Magic Circle law firm Slaughter and May has launched a Client Innovation Network where inhouse lawyers and legal ops teams can jointly pilot legal tech products in collaboration with the firm.
The Network will offer members the opportunity to participate in:
- tech demo sessions, co-delivered by Slaughter and May and its legal tech suppliers,
- workshops and training sessions on topics including legal process design, digital literacy and other skills for the lawyers of the future,
- joint legal tech pilots with the firm to test software ‘while sharing the often intensive resource burden required’,
- a forum to share resources such as market maps and procurement guides to help in-house teams navigate this space, and
- networking sessions, to give clients opportunities to share experiences with peers across a range of sectors.
Jane Stewart, Head of Innovation at Slaughter and May, said: ‘The world of legal tech is growing, changing and improving all the time, but there are common themes in the issues and challenges that we and our clients are facing.
‘Through our Network initiative we can offer our clients access to the innovation expertise we have developed in house as well as some of the technologies we have tested and deployed, and in doing so we plan to build an industry network of like-minded individuals.’
Ben Kingsley, Sponsoring Partner for the Client Innovation Network, added: ‘We have already had over 45 clients sign up to join the Network, including Bupa, Standard Chartered and Vodafone, and hope to see this number grow over the coming months.
‘We recognise that many in-house legal teams are looking to make rapid progress in this area and to shape the future of legal services delivery, and are delighted to offer our clients bespoke access to a Network of peers to support this.’
While Tim Way, Legal Operations Manager at Bupa, who has joined the Network, concluded: ‘We have collaborated with Slaughter and May on various innovation initiatives recently, so it was a natural progression for us to join this network. With many organisations facing similar opportunities and challenges, it’s great to share best practice and make sure we’re always across the latest ideas.’
Is this a big deal? It certainly makes a lot of sense, and no doubt legal tech companies will welcome the opportunity to have their products presented to corporate clients hand-in-hand with Slaughter and May. Also, having a system for managing joint pilots with the firm and its clients will likely attract attention from vendors that work with the inhouse world.
This approach also builds upon the firm’s Collaborate incubator programme. Although in this case the focus is on helping clients to onboard new tech, rather than just provide feedback to help improve that product. In which case, the programme is probably best suited to legal tech companies that are confident their offering is ready, rather than still at an early stage.
More broadly, it shows an effort to formalise a range of activities that go on in large law firms all the time, e.g. conversations with clients about their tech and legal ops needs that then lead to further input that goes beyond legal advice. For example, the bit about sharing know-how on the procurement of legal tech.
From market feedback it’s clear that many inhouse teams still feel isolated and in the dark when it comes to knowing how to deal with the vast array of tech vendors; from how to pick them, what their legal tech budget should be, and how to handle a raft of issues from testing, to implementation, to integration with other systems.
This means that although a handful of inhouse teams are charging ahead, many are very much getting to grips with legal tech still, even after all the activity of the last few years. A network where people can come together, learn, and share insights, as well as pilot legal tech products with the helping hand of a major law firm, will therefore address these needs.