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Working coffee break: apps can allocate work more fairly © Getty
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In 2017, employees at Pusch Wahlig Workplace Law seemed to develop a fear of the office coffee machine. The reason, it turned out, was nothing to do with the beverages but the ad hoc way in which work had been distributed at the German law firm ever since it was set up in 2006. If a partner bumped into an associate in a corridor, they might assign them a task, as well as sending out group emails to see who had capacity.

“When you went to grab a coffee you had to pass the office of the busiest person in the firm — people would avoid the coffee machine so as not to risk the work ending up with them,” says the firm’s founder, Tobias Pusch.

Realising employees were struggling with too much work and not enough time, Mr Pusch turned to technology. The firm worked with Push! Founders, a start-up incubator (also founded by Mr Pusch) that focused on service and legal technology. Push! had developed an app, PushCap, to manage work distribution, which associates now use to show their availability via a colour-coded traffic-light system. This allows partners to allocate work more fairly.

Mr Pusch says the app has significantly improved collaboration between staff. It also flags up associates’ specialist skills, which means they can be better matched to projects.

Innovative law firms are increasingly using technology to streamline the more inefficient and laborious aspects of legal work and to glean insights from the vast quantities of data at their disposal.

Matthew Galvin, head of ethics and compliance at international drinks company Anheuser-Busch InBev, notes the transformative effect: “Technology is becoming ubiquitous and cheap. The key for lawyers is to understand exactly what the technology does and use that to solve problems themselves.”

At AB InBev, he launched BrewRight, a tech tool to manage compliance across the global business by drawing on accounting and other data to analyse transactions and third parties.

As well as making workflow more efficient, Mr Galvin says, gathering information over time provides insights into work patterns and helps law firms allocate resources and training. It will show, for example, whether associates are completing work at the right speed, and if partners are charging the right fees.

Mr Pusch says PushCap has already highlighted ways to improve working processes. “I see more patterns from a management perspective,” he says.

“The associates request feedback from partners on their work, but it went totally unnoted before. Now I see how big this issue really is.” The app has a feature that enables partners to give feedback quickly, by leaving either a short voice note or a message, which Mr Pusch says is working well.

There are still “star” performers to whom colleagues turn first, but while previously they would become overloaded, the app has encouraged greater discipline in allocating work. “If someone chose a ‘star’ when someone else was ‘yellow’ [available], it wouldn’t fly well,” says Mr Pusch.

The app’s success in house led Pusch Wahlig to develop the product for commercial launch in 2018 through a separate entity in partnership with Push! Founders.

Law firms can innovate organically, says Mr Galvin, but he argues it is difficult to do so effectively without the help of a tech provider, particularly if it requires complex data intelligence. “Lawyers understand their clients’ problems really well, while tech companies understand the tech,” he says.

When in-house lawyers at Aosphere, Allen & Overy’s online legal service business, wanted technology to improve takeover data reporting, the team worked with data provider Share Disclosure, a start-up, to bring it to fruition.

Peter Lee, co-founder and chief executive of UK legal engineering business Simmons Wavelength (owned by law firm Simmons & Simmons), says law firms are well placed to innovate with data because they generate so much information in the course of their work. “Lawyers often know more about the client’s business and future needs than the client does,” he says. However, the data they own is often controlled by different sections of the firm, which means extracting value can be complicated, and lawyers tend to lack skills in the technology.

But law firms should act fast or risk seeing a few pioneers streak ahead. “They should be considering how to innovate more with the data they control,” says Mr Lee.

The number of law firms making rapid advances in this direction remains small, but as Mr Galvin notes, “interest is replacing scepticism”.

As more firms note the direct impact of using data-generated insights to make their work better and more efficient — along with opportunities to commercialise these insights — this is likely to increase.

For Mr Pusch, the effectiveness of Pusch Wahlig’s work management app is clear. Lawyers used to reach for the app’s “panic button” when they had an urgent work request and no time to allocate it properly. The biggest sign of the app’s success is that today no one feels the need to press this button.

