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Strength in numbers: projects must involve at least three different organisations working in collaboration © Getty Images

Many of the problems facing the legal industry today cannot be solved by one law firm or company alone. Some pioneering lawyers have sought to work with specialists, peers or even rivals on innovative solutions but, until recently, their efforts have been limited. So that is why the FT Innovative Lawyers programme is now launching a new award to recognise some of the best collaborative initiatives being put into practice — and to encourage more.

In the past five years, legal technology has proliferated, thanks to a big increase in products and suppliers. This has enabled certain lawyers to take advantage of automation, to reduce the amount of laborious legal work they need to do. Others have been able to use artificial intelligence to uncover hidden patterns in data. Some are also experimenting with blockchain as a way to establish trust.

However, tech solutions to legal-sector problems are too often confined to specific practices within one law firm.

Lawyers may love tech that helps with their work, but they do not always allow it to have an impact beyond its creators and clients. The open-source ethos that drove innovation and growth in the technology sector is not so easily applied in the legal world, with its principles of confidentiality and legal privilege.

But our new Collaborative Innovation Award will try to find exceptions to this, over the course of the year. Finalists from each of these rounds will be invited to present their prototypes or working solutions by March 31, 2022 to be considered for the FT Collaborative Innovation Award.

The contenders so far

The following projects have been selected as contenders for the Collaborative Innovation award, for their potentially industry-wide impact.

Each of the ventures has been designed to create a solution that will have a significant impact and application beyond the needs of its creators. Contenders for the award will be identified over the coming months, and the best solutions will be recognised in early 2022.

Eversheds Sutherland, iManage, OpenText and Opus 2
The law firm has proposed a project working with technology providers to integrate different software systems used during the disclosure and trial stages of a legal case.

The system would allow a seamless flow of data between systems, remove the risk of manual error and promote greater use of technology in litigation.

A team at the technology company, which was co-founded by CMS, Cooley and Rajah & Tann, plan to introduce providers and users of legal services to the open industry platform to use it to collaborate on complex legal matters.

The OneNDA project aims to create a universal standard non-disclosure agreement that is open source and free to use by businesses.

The OneNDA club was launched by the founders of The Law Boutique and has signed up more than 700 collaborators. The project’s steering committee includes the law firms Allen & Overy, Gilbert + Tobin, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright and Slaughter and May, as well as companies including American Express, Airbus, Barclays, Coca-Cola European Partners and UBS.

Pinsent Masons

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Working with corporate legal teams and a technology vendor, the firm plans to develop a tool to help organisations assess the carbon emissions and other sustainability measures inherent in their commercial contracts with suppliers. The tool will support organisations to make progress towards net-zero commitments.

Simmons & Simmons
In collaboration with visualisation software and regtech firms, the law firm proposes to create a flexible and user-friendly tool that would allow law firms to track and visualise relationships between individuals, to explore connections within their firms and at key clients.

University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, HSBC, FedEx Express, Goodman Asia, Angelhub and the Association of Corporate Counsel Hong Kong
The team of academic and company collaborators plans to develop an online collaborative platform to connect corporate legal departments, law students and lawtech start-ups in Hong Kong, to co-design technology solutions for companies and non-governmental organisations.

Vieira de Almeida,, Novartis and The GovLab
The consortium plans to design a legal technology solution to enable data-sharing between organisations in healthcare, which could also be applied to other industries.

The solution will involve a data-sharing contract using smart contracts and a blockchain distributed ledger technology to address security, compliance and cost challenges around data-sharing.

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