Mishcon de Reya has joined the ranks of law firms with high-level in-house data science capability, hiring UCL computer scientist Alastair Moore as head of analytics and machine learning.
Moore, who is a senior teaching fellow at UCL School of Management, ran a data analytics programme at UCL and has been involved with start-ups and incubators, including as co-founder of resource optimisation start-up Satalia.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider, chief technology officer Nick West, who hired Moore, said: “One of the benefits of being in the UCL ecosystem is that you get to see a lot of early-stage companies, and while Alastair has academic credibility, he also has real-world experience.”
Moore will help Mishcon to build predictive models on, for example, litigation costs or how Mishcon markets itself to clients, with litigation and marketing two key priorities for its data analytics activity.
Mishcon has invested in automated legal timekeeping solution PING, which was one of the startups in its 2017 MDR LAB incubator, and Moore will be working with PING on its classification work: courts require time billed in litigation to be given the appropriate ‘J-Code’ to enable them to more easily summarise, analyse and award costs at the end of a matter. PING can capture and create the narrative and automatically give the right code, and Moore will focus on helping Mischon to work together with PING most effectively.
Moore will work at Mishcon around three days a week and continue to teach and run projects at UCL on the other two. West says: “It’s really beneficial that he stays connected to UCL and that world. He can stay fresh and we get the benefit of his UCL network and backing. He’s part of an engineering faculty with hundreds of other people that we can bring in for projects.”
As to whether this is the start of Mishcon building its own data science team, West says he’s not yet sure.
“Ultimately let’s assume we decide to work on cost predictions, which is really complicated stuff with lots of different permutations. Whether we will do that by starting Alastair with a team here or whether we work with a team at UCL or wherever, or in combination with a group of academics, I don’t know yet.
“There is a high chance we’ll end up working with one or more universities – we’re already doing a bunch of things already. Alastair needs to figure out if the best chance of success is to hire two mini Alastairs, or work with a university on a one-year research project. I’m open to all of that and in a year’s time I’d hope we have a handful of different projects on the go.”
It is still rare for UK law firms to have their own data scientists but at BLM, for one, Andrew Dunkley joined in 2016 as head of data analytics and you can read more about him and the growth of the data scientist role here: