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Covid-19 has provoked a sudden uptake of digital services across the professional sector. But opinion is divided over how fundamental its impact has been so far in forcing the re-engineering of legal practice.

BCLP Cubed is one venture launched out of international law network Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner last year, which aims to reinvent legal services for its clients.

But Neville Eisenberg, senior partner and chief executive of BCLP Cubed, says the notion that the pandemic has fundamentally transformed the industry’s willingness to engage with advanced legal technologies may be premature. “Individuals like me working from home have become more familiar with the type of tech we use to communicate,” he says. “Does it mean people have adopted a lot of legal tech? I’m not so sure.”

Nevertheless, he argues the crisis has caused a psychological shift that has made sceptics of the value of legal technology more open to the benefits of innovation. This, he says, has laid the groundwork for future waves of innovation.

“Given the recession, there’s a lot of pressure on legal budgets,” he says. “Legal teams are inevitably required to try and find ways to save costs and that involves them reviewing how the work gets done.”

Few professional sectors have been untouched by technological change, and law is no exception. Pioneering firms are offering clients help in navigating digital change in their own businesses by combining their traditional legal role with innovation, though much remains to be done.

“Technological transformation” may conjure up images of robo-lawyers. But Jody Jansen, chief technology officer at BCLP Cubed, says much of the hype around artificial intelligence has worn off. “There’s a more realistic understanding that it’s a helping tool,” he says.

The venture is one of several units established recently by leading firms that aim to deliver efficiency and cost savings in high-volume legal work alongside high-quality legal advice.

Mr Eisenberg says many clients still lack systems such as contract management software that could cut costs in their legal dealings, creating a potentially lucrative environment for its services.

BCLP Cubed was conceived in response to clients’ demands for help with day-to-day business. “When it came to complex legal work, on the whole they felt well served by the market,” he says. “When it came to higher volume, business-as-usual matters, it was a completely different picture.”

His venture offers services in four main areas — commercial contracts, data access requests, real estate asset management and loan agreements — alongside expertise in areas such as handling redundancy programmes.

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Mr Jansen says the venture has built its own tech platform designed to take raw information and turn it into a usable format. Using tools such as natural language processing (NLP), a specialism of AI, it can ingest and read an unstructured flow of documents, providing an actionable result.

Digital transformation of legal work involves not only providing new systems, but also creating new business models to fit around them.

Kennedys is among firms exploring creative approaches to legal tech. The insurance law firm has created a separate company, Kennedys IQ, that promises to reduce customers’ reliance on legal teams, says Richard West, partner and director of Kennedys IQ. “We’re giving away traditional cash and turning that into a subscription model, which has a lower price for the client, but has a decent margin for us.”

Mr West cites Kennedys’ “virtual defence lawyer” online litigation system, which he says can perform a significant part of what traditional legal teams do. “We’ve seen clients avoiding half of their litigation spending by using that tool,” he says.

Mike Gilpin, commercial director at Kennedys IQ, says developing trust is important with clients, especially as some ask if it is not just a way to capture more traditional legal work. Also, he says, “if a company is looking at reshaping their core processes around new technology, they won’t buy it from someone who they’re not sure will be there in two years’ time.”

Konexo was launched last year by law firm Eversheds Sutherland. “It’s about delivering the law differently,” says its head, Graham Richardson. He describes the venture as a tech-driven alternative legal service provider, helping clients with legal work.

Babar Hayat, head of product, tech innovation and transformation, says Konexo aims to streamline the work process for companies. “You shouldn’t have to go to a legal team for a non-disclosure agreement,” he says. “You can generate an NDA using our document automation tool.”

