Global Law Firm Linklaters Creates New ‘Head of Innovation’ Role

Global law firm, Linklaters, has for the first time created a Head of Innovation role to drive change inside the business. It has hired Shilpa Bhandarkar for this role, who was previously Legal Network Director at Lexoo, a European legal digital marketplace.

The move underlines the growing trend among larger commercial law firms to embrace legal tech as a strategic issue – rather than just see it as a lower horizon, operational, incremental adjustment issue – and to create new roles and specialist, often hybrid skills teams, to drive strategic change through this technology.

Shilpa Bhandarkar, the new Innovation Head

Bhandarkar will lead a central team based out of the firm’s Innovation Lab in London and will supervise the Linklaters’ Innovation & Efficiency programme, working with partners and business teams ‘to champion innovation’, said the firm.

Linklaters is no stranger to legal tech innovation. Almost 20 years ago it pioneered the field with its Blue Flag project. It has also worked closely with leading legal AI company, Eigen Technologies. And, it has also developed a legal AI capability internally via its Nakhoda platform.

The firm added: ‘A member of Linklaters’ alumni, Shilpa is a rare legal professional in that she operates between the legal, business and technology worlds. She started her career as a lawyer in the Linklaters Project Finance team and returns having built and sold a mobile app company and spent time in the law tech space with Lexoo. In keeping with Linklaters commitment to agile working she will divide her time between Amsterdam, where her family is based, and London.’

The 2,100-lawyer firm added that ‘Innovation at Linklaters covers the latest cutting-edge advances in legal innovation, including LawTech, FinTech, blockchain, smart contracts and advanced matter delivery. Since its creation last year, the Innovation & Efficiency team has already established a network of innovation champions across the firm and created a structured framework to collect, evaluate and develop ideas from its people’.

Commenting on the move, Paul Lewis, a partner at Linklaters, said: ‘Innovation is not just about adopting technology enabled products, it is also about changing the way we work with clients, how we manage our people and how we organise ourselves. It is central to the future of our business and Shilpa will help to both crystallise and deliver on our vision.’

Bhandarkar concluded: ‘Linklaters has always embraced new ideas and technologies that enable it to provide a best in class service to its clients and a fulfilling work environment for its people. This is reflected in collaborations with clients such as ISDA, as well as internal collaborations borne through our ideas pathway.’

‘As a people business, innovation, however defined, must ultimately result in a better experience for both our clients and our people. I’m looking forward to working with our practice innovation teams to develop a truly entrepreneurial mindset across the firm to ensure our best ideas are captured, developed and scaled,’ she added.