Baker McKenzie appoints duo ‘co-founders’ to head new data science team

Baker McKenzie has appointed Elevate’s vice president Brian Kuhn and senior Baker McKenzie attorney Danielle Benecke as co-founders of its newly created 11-strong data science team. The pair, who will have ‘skin in the game’ and have some personal responsibility for the success of the team, will be charged with combining the firm’s legal expertise with data science and machine learning.

Under the leadership of chief innovation officer, Ben Allgrove, Kuhn and Benecke will work closely with AI-powered research company, SparkBeyond on a series of projects, exploring new ways to apply machine learning to ‘transform the legal industry’ and ‘address key societal problems’ according to a news release out today (27 September). The collaboration falls within Baker’s wider innovation program, called Reinvent.

Ben Allgrove said of the new hires: “We received over 750 applications for the co-founder roles, validating our belief that we were offering something different here in setting up this new team. We were truly impressed with the caliber of lawyers, technologists and others who applied. I could not have asked for a better response. In Brian and Danielle we have found two outstanding co-founders with a strong track record of successfully leading teams, collaborating across multiple jurisdictions and driving legal innovation within the organizations in which they have worked, including our own firm. The experience they will bring, from both inside and outside our firm, will help us to continue to explore what the future of the law – and in particular machine learning enabled judgement – will look like.”

Benecke is a US and global IP and technology lawyer in Baker McKenzie’s IP and Technology team. Admitted in California and Australia, she has been recognized by Fortune 500 clients in Lawyers Weekly’s 30 Under 30 as “nothing short of spectacular” and Australasian Lawyer’s 50 Rising Stars as “having a level of sophistication beyond her years.” 

Kuhn was previously vice president of digital strategy and solutions and having co-founded and run the IBM Watson Legal consultancy for IBM, one of the first efforts to apply a platform strategy and rapid customization to the design of AI-based product and consulting offerings for the legal industry. He was responsible for envisioning, launching, and directing all aspects of Watson Legal and its offerings, serving law departments within Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies.

The co-founders will have a dedicated team of data scientists, data architects, data analysts and project managers along with a three-year runway to deliver a series of projects for clients, internally and which will have social impact.

One of the first projects that Kuhn and Benecke will work on will be to oversee the launch of “Project Liberty,” an AI-driven study on the unintended negative consequences of child detention that was generated by SparkBeyond’s AI engine.  In its research for Project Liberty, Baker McKenzie leveraged SparkBeyond to mine web data about global child detention. The AI platform revealed a troubling view of cause and consequence. The Firm plans to present its findings at the World Congress on Justice with Children, taking place virtually in November, alongside SparkBeyond and pro bono partner Terre des Hommes. An interactive tool will be made available to all participants, allowing them to interact with Baker McKenzie’s data.

“Danielle and Brian are expertly positioned to drive our specialist, multi-disciplinary new team, helping us to accelerate growth in our Reinvent strategy, whilst also embarking on the next stage of our partnership with SparkBeyond,” said Milton Cheng, Global Chair of Baker McKenzie. “I look forward to seeing them take the next step in embedding machine learning in our business to create new value for our clients and our communities.”

Baker McKenzie is recruiting for four new roles within the new team. You can register interest and request further information by emailing Sharon Swift or applying via the links below.

Enterprise Data Architect  Enterprise Data Quality Architect  Site Reliability EngineerData Engineer

Video: The story behind Baker McKenzie’s new 11-strong data science team

In June, editor Caroline Hill spoke to Ben Allgrove about the new data science team and you can watch that video using the link above.