Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira has approved an ongoing research and development budget to explore new and innovative technology as the Iberian giant also analyses the legal technology startup ecosystem with a view to deciding on whether to begin investing in startups.

The R&D budget – on which the firm specifically does not expect to see a return – will be used to experiment with new technology such as artificial intelligence solutions, natural language processing and semantic technology.

The firm, led by chief information officer Francesc Muñoz, will look at technology that has no proof of concept within the legal sector. Cuatrecasas has hired one new full-time employee to work as part of a team within the IT department that will monitor and test new technology without needing to get sign off on each occasion.

Muñoz said: “There is such a high momentum in the legal sector and the amount of legal tech is growing so fast that to monitor it is challenging. The new guys are coming in with very nice, clever solutions to help business become faster and cheaper so a team is going to monitor and be able to test in a short period of time new things, without having to go through back office. We need to be agile.”

Muñoz has also been monitoring the legal technology startup market, including in Silicon Valley and he told Legal IT Insider: “Until now our business has not been to invest but in the future it may be interesting for us to invest in startups – right now we don’t know.”

The move comes as the circa 950-lawyer firm rolls out NetDocuments as part of its ‘cloud first’ strategy, that has seen it move its development and test platform onto Microsoft Azure. The firm, which was one of the first to roll out Rekoop’s cloud-based time recording software and uses Thomson Reuters Elite’s Salesforce-based CRM system ContactNet, has yet to move its email system into the cloud as it is waiting for an additional layer of security that Microsoft has said it will deliver in the short term.

Muñoz said: “Law firms are not about upgrading systems. If we rely on an agile solution, we can concentrate on things like helping lawyers to manage new systems properly and understanding how they work so we can provide tools like AI. We are working on having a much deeper intimacy with our lawyers.”