This is the first in a series of Legal Tech Leader Profiles that focus on people pioneering with legal automation, legal AI and data analytics in law firms and inhouse legal teams.
Legal Tech Leaders: Nick West, CTO at Mishcon de Reya
What is your role inside the firm and how much of this role connects to areas such as using AI tools and automation?
I’m our CTO and Chief Strategy Officer and I’m the Director of MDR LAB, so I spend time both on the Firm’s core technology stack and newer technologies, including AI and other tools to automate tasks that our people have to do, both in the business and practice of law.
What are the main Legal Automation and AI Systems that your law firm is currently using?
- We use Contract Express for document automation and have also built some internal technology which wraps around Contract Express which allows us to integrate it with other technologies that we use, both upstream and downstream of the main drafting task.
- We use Kira Systems for AI doc review, particularly in our Real Estate practice, but again it is one of a suite of tools which we use in our Real Estate practice, some of which are developed internally, to enable us to automatically push and pull data to and from a range of sources such as the Land Registry, HMRC and our client’s own internal systems. Amongst this suite of tools is also Orbital Witness, one of our MDR LAB graduates, which we use to speed up title diligence in real estate transactions.
- In our Litigation practice, we use a range of tools to automate tasks or parts of tasks. For example, we use a number of tools to automatically capture information from the open web about companies and individuals in litigation, a range of tools for bundle creation, we use Relativity as our core tool for disclosure along with other third party tools (as required) for processing the raw data. We also use Everchron (MDR LAB) for overall case management, which can automate tasks such as language translation or bundle production and facilitates collaboration amongst the various parties serving our client
- In the Business of Law, we are in the process of rolling out PING, another of our MDR LAB companies, which automates time recording – automatically capturing the tasks that lawyers do and creating time entries in the background. It uses machine learning to classify the time entries to the correct client, matter, phase and task.
There are numerous other examples, but hopefully the above gives a flavour.
Does your firm have a dedicated ‘Innovation Team’ and/or a group focused on new legal technology/new types of service delivery? Can you please tell us about these groups and how they work together?
We have a small central strategy team, a number of lawyers across practices who have their chargeable time reduced to allow them to work on innovation/technology projects, an MDR LAB team, a data analytics and machine learning team, a litigation technology team, a team of contract automation experts, a couple of legal engineers and an internal development team in our IT/Technology function.
We pull the right resources for any given project from amongst this group, as well as the many other business professionals who might be able to contribute to the issue.
Does your firm employ data scientists, and if so, what are their main objectives?
Yes, we have a Head of Data Analytics and Machine learning, Alastair Moore. He is working on a range of projects with a particular focus on predictive analytics – litigation costs for example – as well as working with our LAB companies, such as PING on their machine learning features.
Does your firm have specialised teams/bases to handle ‘process’ or volume matters for clients? How do they benefit the clients?
No – we have redesigned a number of processes to improve speed, accuracy and efficiency and then re-embedded them in our BAU teams, where they are led by one of our lawyer/tech champions or the litigation team or a legal engineer or equivalent.
Are you using any AI or Automation technology to gain deeper insights, whether legal or business focused, into your and your clients’ legal data and documents?
Yes – as above, plus other things that are very early stage
When it comes to the impact of using automated systems, for example for AI doc review, how much of a benefit have they been so far? For example, in saving time and increased productivity, or in other ways?
They have a meaningful impact – we are able to serve clients better and faster, with more accuracy and more cost predictability, and often cheaper.
For example, the work we are doing in Real Estate using a range of data science techniques, Kira, Contract Express and a number of other integrated pieces of tech allows us to provide structured datasets to our clients, saving them and their other advisors significant time – see here.
Our approach also allows us to do work – often involving reviews of large sets of standardised documentation – that we would otherwise not be able to do at the price that our clients are willing to bear.
Do you feel that clients are asking for the use of AI and automation technology, or is this something the firm is leveraging on its own initiative?
To be honest, our clients rarely ask us to use any particular AI or automation tools in the same way that they don’t ask us to use a document management system or laptops – they just expect us to have the right tools for the job.
They expect outcomes – high quality work at the right price and it’s our job to figure out the right combination of people, technical expertise, process and technology to deliver that.
Thanks, Nick, for your answers!