Takeover makeover: the new data model that buys time for clients

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Issuers now have access to a reliable, consolidated data source © Getty

The legal team at Aosphere, Allen & Overy’s online legal service business, already had a service analysing legal requirements for takeover reporting. What it lacked, though, was one reliable, consolidated data source for issuers that were subject to a takeover bid.

“In 20 countries, if you buy or sell shares in companies involved in a takeover you have to make a declaration,” says Dean Ratcliffe, chief executive of Share Disclosure. “But across those countries there is no uniform method of doing this. There is no supporting data that goes with it, and no one source to go to.”

Aosphere had been asked by several clients to provide this kind of insight — and accurately. Share Disclosure collected and normalised data in different formats before helping Aosphere distribute it via Allen & Overy’s global network. Feedback from clients across the world helped the development team perfect it.

With so many types of takeover to contend with, for example, clients told Aosphere they wanted definitions of each type and to know at what point they had to declare an interest. With this detail added, institutions avoid making early declarations and showing their hand too soon. The Takeover Data service was offered to clients at the end of 2018.

The development process was testing at times, says Mr Ratcliffe. “They wanted every single thing written down to the nth degree. They spotted any inconsistencies — but they were right,” he says. Ultimately, he was surprised by how entrepreneurial and innovative the lawyers were.

As the data accumulates, Mr Ratcliffe predicts it could be used to look at trends and patterns in takeovers, including any that failed, and why.

The tables below rank law firms and in-house legal teams for the FT Innovative Lawyers Europe awards.

