“What differentiates this programme is our clients:” Slaughter and May talks Collaborate

Slaughter and May in February launched a new legal tech programme, Slaughter and May Collaborate, bringing legal tech start-ups together with the London-headquartered firm clients to help shape  future of legal technology.

“Many of our clients are innovating and using technology to transform how they operate as businesses, including in their legal operations, and it is key that we are alongside them in that journey,” said Nilufer von Bismarck, partner at Slaughter and May, and co-lead on Collaborate. “Our programme will provide a forum for us and our clients to work with legal tech developers and entrepreneurs to foster dialogue, progress, and opportunities to collaborate.”

Slaughter and May has formed a client advisory panel, consisting of representatives from the in-house legal teams at GlaxoSmithKline, John Lewis, Santander, Standard Chartered and Vodafone.  The panel will highlight process issues and technologies that are of interest to the firm’s clients, while enabling those clients to explore new tools and technologies. It willalso provide the programme’s cohort members with the opportunity to engage in discussions directly with major in-house legal teams. 

Slaughter and May has a history of working with legal tech start-ups, having first tested and helped develop AI due diligence company Luminance, which has since gone on to deploy its products in 130 organisations across six continents, and raise $23m in funding, including financial backing from Slaughter and May.However, the firm is keen to stress that unlike some other technology programmes, participation in Collaborate does not require a company to agree to an investment opportunity.

Last month, Slaughter and May also selected a third cohort of six businesses to join its technology entrepreneurs programme, Fast Forward.  Fast Forward focuses on offering non legal technology entrepreneurs legal support. Collaborate, on the other hand, will focus on bringing together private practice, in house teams and tech suppliers, to help shape the development of legal technology.

In its first cohort, the Collaborate programme will select around six legal tech businesses. Those businesses will benefit from access to the firm’s lawyers for product testing and feedback; its information security team; a sandbox environment;dummy data to use in testing; collaboration space, as well as other services.

“There is no minimum size, shape, age or financial position for acceptance into the programme,” said Jane Stewart, Slaughter and May’s head of innovation. “Our primary focus in on the strength, uniqueness and promise of the concept or product and on the team involved.”

Stewart added that in designing Collaborate, the firm asked past legal tech incubator participants, what they really wanted and what they would find most valuable from a legal tech programme.

“Access to data, resources and a law firm infrastructure was high on their wish lists. With this in mind we have created a programme that offers legal tech developers a suite of practically useful benefits such as access to our tech sandbox, dummy data and a law firm environment to test and develop their products.

“We are then bringing together both sides of their eventual target market, private practice and in houselawyers, to provide advice, feedback and guidance on how they can improve their products for the end user.This programme will benefit the cohort, the firm, our employees and our clients. This is why we have created Collaborate.”

Each cohort member will be given two dedicated Slaughter and May mentors – a member of the firm’s Knowledge or Innovation teams and a practising lawyer from a practice area that is relevant to that business.

In addition, an industry expert panel will join the client advisory panel. The expert panel includes Dr Anna Donovan, Vice Dean (Innovation) for the Faculty of Laws at UCL; Catherine Bamford, founder of legal engineers, BamLegal and Andrew Burgess, strategic adviser on AI, RPA and innovation.

Collaborate will be led by Slaughter and May partners Anna Lyle-Smythe and Nilufer von Bismarck, supported by head of innovation, Jane Stewart; head of knowledge, Alexandra Woods and senior technology lawyer, Natalie Donovan. The deadline for applications is 27 March 2019.

“What differentiates this programme and what we are most excited about is the level of involvement and partnership with our clients,” said Stewart. “We are offering legal tech pioneers access to our clients and an opportunity for clients to engage with leading legal tech entrepreneurs to shape, develop and finesse these technologies together.”

 By Amy Carroll