Legal Innovators: DWF Ventures’ JP on Creativity + Commercial Value

Jonathan Patterson, or ‘JP’ as he’s known to many, comes across as a commercially-focused legal innovator with a flair for creativity.

As managing director of DWF Ventures, the R&D and innovation company wholly owned by DWF, JP has seen his group bring to life several useful products and a key partnership since its launch two years ago.

The likes of DWF Verify, a tool for speeding up the verification process in IPOs, and DWF Scope, a pricing tool, are some of its notable achievements, as is the launch of the Manchester Law and Technology Initiative, a business-university collaboration with other top firms aimed at fast-tracking legal tech research.

At DWF Ventures, his work entails various duties, from horizon scanning, through to addressing challenges DWF staff or business units face, right up to: ‘We’ve had an idea, is it a good idea, could we design that idea and see whether people like it?,’ he tells Artificial Lawyer.

‘My job is to make sure the whole process works well, end to end,’ he notes.

With seemingly so much on his plate, which aspect of his job excites him the most?

‘I’d honestly struggle to pick one. But I think I’ve got a top three,’ he explains. ‘The first one is that creative process, where you can see people who effectively start out by thinking ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got a challenge.’ [And then comes] the moment when a creative spark kicks in and [they have] something that might solve the problem. So there is definitely that one, it’s quite high up.

‘The second thing linked to that is seeing people develop that kind of [creative] side of themselves. The legal industry is often repressed because it is often about logic and reason. And, I must admit, the final thing is that there is nothing better than when an idea goes all the way through, comes out the other end and delivers something valuable, by whatever definition we have placed on that.’

Defining Innovation

JP believes that innovation feels like leadership in the sense that ‘you sort of know it when you see it’.

He explains: ‘We decided to define innovation quite early on as a business so that we didn’t get lost in the language.’

‘So, for us, it’s turning ideas into something that are commercially valuable. If you play that into legal tech, innovation is when a piece of new legal technology combines with other aspects of a particular process and solves the commercial problem. That is when it’s innovation for me, otherwise it is just a good idea.’

“[Innovation] for us, it’s turning ideas into something that are commercially valuable.”

Assessing Technology

He explains that they recently decided to get different teams to review different types of legal documents, covering three areas: leases, contracts and medical records.

‘For each one we decided what we were trying to do and we tested three or four different [legal AI analysis] products and we managed to work with them to select the right ones for the right jobs, and we got to a point where we are [now] clear with our teams and our technology people about a particular product,’ he says.

As to which one they have chosen, he adds: ‘At the minute we can’t name it because we’ve not signed a contract with them, but it’s the one that works best with leases and contracts and that then allows us to pass that into operations. You know the R&D bit, the recommendation is made and is passed on’

Challenges And The Future

For JP, one of the biggest challenges facing this sector is that ‘we are now not short of innovation and technology. Maybe what we are short of is that framework for innovation that decides what we are trying to do’.

‘We are trying to transform what we do now into something completely different,’ he explains, ‘and I’m pretty convinced that some of the legal industry, when we look ahead in ten years time, will look like a version of what we’ve got, but part of it will be heavily digitised or heavily process-orientated, and I think the big innovation challenge is deciding what is the right strategy for that and then proving that this strategy works.’

Whatever form this future takes it looks certain that JP and the team at DWF Ventures will certainly have played a part in making it happen.

By Irene Madongo

Jonathan Patterson, Managing Director at DWF Ventures, will be speaking at the Legal Innovators conference on 11 October in London, along with many other great speakers. You can find out more information and get tickets via the link below.