UK top 100 law firm Foot Anstey launches ‘Ingenuity’ to turn client problem solving on its head

UK top 100 law firm Foot Anstey has formally launched a new platform for real estate clients, which will help them to manage and analyse their property portfolio in real time. It is the first product launched under the brand Ingenuity, which has seen Foot Anstey rethink its approach to client problem solving and adopt a design-thinking led process.

The real estate portfolio product management product has been in development for two years. The firm is using HighQ but also looking at leveraging Microsoft Dynamics 365 and further developing the platform.

Instrumental in delivering the new product is client solutions lead Tara Walsh, who told Legal IT Insider: “The portfolio management product is the first in real estate that we’ve launched, and we have others in development. It was borne out of the recognition that when you’re managing a large portfolio as a landlord or tenant, to manage it strategically is about having the data you need right there – that was quite apparent when talking to clients who are, for example, large retailers.” Foot Anstey developed Ingenuity to 80% and worked closely with a number of clients to refine the product before launch.

It works by extracting key information from leases and deeds, such as key dates; access rights; and how much rent is paid and puts it into a database from which Foot Anstey can set up notifications and alert clients of key decisions coming up in the next 12 months. Walsh says: “What everyone wants is a single source of truth in any given time. One of our retail clients does a lot of acquisitions. They need to know where we are in the process and when they can kit the property out.”

She adds: “At the beginning of the pandemic one client said, ‘We need to look at our portfolio and review what is coming up for renewal and break clauses to work out how we navigate this.’ We were able to extract the data quickly to say, ‘This is what is coming up, here is the information, how do you want us to manage it?’

Head of the real estate group at Foot Anstey, Martin Hirst, told Legal IT Insider: “Previously all the data was there but was hundreds of pages long and you still had to trawl through it. But if you capture it as you go, from a management perspective you can track when the break clauses and expiry dates are, which has been extremely useful.”

Analytics are on the roadmap and the firm is actively looking at how it helps clients to visualise the likes of its financial and employment data, including making predictions when combining the two.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider about the run up and backdrop to this launch, chief technology officer Dave Bloor said: “Innovation is at the core of how we work. Our model was quite structured but not delivering the results we wanted, so we flipped it on its head. We get clients with challenges coming in all the time and need to understand their challenges. It’s not a case of ‘can I have a portal’ but ‘you want something, but why? How do we help you problem solve in a way that may also enrich our relationship?’”

The result was Ingenuity, which started out with the back to basics that many law firms still struggle with. “We got into a room with our clients and took them through a design thinking process,” says Bloor. “We tied that back to opportunities and how we are delivering services as a business, and we brought it together, so we are now co-designing client solutions with clients.”

Bloor says that from a standing start the firm now has 20 clients across the full Ingenuity product range and that clients are recommending the firm to others based on the new approach.

Foot Anstey has long been singled out for its innovative approach to client service delivery, including being recognised a number of times by the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Report. Despite this, one of the challenges of the project initially was winning hearts and minds, with Walsh observing: “Lawyers and law firms more generally look at technology and say, ‘It may not be suitable for the work I do.’”

Hirst says: “One thing that has helped is having Tara sitting within real estate. She sits in the heart of the group and that has really helped to shift mindsets.”

Bloor adds: “It’s getting people to step out of their comfort zone and bring in as broad a team as possible. It’s about saying, ‘We have an agenda, but we don’t know the outcome.’ To have the courage to say, ‘We have a team that want to have a conversation and our agenda is to work out how we can work better and help you more.’ Seeing that change is brilliant and people are more confident than before to have a broader conversation.”