Data, Knowledge and Intelligence
RankLaw firmDescriptionOriginalityLeadershipImpactTotal
STANDOUTDWFDevised a claims-handling process to help motor insurance clients mitigate the adverse effects of fraudulent and claims-farming behaviours. By analysing new claim data, including how and where the claim originated, algorithms predict the likely behaviour of claimants and automatically triage claims so that the right counterstrategy is used.88824
HIGHLY COMMENDEDKennedysLaunched a combination of data products to assist insurance industry clients with claims handling. The tools analyse client and third-party data feeds to assist with fraud detection, performance and strategic insights. The suite has a workflow functionality for matter management, reporting and analysis.77923
HIGHLY COMMENDEDDLA PiperSubstantially expanded the Global M&A Intelligence Report, a comprehensive analysis of global deal terms, insights and trends in market practice across different deal types and jurisdictions. Derived from analysis of more than 2,000 of the firm’s M&A deals, the report establishes what market practice is in each jurisdiction, helping clients make data-driven decisions on deal terms.78722
COMMENDEDAllen & OveryCollaborated with Share Disclosure, a provider of market data for financial services clients, to develop and launch a new product, Takeover Data. The tool scans official takeover lists and news feeds in multiple jurisdictions for relevant market data to help investors that hold securities, or other instruments referencing securities, to meet their regulatory reporting obligations.77721
COMMENDEDHogan LovellsDeveloped a programme with client BNP Paribas to train information technology and intellectual property lawyers in the legal and regulatory implications of new technologies in the financial sector. Two-week masterclasses covered the use of artificial intelligence, blockchain, biometrics and robotic advisers in processes across the bank and the different regulations in Asia, Europe and the US.77721
COMMENDEDVdAFollowing successes in using predictive models for talent and performance forecasting, the firm established the Legal Analytics Bureau, an internal research centre for developing predictive models for management.78621
COMMENDEDBird & BirdDeployed artificial intelligence to analyse the employment terms of more than 18,000 employees for Metro, the German supermarket group. The firm adapted Luminance’s AI tool, typically used for transactional work and due diligence, to analyse approximately 200,000 documents, identifying legacy contracts and assessing the implications of employment clauses based on anachronistic German jurisprudence.66820
COMMENDEDCuatrecasasEstablished a programme in conjunction with Barcelona Technology School to train lawyers in technologies that are disrupting client business models and the practice of law. The programme is structured in three phases: discover, adapt and engage. It trains lawyers on what legal technology exists and how it affects and transforms different sectors. In a final phase, lawyers design new products and test their viability. Eight products now have commercial backing.67720
COMMENDEDGarriguesDesigned and developed the GarriguesWork mobile app, a client-knowledge portal designed to provide lawyers with a comprehensive overview of a client’s business and history with the firm to increase collaboration and to assist partners in pitching for work. The app includes an at-a-glance dashboard of lawyers’ performance, with real-time metrics on billing, chargeability, work in progress and accounts receivable.67720
COMMENDEDBaker McKenzieAfter extensive research and interviews with senior managers and business leaders, the firm discovered that high-growth companies tend to approach their compliance responsibilities in a more integrated way. In an effort to persuade businesses that good compliance can support strategic growth and not just mitigate risk, the firm created a free online diagnostic tool known as Connected Compliance to help companies assess and benchmark the extent of their compliance integration against peers in their sector as well as high-growth companies.57719
COMMENDEDDWFCreated a digital tool, Verify, to speed up verification of statements in investor prospectuses as part of initial public offerings. Historically the manual process was labour-intensive and time-consuming. The collaborative platform allows evidence to be uploaded, problems flagged and progress tracked. Verify was instrumental in DWF’s own IPO, with more than 2,000 pieces of data verified through the platform.67619
COMMENDEDEcijaDesigned a system to automate the process of assessing GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliance for the 1.2m students in the Spanish Catholic school system, or Escuelas Católicas. The system relies on the use of decision-tree questionnaires that school administrators can answer in order to create consistent and validated processes for all documents, policies and contractual clauses across more than 2,000 schools.57719
COMMENDEDRCDEstablished an internal data analytics department within the firm to enhance governance of data across practice areas and departments, centralising data management and reporting. The team found ways for lawyers to build client relationships, and exploit data for better pricing and resourcing models.66719
COMMENDEDToffoletto De Luca Tamajo e SociThe firm introduced a pricing and resourcing model that predicts how expensive a matter will be and what level of expertise it will require, generating minimum, maximum, and average price forecasts to ensure clients are presented with transparent and predictable pricing. The system is integrated with the firm’s existing case management system, iLex, and has enabled the firm to increase fixed-fee pricing.67619


The tables below rank law firms for the FT Innovative Lawyers Europe awards.

Data, Knowledge and Intelligence (In-house)
RankIn-house legal teamDescriptionOriginalityLeadershipImpactTotal
STANDOUTTruataEstablished a new “data trust” company designed to house and analyse anonymised customer information in a GDPR-compliant data store. Structured as an Irish trust rather than a traditional joint venture, its governance framework ensures both operational and corporate independence from its investors — Mastercard, IBM and C3 IoT — while providing them with all the economic benefits of the company. The data trust enables clients to run data analytics in a sandbox (testing) environment without risking compliance breaches.98825
HIGHLY COMMENDEDAnheuser-Busch InBevThe ethics and compliance team created an antitrust dashboard that monitors the company’s risk levels in various jurisdictions. The team uses economic models around the pricing of products, which has allowed the business to approach regulators from a more neutral position.78722
COMMENDEDAvivaAssisted with the launch of Aviva Drive, an app that records the moments before a car crash and offers a discount on insurance. The legal team dealt with data privacy concerns by making the customer the data handler. Only 30 seconds before the crash and 30 seconds after are recorded and the incident footage is sent to Aviva only if the customer consents. The app has reduced the lifecycle of a claim by 50 per cent.77620
COMMENDEDThe Crown EstateDeveloped a decision-making model called the “knowledge butterfly” to help the team make decisions to improve legal operations. It has been shared with the organisation’s law firms to improve tender, work-allocation and feedback processes, and has been rolled out to other departments at The Crown Estate.77620

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