For legal practitioners today, the most effective innovations may simply be making better use of what they already have: vast amounts of data. And this better use of data can provide benefits to both their customers and their businesses.
As our winner, Alexander Oddy, shows, identifying the variables that affect dispute resolution cases can turn a decision on settling or pursuing an imponderable into a percentage game – getting more back at less risk.
Likewise, past case data points and attorney scorecards can ensure that the cost to clients is much more predictable. But data analysis is nothing without a framework on which to share it, which makes the work of lawyers on developing data trust networks especially valuable.
Perhaps the most interesting innovation, however, has combined the new with the old school: using data to see where in the world projects have been underperforming, but then pounding the pavement – not the keyboard – to get the whole story.
Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. ‘Winner’ indicates that the person has won an FT Innovative Lawyers Europe 2022 award
WINNER: Alexandre Oddy
Partner, Herbert Smith Freehills
As co-designer of HSF’s global data strategy, Alexander Oddy reveals valuable insights. For example, he created Project Jigsaw, a tool that gives clients accurate cost forecasts based on previous spending. Oddy is also behind the firm’s Legal Privilege app, a free tool to help clients decide if a document is legally privileged by guiding them through a questionnaire.
A notable innovation was a “decision analysis” service to help clients make strategic choices in the event of a dispute. Rather than making decisions, such as whether to go to trial or settle, based on an attorney’s judgment, the firm uses decision trees that show the likelihood of various outcomes. In 2018, the service was used to advise SBM Offshore, a Dutch supplier to the oil and gas industry, to reject an initial offer in litigation related to an insurance claim. The client then recovered a much larger amount.
Partner, PwC UK
Partner in the International Business Reorganization Team, Cynthia Chan saw how the complexity of large, multi-jurisdictional projects led to many documents repeating information in different ways.
She led the development of automation software to standardize information and reduce human error. It has been used in over 2,000 customer projects and has saved around £400,000.
Chan hopes this technology will give lawyers a greater chance to focus on higher-value, more interesting work — and spend less time on the drudgery of reviewing documents.
Chan is also behind a data visualization tool that presents summaries of transactions to customers. A better understanding can accelerate strategic decisions.
Partner, Baker McKenzie
Jannan Crozier led the deployment of a program aimed at putting lawyers, project managers and tech experts on an equal footing, and helping them improve their collaboration. Before working together, project managers with expertise in the big picture were trained in the legal nuances, while lawyers learned the technology and were asked to push it to the limit.
The effect of this program was clear in 2021 when Crozier and his team advised Olam International. Food and agribusiness wanted to separate, but issues such as global grain interests and international shipping made this complex.
Using project and material management technologies, the company was successfully spun off and one of the new entities was listed in London.
Partner, Vinson & Elkins
In an unresolved dispute between a chemical plant and an engineering company, Roberta Downey implemented a case management system that used technology to better organize documents. She also encouraged young lawyers to take ownership of the processes.
When large projects end in dispute, they usually involve arbitrations over a long period of time. It is expensive and time consuming. Downey’s work reduced the length of the arbitration from 10 years to two.
Downey also hosts global conferences where lawyers and experts stage fictional case studies. These use a reverse narrative, an approach borrowed from that of Harold Pinter. Treasonto teach lawyers where problems can arise.
Partner, Norton Rose Fulbright
Bernhard Fiedler was inspired by the start-up culture in Berlin, where he spent time with entrepreneurs creating tech products in ramshackle offices. He wondered how he could apply their culture to a large traditional law firm.
One of them was to create a tool that automates the documentation of banking transactions, in order to avoid the repetition of tasks. This resulted in time and cost savings of 80-90%.
Then, in 2019, Fiedler launched a service that provides generic legal advice to financial institutions in different transactions and jurisdictions. This improves efficiency and reduces costs. Since this year, the service has been used by lenders, including 10 of the largest European investment banks.
Partner, Pinsent Masons
Chris Martin unleashes the power of big data and machine learning. For society and businesses to benefit from data, the information must be secure and managed responsibly. As such, Martin co-led the company’s development of data trust frameworks, which define legal and governance structures.
The Smart Data Foundry is an example of a data trust framework in action, with Martin advising on the University of Edinburgh’s collaboration with fintech companies to aggregate data to detect banking threats, including the fraud.
Martin also advises Costain, the construction company, on the open data platform for water supply infrastructure.
Carolina Pina has worked in internet law for 28 years, leading cases that have contributed to the legal framework of the digital economy. In 2013, she won a case in Spain that set expectations for privacy.
She also advises clients on content moderation and how to balance freedom of expression against defamation of privacy and intellectual property rights. At a time when Slapps – strategic public participation lawsuits – are being used by powerful people to intimidate the media, Pina has refused to help with such work.
In 2019, she participated in the creation of Garrigues Digital, a multidisciplinary team with more than 400 client companies.
Lee Shankland Gort
Partner, Addleshaw Goddard
Since becoming a partner in 2007, Lee Shankland-Gort’s firm has become one of the leading advisers to social housing lenders in the UK. In 2018, the team structured one of the UK’s first sustainability-linked loans, when banking group BNP Paribas lent £100m to London and Quadrant Housing Trust.
The team now focuses on financial products where lenders link loans to environmental, social and governance objectives. This includes action for NatWest Bank in 2021 on a £100m loan facility to Clarion Housing Group, where interest rate margins are lower if Clarion places more apprentices in roles. This type of approach attracts more socially conscious lawyers, Shankland-Gort says.
When Stephen Shergold noticed Africa-related projects in the company’s energy, infrastructure and project finance department were underperforming, he traveled to 15 countries to find out why. . This led him to develop a strategy of putting African lawyers at the center of the work – without letting London dominate. His goal is for Africa to be at the heart of the firm’s global business, and Dentons now has over 70 partners in 17 African jurisdictions.
Shergold supports its clients on legal risks as well as on the opportunities of environmental, social and governance projects. In 2019, he created an ESG legal risk assessment tool, which was used by energy company TotalEnergies for a project in Uganda.
Jesús Yáñez believes that a cybersecurity lawyer must fully understand both the law and the technology. He created his company’s cybersecurity center which advises clients on security vulnerabilities in the hospitality and telecommunications industries. The team also provided advice on biometric identification systems for financial institutions and privacy and data analytics for banks, including Santander.
Yáñez has advised the European Central Bank and the European Banking Authority on technical and legal matters.
Within the company, Yáñez led the development of a data analytics tool that brings together finance, document management, project management and human resources in a secure platform that connects 31 offices.