Coaxial cables connect to a computer server unit inside a communications room at an office in London, U.K., on Monday, May 15, 2017. Governments and companies around the world began to gain the upper hand against the first wave of an unrivaled global cyberattack, even as the assault was poised to continue claiming victims this week. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Wired: automation allows more creative offerings © Bloomberg

Experiments have a habit of taking an unexpected turn. Two years ago, a client asked law firm Davis Polk’s cyber security lawyers to compile a “what if” report on its obligations in the event of a cyber breach. What must it disclose, and how quickly?

Naturally, the client expected a report on every jurisdiction and government agency. But it was soon clear how extensive the exercise would be, and therefore how costly. Even cutting the scope of the exercise to just the five states in which the client mainly did their business required a lot of billable hours.

“It took us a week to pull this together, and it was expensive for them,” says Avi Gesser, litigation partner at the firm, who specialises in cyber security.

“We thought this is a risky way of doing this — both under-notification and over-notification of a cyber notification pose risks,” he adds. “Clients should be able to get advice quickly and accurately for a reasonable price . . . If it takes a week, that’s a lot of lost time. The person who’s doing this exercise is often under huge time pressure.”

Will Schildknecht, an associate at the firm, then came up with the idea of the Cyber Portal, an online tool for clients that could tell them in minutes what they would need to do, whom they would need to notify, and how quickly.

The firm’s Cyber Portal is one of several new products that lawyers at some of the leading US law firms have launched recently. While many firms have generally created automated production of standard documents, the latest offerings from among these top practices aim to provide more premium services to clients.

DLA Piper is offering a free website, Accelerate, to attract technology start-ups, and Orrick has created BondPal, an electronic process that allows cheaper and quicker bond issuances.

Winston & Strawn has launched a new extranet portal for its five-year-old Legal Investment Review Center, that will allow fund managers to submit requests for new documents to be created, monitor their progress and view the completed work more quickly.

The site was the creation of Winston & Strawn’s corporate lending and debt capital markets practice, led by Chicago-based partners Ronald Jacobson and Patrick Hardiman. The pair wanted to find a cheaper and quicker way to produce documents for both leveraged loan deals and contracts with fund investors.

Such work once took the firm weeks, leading some funds to skip conducting a full due diligence process — a decision that could have put them at legal risk if the deals fell apart.

The challenge was similar to that facing lawyers at Davis Polk: how to create a more efficient system for clients that needed bespoke documents for common procedures, at short notice and for a set price.

For DLA Piper, Accelerate’s offer of documents and tools for early-stage companies is a way for it to develop relationships with Silicon Valley companies.

It went live a year ago and is steadily gaining more visitors, says Louis Lehot, co-chair of the firm’s US emerging growth and venture capital practice.

The firm also aims to develop a community by creating Facebook-like profiles for DLA lawyers, introductions to sources of capital and, eventually, a job postings page on the site for venture capital and start-up companies.

“If you don’t get them at inception, you don’t get them when they’re going to get funded, when they’re going to market, when they’re going to IPO,” he says.

Davis Polk lawyers, who spent the past year and a half building and improving the Cyber Portal, have now officially rolled the site out to clients. For a real cyber attack, clients will still have to speak to a lawyer at the firm, but in the meantime they can find information and prepare for what could happen.

Mr Gesser says lawyers at Davis Polk have spent many hours trying to envisage every scenario that clients might face, while also keeping up with statutes that have been changed or amended.

The portal includes checklists for a company’s board and general counsel, checklists for terms a client should include in its cyber insurance and in contracts with vendors, an incidence response plan, a sample press release, a draft interview companies can conduct with an employee whose computer might have been compromised, advice on ransom demands from hackers, agency-by-agency federal cyber security guidance, and a case law section on previous incidents.

The lawyers have involved clients.

“A lot of people are beta testing it,” Mr Gesser says. “We’re constantly tweaking it, but as a result it’s crowdsourced. Now we have the benefit of our clients’ thinking, as well.”

Creating the portal has also allowed the firm to tap the resources of associates with coding and design experience, he says.

“There’s a real sense of satisfaction in building it,” he adds. “A brief is great but when it’s filed, it’s filed and it’s over. This is something tangible.”

Innovative Lawyers North America Ranking 2018

View the full rankings here

  • Top Innovative Law Firms: six of the best overall
  • Most Innovative Law Firms: Business of Law
  • Most Innovative Law Firms: Legal Expertise
  • In-house
  • Rule of Law | • In-house
  • Collaboration 
  • Data, Knowledge and Intelligence | • In-house
  • Managing and Developing Talent | • In-house
  • New Business and Service Delivery Models | • In-house
  • New Products and Services | • In-house
  • Strategy and Changing Behaviours | • In-house
  • Technology | • In-house
  • Accessing New Markets and Capital | • In-house
  • Enabling Business Growth and Transformation | • In-house
  • Managing Complexity and Scale | • In-house
  • Litigation & Disputes | • In-house
  • Creating a New Standard | • In-house
  • Canada: Legal Expertise
  • Canada: Business of Law
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article