Ashurst set to automate all legal precedents as part of global efficiency drive

Ashurst is set to automate its legal precedents across all practice sectors and throughout its international offices, in a significant deal driven out of the 1633-lawyer firm’s Glasgow support centre.

The deal, which represents a substantial financial investment by the firm, has been struck with Business Integrity, using its ContractExpress document automation program. It is being spearheaded by Mike Polson, managing partner of Ashurst’s now 200-strong Glasgow office, which launched in 2013 to support any legal services involving recurring activity. Polson is working together with Ashurst’s head of legal services innovation Tae Royle, formerly a corporate associate in its Brisbane office, who will lead the automation process.

Ashurst, which has already automated a number of finance documents in Singapore, is currently recruiting legal technologists in its Glasgow office, who must have a law degree and an understanding of automation, cloud computing, crowd sourcing and big data.

The move is part of a wider look at how to incorporate technology to drive efficiency and growth and Polson, who was previously a senior corporate partner at Dundas & Wilson, told the Legal IT Insider: “What’s really making it happen is the client. Pricing pressures continue and it’s about running the business more efficiently. You can keep doing things the same way and get the same result or identify new ways to do them more efficiently.”

The firm, which saw its turnover drop by 4% to £561m and profit per equity partner drop by 7% to £747,000 in 2015/15, is also piloting due diligence review engines, a project led by Royle.

While the upfront cost of automation is significant Polson added: “If you look at something in a narrow way you might say ‘I can see how useful it is but we’ll only use it a couple of times a year, is it worth the upfront investment?’ But when you look at it across all areas you can see a huge benefit. Document automation is a good example of that.”

Ashurst’s Glasgow office is at the centre of the firm’s efforts to project manage and scope out even the largest deals, working out what resources, at what level, are needed at each stage of the deal to deliver it most efficiently.

Polson said: “It makes no sense to have the same people doing task one as doing task two when those tasks require different levels of skill and experience. Clients see that and expect us to be more efficient.”

Ashurst’s contract automation deal follows the announcement by DWF in June that it has launched a new flexible client services offering underpinned by document automation, also using ContractExpress.

ContractExpress now counts Allen & Overy, Linklaters, Eversheds, Dentons, Mishcon de Reya and Nabarro among its other clients.