The following extract is taken from an article from The American Lawyer about how 'the definition of a law firm is shifting as firms invest in technology to stave off competitors and give clients what they want.'
The old adage that U.K. law firms are more advanced than their U.S. counterparts when it comes to innovation is true in many respects, except when it comes to AI-driven legal technology, several U.K. firms say. But some of the U.K.’s biggest law firms are on a mission to change that and, in the process, gain a competitive advantage in a difficult local industry.
TLT’s foray into the tech world, for example, began when it set out to help some of its biggest clients find a technology solution that could effectively manage and extract insights from contracts for negotiation purposes. The Bristol, U.K.-based firm, however, “couldn’t find anything from the main providers in the U.K. market,” recalls James Touzel, partner and head of the technology, media and telecoms group at the firm. “But we did come across LegalSifter” in the United States.
An AI-powered contract review platform that can learn to identify clauses and risks within large data sets of contracts, LegalSifter offered a new level of automation for an industry still accustomed to manual review. TLT didn’t see LegalSifter as a threat to its core services.
“We see it as an additional service; it doesn’t cannibalize anything we do at all,” Touzel says. “For this type of work, clients want self-help … and a good portion of those contracts probably aren’t reviewed at all.”
What the platform represented, the firm soon realized, was an opportunity to expand its business. TLT entered into a strategic partnership with LegalSifter, investing an undisclosed amount in the AI contract company to bring its platform to the U.K. market. As Touzel notes, “they brought the market-leading AI; we brought the legal clients.”
Under the partnership, TLT became the exclusive licensor of the technology in the U.K., offering the tool either as a standalone solution to clients or as part of a bundled service that includes access to the firm’s commercial lawyers. TLT also took a hand in LegalSifter’s development, helping improve its functionality and broadening the range of contracts it could review by teaching it to recognize U.K. contracts.
For the firm, partnering with LegalSifter was a novel way to stand out in a crowded market. “The U.K. market is fast-moving and law firms are looking for opportunities to differentiate,” Touzel says.
But partnering with LegalSifter was also a recognition by the firm that it could offer its clients more than just legal advice.
“We do find that clients come to us principally for our legal advice, but they are also asking us to help with their legal operations,” Touzel says.
And Touzel believes law firms are in a better position than legal outsource providers to help with legal operations because clients usually want to work with one provider for all their needs—the ever-desirable one-stop shop.
You can read the full article online here.