Hill Dickinson: Keith Feeny promoted to CTO as Edmund Chan joins as head of legal tech & innovation

Hill Dickinson’s longstanding director of IT and operations, Keith Feeny, has been promoted to chief technology officer, as the UK top 50 firm hires its first legal tech and innovation head to, among other things, help build out its generative AI strategy. Edmund Chan started at the firm on 1 July. He is a qualified lawyer and set up and led Riverview’s legal technology team, subsequently becoming a senior member of EY’s global law innovation and technology team after EY acquired Riverview.

Feeny’s role in practice will change little and comes amid a number of senior management changes, including the appointment last year of Craig Scott as its new CEO.

His promotion effectively makes way for Chan, who, like Scott, was previously an associate at DLA Piper. Speaking to Legal IT Insider about his promotion and the new hire, Feeny (pictured below) said: “I’ve been in legal tech for 29 years but I’m not a lawyer and the best person to talk to a lawyer is someone who is a lawyer themselves. Finding a lawyer who is interested in legal tech was always a challenge, but our CEO spotted that Ed was available and persuaded him to join us.”

Feeny and Chan will work together on formalising a generative AI policy and Feeny says the board has given them “a pot” to invest but says: “From speaking to my peers it is clear that most firms don’t have millions of pounds to invest in AI and currently no-one knows what is going to win.”

Hill Dickinson, which has over 100 people now across IT and operations, has doubled its turnover since 2017. It has seven offices in the UK, four overseas, and an associated office in Limassol. The firm is just finishing a large automation project in its corporate and banking departments with Bam Legal and Feeny and Chan will be looking strategically at the ‘what next’.  Feeny said: “It doesn’t matter what we do or what AI we apply unless we get our data right.”

Hill Dickinson is live in the iManage Cloud and is looking with interest at recent announcements from iManage around helping customers use their AI to analyse and tag historic data, although Feeny observed: “Yes we may use AI to get our data in order but someone has got to check that the data you’re using is the right data.”

Whatever the decision moving forward, Hill Dickinson will take a buy rather than build approach to generative AI. One of many factors to consider will be not compromising Hill Dickinson’s secret sauce,  with Feeny commenting: “If you’re just using an AI tool, where is the value that the firm provides, where is the IP?”

That being said it is likely that Hill Dickinson will be making a big investment this year and Feeny says: “We’ve got to a point where we have talked about failing fast. If we use something and it is not what was suggested, we’ll go in a different direction. For a law firm that’s unusual and it’s a new concept for us. It’s about being able to react quickly when the next wave comes.”

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