Innovation in strategy and digital transformation
RankLaw firm
STANDOUTWINNER: Kennedys — In February, the firm launched Kennedys IQ, a new company that offers clients direct access to technology developed by the firm. Through a suite of six digital products, clients can automate the process of managing insurance claims and disputes without the need for lawyers. The products draw on Kennedys IQ Platform, which combines data from the firm, clients and other external sources to identify trends and best practices for its insurance clients.
STANDOUTHogan Lovells — Applied data science to 10 years' worth of firm data to test more than 100 hypotheses on client satisfaction. The analyses identified 72 features of what clients really want, and 38 that make clients happy. The data and algorithms can be used to help the firm track and predict client satisfaction, and identify actions it can take to improve client experience. Commended: Michael Davison.
HIGHLY COMMENDEDBryan Cave Leighton Paisner — BCLP Cubed is an integrated service that helps clients with high-volume legal work. By charging fixed fees and using a team of junior lawyers, as well as process engineers, technologists, project managers and product developers, the service saves clients costs on high-volume work. Since launching in 2019, BCLP Cubed has generated more than $1m in revenue. Commended: Neville Eisenberg.
HIGHLY COMMENDEDEcija — Ecija Tech is a new branch of the firm that identifies clients' pain points and advises on legal technology tools to help address them. The team, including lawyers, technologists, and the firm’s chief technology officer and chief data officer, have helped clients cut costs by up to 20 per cent.
HIGHLY COMMENDEDEversheds Sutherland — Last year, the firm combined its advisory, interim resourcing and managed service teams to launch a separate alternative legal service and compliance company. Konexo now employs almost 200 full-time staff and has operations across Europe, Asia and the US. A digital transformation project for T-Mobile involved implementing a central hub for document automation, artificial intelligence, contract review, workflow management and data reporting.
HIGHLY COMMENDEDPwC Tax and Legal Services — The Spanish branch of the firm launched a new business unit in 2019 to advise clients on digital transformation. NewLaw charges clients fixed fees and is made up of a multidisciplinary team including lawyers, tax advisers, engineers and technologists. In the past year, the service made €14m in revenue and has introduced 200 new clients to the firm. PwC Legal has also launched NewLaw units in the UK, Germany and Australia.
COMMENDEDGarrigues — Built a new team within the firm to develop technology tools based on automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. Lawyers identify areas in their practice that could be more efficient, and then work with technology developers to create products in-house. The team has built two tools to improve the reliability and speed of processing legal documents, reducing the time spent on these tasks by around 750 hours per year.
COMMENDEDNautaDutilh — Based on a mix of feedback from clients, market research and psychology, the firm designed a programme to improve client experience that encompasses training workshops and operational improvements. Design improvements include rewriting the firm's terms and conditions and engagement letter in clearer language, simpler timekeeping and measuring telephone accessibility to improve responsiveness to clients.
COMMENDEDOsborne Clarke — Project OCx was launched mid-2019 to build new skills to help lawyers advise clients on digital transformation. The project includes training lawyers on transformative technologies, the impact they will have on their clients' industries, and creating a head of digital transformation role for the whole firm. Since its introduction, billing on matters related to digital transformation has increased by an average of 112 per cent each month.
COMMENDEDSlaughter and May — Used legal process design methodology to design workshops for lawyers across a range of practice groups to identify processes, technology and training to improve efficiency and client experience. The firm has also appointed lawyers within each practice group to advise on implementing digital tools, and has developed training for staff and clients in digital literacy and mindful use of technology.
Note: 'winner' indicates the organisation won the FT Innovative Lawyers: Europe 2020 award for 'Innovation in strategy and digital transformation'; other organisations are ranked alphabetically within bands
Innovation as business enablers
In-house legal team


WINNER: DXC Technology — Using enterprise software BriefBox, the tech company's legal team introduced a tool to help monitor the level of risk in contracts in real time. The tool allows the sales team to request legal support and automatically assigns an appropriate lawyer. The team also introduced one-page risk advice battlecards on preferred and fallback positions in specific practice areas to aid negotiation. By introducing a FastTrack contract with preapproved terms for certain contract types, the team have made time savings of 50 per cent and shifted lawyers’ mindsets away from long and time-consuming negotiations.


Novartis — The Swiss pharmaceutical company implemented an end-to-end contract management system for procurement and other standard agreements. Procurement work now largely takes place without Novartis lawyers and the legal team is working to extend its success to more complex areas of contracting, such as licensing agreements. They are also working on deploying data analytics and artificial intelligence to give the business better insight and more consistency across its contracts globally.


