by Associate Editor Caroline Hill…
“We’re at a fundamental crossover, where technology is relevant to everything,” says Karl Chapman, chief executive of ‘NewLaw’ disruptor Riverview Law. Chapman cites the non-legal example of KPMG’s pre-Christmas strategic alliance with McLaren Group, which will bring together McLaren’s Applied Technologies predictive analytics technology with the accountancy giant’s audit and consulting capability to deliver a range of advisory services.
Closer to home, Riverview – which in addition to providing fixed price legal advice also licenses its technology to in-house legal teams – is starting its own mini-revolution. At the start of this year it entered into a groundbreaking deal with the University of Liverpool, which will leverage the University’s artificial intelligence expertise in the legal market.
The University’s Agent Applications, Research and Technology Group is at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence research. The expectation for Wirral-based Riverview is that the collaboration will allow it to apply computer science to text processing, network analysis, computational augmentation and data mining. In plainer English, it will automate and speed up routine legal tasks on several different levels. The first (or ‘base camp’, as Chapman refers to it) is using technology as a form of triage – ensuring that work coming into a legal team is automatically sent to the right fee-earners, using intelligent analysis of what the work is and which fee-earners specialise in that area.
However, it is also anticipated that the intelligence will be used to help clients solve legal problems and manage their risk by showing how commercial contracts tie-in with other contracts. Further analysis – base camp three – will include the mapping and flagging (using a red, amber, green alert system) of where the real risks and priorities lie within multiple contracts across multiple sites.
Riverview is already doing something similar with its collaboration with US corporate technology supplier Legal OnRamp, providing a platform for banks to put in place recovery and resolution plans by analysing their contractual obligations across the entire organisation.
“What business are we all in?” challenges Chapman. “Analytics and data pervade everything and if you haven’t got a technology plan and strategy you are in big trouble.”
The tie-up with the University follows the launch of Riverview Law In-house, which licenses software modules to in-house legal teams to help improve their efficiency and effectiveness. The software includes matter management system Instruction Manager, contract creation software Contract Manager, management information system Analytics and management and workflow system Configuration Manager.
The software is licenced out by Riverview’s newly-established and as yet unnamed technology business, set up in December 2014 to exploit the software that it has built and the IP it is creating.
“TechCo is not sector specific,” Chapman explains. While it is currently 100% owned by Riverview Law, that is likely to change. “No doubt TechCo will get investment from people who can really exploit it,” Chapman adds.
Other ventures have included a tie-up in 2013 with South East commercial law firm DMH Stallard to collaborate on a fixed-fee basis on M&A, real estate and disputes, with Riverview Chambers providing litigation assistance.
However, Riverview’s structure – the cause of much scrutiny given that its parent company LawVest was backed by DLA Piper and AdviserPlus Business Solutions – has been marginally simplified since Riverview obtained its alternative business structure (ABS) license in June 2014. After obtaining the ABS license, LawVest changed its name to Riverview Law, meaning the companies have effectively been merged. Chapman says: “It’s important in communicating to customers. It’s important that we are one business with one structure and one technology platform.”
LawVest’s shareholders, including DLA’s global chairman Sir Nigel Knowles, remain minority shareholders in Riverview.
Looking at the company’s financials, LawVest made a loss of £2.6m in the year to September 2013, having generated a turnover of just under £2m, its accounts show. Chapman has been very vocal in forecasting rapid growth and, good to his word, that turnover has more than doubled to over £4m in the year to September 2014. It is expected to double again to over £8m in 2015.
In the meantime, Riverview’s lawyer numbers are expanding rapidly – now approaching 200. The start of March 2015 saw it open an office in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, to be occupied by 20 Riverview staff, with the expectation that will double over the next 12 months.
It is still early days and Riverview’s unabashed approach to self-promotion can ruffle feathers. But it is, after all, supposed to be disruptive. And there can be little doubt that Riverview has something to shout about.