Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition

Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition

Ashurst has teamed up with US-based law company Elevate and Cognia Law to offer clients flexible lawyering through the firm’s New Law umbrella Ashurst Advance.

The initiative launched today (8 November) and gives Ashurst access to Elevate and Cognia’s flexible lawyering pool, with the offering initially available in both the UK and Australia before being rolled out globally. The arrangement will also allow Ashurst’s clients to access particular expertise for secondees. Continue reading “Ashurst joins flexible lawyering bandwagon as DWF completes BT Law acquisition”

‘Not a chance’: Reed Smith rules out a listing as it lands ABS licence approval

‘Not a chance’: Reed Smith rules out a listing as it lands ABS licence approval

Reed Smith has made good on its plans to secure an alternative business structure (ABS) licence from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), but has ruled out the move will be part of a process to pursue an initial public offering (IPO).

The change in regulatory status also allows the firm to be owned or managed by those without legal qualifications, with Reed Smith eyeing a widened provision of service beyond conventional law. The change in structure will not change the firm’s limited liability partnership status, which includes a single partnership and profit pool in the UK, France, Greece, UAE and China. Continue reading “‘Not a chance’: Reed Smith rules out a listing as it lands ABS licence approval”

Growth and investment define New Law as frontrunners make big gains

Growth and investment define New Law as frontrunners make big gains

Industry pioneers are attracting public and private interest in alternative models

While many lofty predictions of New Law’s rise remain unrealised, the market’s traditional champions have all made major contributions to its growth in recent weeks. Flexible lawyering business Axiom engaged in a surprise private equity (PE) sale; US alternative provider UnitedLex turned over $350m in an impressive year; while Elevate achieved revenues of £76m in another record result. Continue reading “Growth and investment define New Law as frontrunners make big gains”

New tricks – Can law firms beat New Law disruptors at their own game?

New tricks – Can law firms beat New Law disruptors at their own game?

Lee Ranson was restless. It was late 2018 and Eversheds Sutherland’s co-chief needed something different: a viable plan to double revenue over the next five years.

A few months earlier, he and US-based co-chief executive Mark Wasserman had joked about telling the firm’s partner conference in New York they were floating on the stock exchange. Now Ranson turned his mind to a public offering, or at least the options to attract external investment. But it was not about his law firm. This was about Eversheds’ alternative legal service offerings, covering consulting and flexible lawyering, then generating £29m annually. A tidy sum, and growing rapidly, but just 3% of the firm’s overall revenue. Continue reading “New tricks – Can law firms beat New Law disruptors at their own game?”

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

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. Continue reading “Government backs University of Oxford legal tech research as Magic Circle trio form data consortium”

Conference Sketch – Thousands flock to law tech showcase but echo chamber concerns creep in

Conference Sketch – Thousands flock to law tech showcase but echo chamber concerns creep in

Walking trees. High-fives. A cinema. Virtual reality headsets. Arcade games. Disco balls. General counsel (GCs) dressed as Willy Wonka. Filing cabinet piñatas. T-shirts reading ‘no bullshit’ and nobody in a suit and tie.

Since its debut in 2016, legal tech community Legal Geek’s annual conference has grown dramatically from a respectable 500 attendees to more than 2,000 packing out a former brewery near London’s Brick Lane.

The event is the brainchild of Legal Geek founder and legal tech start-up community lynchpin Jimmy Vestbirk. He kicked proceedings off Wednesday (16 October) from the main stage, where it was standing-room only, by setting the tone for a different type of law conference: ‘Anyone who’s been here before knows we like to start by high-fiving the people around you.’

The eruption of high fives was followed by an invoking of the conference’s start-up roots, with Vestbirk adding: ‘Today is not about hierarchy. The legal profession is very hierarchical, but the student is as likely to change the profession as the managing partner.’

No managing partners were present to hear, however. The senior end of in-house was better represented, with figures such as Chris Fowler, technology GC for telecoms giant BT, and Panasonic’s associate GC for legal innovation Bea Miyamoto among the speakers. Thomson Reuters’ newly-recruited chief strategy officer Richard Punt also spoke, while New Law was represented by Daniel Reed, chief executive of US-based alternative legal services provider, UnitedLex.

A key point at this year’s conference was the need for in-house legal functions and private practice to get a grip on their data. ‘Most legal functions face increased demand and pressure to reduce cost,’ said EY Riverview Law chief executive Karl Chapman (pictured). ‘Legal cannot avoid the need to use the right data. A staggering amount of work legal teams are doing should not be in the legal function and not be done by lawyers.’

Anna Power, GC at American retailer Crabtree & Evelyn, reiterated the point: ‘Data can help demonstrate value and the need for something, but some of the metrics to get hold of that data are hard to find and it’s not clear how to do it.’

There was wide agreement among the speakers that compared to other professional services, legal is slow to make data and digital a pervasive force throughout the industry. Reed in particular took opportunity to stress the need for a digital revolution throughout Big Law, noting: ‘Digital fluency is a pre-requisite to a legal society moving forward. Law needs to get a grip on its data.’

Meanwhile, in a space awash with technology tools tailored to niche concerns, companies and firms were being encouraged to move towards broader platforms to address their needs. ‘We have too many pieces of tech that do not talk to one another,’ Fowler confessed. ‘This means manual processes are in play between them which increases points of failure. We need to move towards a platform environment.’

Likewise, others stressed that while finance had SAP and sales had Salesforce, legal is overdue an equivalent platform which permeates the work of a legal function. But technology providers are seemingly taking heed. When in January Thomson Reuters snapped up legal software provider HighQ, it was done so with a view towards integrating existing tools into the HighQ platform. This will include Thomson Reuters’ flagship contract tool Contract Express, which is now in the process of being integrated into HighQ alongside other products at the technology giant.

Punt, among others, warned that consolidation was inevitable in such a fragmented industry; an ominous message for the many nascent data extraction and contract tools with stands on the strip coined ‘Start-up Alley.’ Standing out among the new names were some of the longer-standing players, with Legatics, Orbital Witness and Avokka all returning to the circuit. Outside the alley, well-known names Luminance and Lexoo were also exhibited.

Echoing a theme of many speakers, Punt noted: ‘There will be consolidation because legal technology is an extraordinary fragmented industry, and that’s true of every part of the wider industry.’ Reed at UnitedLex noted the challenge for smaller players of achieving the scale to build credible business models: ‘Start-ups need to achieve scale quickly, otherwise they’ll remain a ripple forever and never be a current.’

The start-ups themselves had been decamped from the prime real estate next to the conference’s entrance they enjoyed last year, with the main sponsors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, iManage, Barclays and Thomson Reuters dominating the conference space.

Some vendors felt Legal Geek’s burgeoning size – though a great sign for interest in the market – removed some of the event’s original intimacy and networking benefits. One company’s head of sales complained the turnout was fuelled by juniors being sent on intelligence missions, and the event lacked the juice – and buying power – brought by more senior figures.

Not all were worried. In his opening address Vestbirk lauded the fact attendees’ name tags did not reveal a person’s role within their company or firm, in the hope it would create a more egalitarian environment.

But undoubtedly the conspicuous absence was senior leadership figures from private practice. One sponsor told Legal Business they feared the event had become ‘the converted speaking to the converted’ while one company complained that the conference had become the same faces broadly saying the same things.

Nevertheless, Legal Geek has succeeded in creating one of the most diverse legal conferences in the area. A glance over the packed audience to the main stage revealed a diverse and energetic community from which legal’s monoculture could learn a great deal. But, despite its remarkable size, there remains swathes of the legal profession Legal Geek is unable to proselytize.

However, such challenges are arguably a product of Legal Geek’s success: with packed crowds and plenty of energy, attention in the event shows no signs of waning.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk

Click here to see Legal Business’s extended focus on the start-up community

Adoption is accelerating: legal tech start-up investment more than doubles to £61m in 2018

Adoption is accelerating: legal tech start-up investment more than doubles to £61m in 2018

Cash flowing into UK legal tech start-ups rose to £61m in 2018, a considerable increase on the previous year’s £22m, according to a Thomson Reuters report published today (16 October).

Over a five-year period the increase is even more drastic, with just £1.5m invested into legal tech companies in 2014 according to the report, created in collaboration with legal technology community Legal Geek. Moreover, the cash influx shows no signs of abating, with 2019’s investment already standing at £62m. Continue reading “Adoption is accelerating: legal tech start-up investment more than doubles to £61m in 2018”

Riverview Law and Pangea3 brands to be dropped following EY acquisition

Riverview Law and Pangea3 brands to be dropped following EY acquisition

Big Four accountancy firm EY is finalising the combination of its two high-profile acquisitions, Riverview Law and Pangea3, into one managed services business under the EY Law brand.

The rebranding means that both Riverview and Pangea3, acquired over the last year, will be absorbed into EY Law’s global managed services delivery, while also keeping an onshore presence through Riverview’s office in Wirral. Continue reading “Riverview Law and Pangea3 brands to be dropped following EY acquisition”

Stake in the ground: Pinsents bolsters alternative services with project management division

Stake in the ground: Pinsents bolsters alternative services with project management division

Pinsent Masons has launched a client and legal project management division as it continues to ramp up investment in non-legal services.

The firm said today [8 October] it had launched the division of more than 20 project managers, led by head of client and legal project management Dee Tamlin (pictured). That team has largely been built up since May last year and won mandates in the UK, Europe and South Africa, with the firm now looking to invest further through recruitment in the UK, Asia-Pacific and Middle East. Continue reading “Stake in the ground: Pinsents bolsters alternative services with project management division”

New Law, new money: UnitedLex turnover hits $350m with UK expansion on the cards

New Law, new money: UnitedLex turnover hits $350m with UK expansion on the cards

US New Law provider UnitedLex has bolstered its total revenue to $350m in its most recent financial results, with expansion across the UK and Europe is high on its agenda for the rest of the year.

Turnover is up 27% on the company’s last set of financials, while UK revenue increased 8% over the last year from £54m to £58.5m. Headcount in the UK also grew over the year, rising from 125 fee-earners to 145 this year, of which 80 are qualified solicitors. Continue reading “New Law, new money: UnitedLex turnover hits $350m with UK expansion on the cards”