Veon — Following the addition of Huawei to the US entity list, the Veon legal team in Amsterdam worked on mitigating the risk of the company’s interactions with Huawei across jurisdictions such as Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan. An interactive workflow helps business teams determine whether interactions are permissible. In high-risk jurisdictions, the team also delivers training on the potential impact of sanctions and export controls to help business colleagues make informed decisions.


Vodafone — The UK legal team at the telecommunications company has led the business to greater automation in contracting. Integrating artificial intelligence to search the contract database more accurately and enabling the team to automate contracts helped the business improve self-service when Covid-19 hit. The team launched three self-service contracts to empower business colleagues to offer new propositions to customers. As of April 2020, an estimated 51 per cent of Vodafone’s business contracts were self-service. Commended: Lindsey O'Sullivan.


L'Oreal — Enabled low-value and low-risk legal work to be completed by business colleagues via an interactive flowchart and templates with guidance notes, where the legal team is engaged only if a threshold of risk or value is reached. The team uses commercial and marketing data to track the success of the company's promotions to reduce the time spent by legal on new promotions with limited or unproved return on investment. Commended: Sarah Aziz.


Springer Nature — Launched an automation strategy to enable 95 per cent of the publishing company’s 1,800 contracts to be completed without lawyers, saving the legal team 50 working days. In response to the pandemic, they enabled the business to offer free access to more than 60,000 articles and books about Covid-19, which were downloaded more than 62m times between March and July, by fast-tracking the automation of licences to publish agreements.


Unilever — The legal team at Unilever in Russia worked with Deloitte Legal to simplify contracts from 20 pages to no more than three pages and reduced the number of templates in use from 400 to 100. The team identified clauses that were used across many templates and introduced hashtags to identify a clause. The system allows Unilever to update a general clause to all templates quickly, saving time and guaranteeing that the business uses up to date legal-approved templates.


Adidas — Created Adidas Global Legal Solutions, a team of three working on continuous improvement with the legal team by reviewing existing systems, identifying enhancements and applying process changes or new technologies. Over the past 18 months, the team has implemented Anaqua software for intellectual property management and worked with Microsoft Forms, Power Automate and DocuSign to automate non-disclosure agreements, saving approximately 350 hours over six months. Commended: Katherine Roseveare.


AEG — To reduce the volume of high-value but non-challenging commercial legal work, the in-house team worked with consultants and law firm Osborne Clarke to automate the commercial contracts related to the O2 Arena, London's largest indoor entertainment venue. Using a customised version of project management platform HighQ Collaborate, the legal team rolled out an automation tool to allow business colleagues to produce and customise contracts themselves. Commended: Peter Allott. (Note: HighQ is a product from Thomson Reuters, a sponsor of the FT Innovative Lawyers report)

AstraZeneca — Lawyers at the pharmaceutical company worked with the IT team to develop a self-service contracting portal, helping the company to move away from the idea that all contracts require legal input. A chatbot answers users’ queries, saving the legal team more than 70 hours a month. The team now manages only 2 per cent of 3,500 procurement contracts. Commended: Jarlath Astin.


Coca-Cola HBC — Over the past two years, the legal team at the bottling company have simplified contracts, reducing them from more than 10 pages to no more than two and removing legal jargon, and implemented a self-service method for business colleagues using procurement software SAP Ariba. Some 75 per cent of commercial and 32 per cent of procurement contracts can be executed without the legal team's involvement.


Klarna — The digital payments fintech's legal team works with the rest of the business in project teams. By grouping lawyers with current projects, the legal team can gain deeper knowledge of new products and provide faster advice. In addition, being involved in initial discussions enables lawyers to contribute to strategic discussions and prevent avoidable legal work later. The approach has enabled the legal team to help the company expand its services to Australia, Spain and Italy; more recently, it enabled them to help its response to increasing demand from merchants as online shopping suddenly increased during Covid-19.

Nokia — Over the past two years the telecommunications company has overhauled its approach to risk and compliance through several initiatives including development of an in-house ediscovery function in collaboration with the IT department. Rolled out in 2019, the legal and compliance team estimate they have saved $2m as a result.

*Note: 'winner' indicates the organisation won the FT Innovative Lawyers: Europe 2020 award for 'Innovation as business enablers'; other organisations are ranked alphabetically within bands
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