Dentons in May upset the referral apple cart by announcing that it has created the only free law firm referral network. Named Nextlaw Global Referral Network, it is based on a new technology platform that will allow member law firms to easily connect and track referrals.

The new network is headed by CEO Jeff Modisett, who has been with Dentons since 2011 as a part time attorney, as he was also the chief legal officer of Silicon Valley-based financial startup Loyal3.

To create the new network, which is a Delaware limited liability company, Modisett collaborated with contacts from the fintech sector and brought on two engineers and an IT consultant, working in tandem with Denton’s IT team led by global chief information officer Marcel Henri.

The referral network will welcome law firms from across the globe, to be vetted by Dentons before approval, with the aim of facilitating the exchange of work between participating firms.

Modisett said: “This is not about pay to play or territorially exclusion. We’re letting competition work and creating a transparent level playing field.

“Firms can tell their clients that they can perform work anywhere in the world, doing it through the network. It represents a radical shift in the market.”

Network members will be given login details and a password for a private app.

They will be able to search for referral firms by a dropdown location or practice and within a search function that provides users with the result that is the best fit.

Modisett said: “The search bar allows you to search for key words that may not be on drop down menu, for example, there’s no practice called ‘endangered species’ in the dropdown menu but if you put that in the keyword box it will find any law firm that practices endangered species law.”

Dentons has been inundated with applications to join the network since it was unveiled in mid-May. Modisett said: “In the first 24-hours we had over 200 requests and they are as eclectic as your imagination will take you. We’ve had medium-sized well-known law firms but mostly we’ve heard from smaller boutiques in less well-known regions.

In order to create the right platform Modisett said: “The plan is to start with a very big funnel with all this data and come up with the right platform and algorithm until the results are fine-tuned.”

The platform, which will keep track of data from the outset so that firms can work out which are their most lucrative relationships, is expected to eventually apply a degree of data analytics.

While the announcement of the new network has been met with some fanfare, independent law firm network Interlaw was unimpressed, referring to Dentons’ offering as a “pale imitation of a genuinely collaborative platform.” Chair Michael Siebold said: “Dentons’ approach is likely to create little more than a digital directory of firms and being part of a network is so much more than that. At Interlaw, we know from over 30 years’ experience that it requires genuine commitment and collaboration to build a seamless quality offering for our multi-national clients in order to give them a global advantage.”

This article first appeared in the May Legal IT Insider, to  register for your free monthly copy click here.