Joe Cohen + Charles Russell Speechlys’ Plan to Sell Its Own Software

Last year Joe Cohen hit the headlines for his work at global law firm Dentons in building FleetAI, one of the first major legal sector projects founded upon OpenAI’s LLMs. To the surprise of many, he then left to help another firm with a major tech and innovation launch – which as revealed today, includes building and selling its own software products to clients.

Where he went was UK-based Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS), a law firm known for its private client work as well as finance and real estate, to become Director of Advanced Client Solutions (ACS).

First, after the success of FleetAI, which Cohen at the time said had been the most successful roll-out of any legal tech product in Dentons’ history, why the move? Cohen told Artificial Lawyer that he knew people at CRS already and that the opportunity to help launch its ACS department ‘was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up’. And indeed, coming in to help launch such a strategic part of the business for a major law firm is exciting.

So, what is ACS? Stepping back, one could say that it’s a move that will bring CRS up to speed with many of its peers, in that it will include various capabilities to improve the delivery of legal work, incorporating: Solution Development, Legal Tech & AI, Legal Project Management, Alternative Delivery, and Process Improvement.

This connected collection of teams is something that larger law firms already have in place and CRS which is on the cusp of the UK Top 20 by revenue, clearly wants to match this. And so this will be covering alternative resourcing; helping clients with project planning and volume matters; and developing responses to generative AI’s opportunities.

One aspect that especially caught this site’s eye is the plan to make and sell CRS ‘own brand’ software. The initiative would be run as a profit-making business that the partners will benefit from, rather than just a ‘freemium’ value-add to generate client goodwill.

‘We are creating a new team at CRS for software. It’s not legal tech software as such, but we are going to leverage our knowledge, our legal information, to build and sell products for the market,’ Cohen explained.

These products will naturally focus on the needs of its private clients and the inhouse teams of family offices, covering areas such as tax, trusts, and wealth management. As the group has only just launched, they don’t have a portfolio of tools to share right now, but they soon will. (And they’re also hiring in new tech talent to help…)

When they do have the product menu ready to go, they will join a growing number of firms, from Reed Smith, to Linklaters and Allen & Overy, to Kennedys and others, that build and sell their own tech products to the market.

‘The idea is to take our expertise and create ‘one-to-many’ products,’ Cohen added, where expertise is leveraged that can be of use to multiple clients at once.

And now the key question: where does genAI sit in all of this? Cohen stated that genAI ‘will be at the centre of the software’, but they will likely use more than just GPT4 and bring together several foundational models.

The goal will be to build ‘a couple of products per year’ with long-term revenue targets set to emulate that achieved by some other law firms, which is understood to be in the low tens of millions of pounds as a goal. ‘This is what other firms have managed,’ Cohen noted.

Will they create a separate entity, as some have done? The answer is: not yet. It will be based in the UK and remain part of the main law firm LLP structure. That way partners will share directly in any revenue the software sales generate. It will also give the lawyers at the firm a solid reason to promote the products to their clients.

What Else?

They will be pulling together all the paralegals into a more connected grouping and will also seek to provide greater training and upskilling to them. Higher-volume work will also be process mapped. Trainees will also conduct practical innovation projects during their training seats at the firm. And this is all part of a holistic approach, that includes tech, but is not just about software.

‘Law firms struggle with all of this. Legal tech adoption can be patchy. We need to be proactive. We want to get all involved and bring them in at the start,’ Cohen added, then noted that the AI aspect is just one element of the bigger picture and connects to all the other parts of the ACS.

This makes a lot of sense, as whether a firm uses tech, better work modelling, or different team compositions – or likely all three, it’s always seeking to reach the same goal: a more efficient way to deliver legal services.


There are several strands to this. First is perhaps the development of what is now considered ‘normal’ and ‘market’ for a large law firm to offer, whether it’s alternative resourcing, or dedicated project management, or selling your own tech built upon the firm’s knowledge and expertise. Not having these services is starting to make you stand apart from the main grouping of large firms, at least in the UK.

Another aspect is how generative AI will be used by firms to create new software offerings for their clients. There is plenty that can be done here, especially if you can build finely-tuned services then encompass your own knowledge base – although there are some design challenges there, but, not insurmountable ones, which we’ll come to in another AL piece.

Overall, a very positive move and one that sets out a direction of travel that more and more law firms will take, which is: thinking about the entire delivery process of legal services. And there is so much more to come in this regard.