,’ shrugs Tony Bugg, Linklaters’ head of banking, when asked to describe a top City finance practice in 2030. Of the dozens of London finance chiefs and partners to whom Legal Business posed the question, Bugg’s take is at least one of the more candid.

If the last decade is any guide, the finance world will be girding itself for more wrenching change. The post-banking crisis environment has seen a dramatic increase in regulation and oversight of banks and helped encourage the growth of institutions filling the void as senior lenders retrench.