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Business of law: best practice in legal work

These five sets of case studies showcase how law firms are innovating as businesses. They feature leading examples of law firms changing how they manage their own people, and how they are reinventing their services and delivery models.

They were researched, compiled and ranked by RSGI. “Winner” indicates that the organisation won an FT Innovative Lawyers North America award for 2022.


Using data

WINNER: Kirkland & Ellis
Originality: 8; Leadership: 9; Impact: 8; Total: 25
The firm’s Funded platform was launched in 2021 to digitise the subscription process for investment and private equity clients. The tool simplifies a complex but mundane task for lawyers and gathers structured data that provides real-time information that is easily transferable if the client wants another subscription.

Standout

McDermott Will & Emery
O: 8; L: 8; I: 8; Total: 24
The firm has developed an “activity score” to categorise clients’ levels of engagement with the firm and then alert lawyers to opportunities for improvement. Nearly all of the firm’s partners use the platform and, since January 2022, just over 70 per cent of “new matter” revenues have come from clients that have higher activity scores.

Hogan Lovells
O: 7; L: 8; I: 8; Total: 23
The firm has built its own enterprise data repository, replacing a system hosted by an outside vendor, that captures and structures all Hogan Lovells’s data, globally. Its leaders can make decisions based on real-time data, and the transfer to a purpose-built system has saved about $1mn a year in maintenance.

Commended

Goodwin Procter
O: 7; L: 8; I: 6; Total: 21
The firm created a site that gives the global operations team easy access to information on clients as well as ongoing and historic matters. This data was formerly available only to lawyers at the firm. The simple design is intended to encourage greater use of data.

King & Spalding
O: 6; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 20
A database created by the firm, called K&S Capital Chart, can track more than 400 capital sources, such as investors, lenders and portfolio companies, across its global network. This intelligence helps guide clients looking to raise or spend capital.

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
O: 5; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 19
The firm has consolidated the technologies used by corporate and litigation practices into matter management platforms: DealSite and CaseSite. As well as a central resource, they provide easy access to real-time data on clients and market trends.


WINNER: Orrick
Originality: 8; Leadership: 9; Impact: 8; Total: 25
In 2021, Orrick’s M&A and private equity team launched MAPE 2.0 — an approach that uses tech to improve efficiency and the strategic advice given to clients. The global team, which advised on 300 M&A and private equity deals last year, collects more than 60 data points per deal and feeds them into an information pool to provide insights for future transactions and client advice. The team also identifies 15 top strategic priorities for clients in any transaction, which helps filter out unnecessary work. The approach speeds up deal completion and allows a greater variety in the work experience offered to junior staff.

Standout

Reed Smith
O: 7; L: 8; I: 8; Total: 23
The firm’s life sciences practice group provides specialised forensic support to clients involved in litigation. The more detailed discovery process — including information such as invoicing, shipping, and quality control — enables the lawyers to identify critical legal issues.

The practice advises clients on improving their information systems to better meet regulatory obligations. Commended: Ben Koplin

Latham & Watkins
O: 7; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 22The firm has connected up practice areas dealing with private capital clients. The leadership committee for this initiative is drawn from different disciplines and aims to identify opportunities for better co-ordination and strengthening client relationships.

Commended

DLA Piper
O: 6; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 21
In 2021, the firm launched an artificial intelligence practice. It has developed tools, such as an AI Scorebox, that measures companies’ compliance policies against regulatory standards.

Tyson & Mendes
O: 7; L: 8; I: 5; Total: 20
Robert Tyson, the firm’s managing partner, has developed tactics to help attorneys avoid “nuclear verdicts”, where juries award unreasonably large damages.


Client delivery

WINNER: BakerHostetler
Originality: 7; Leadership: 8; Impact: 8; Total: 23
The firm’s alternative legal services unit, IncuBaker, has worked with more than 30 clients on projects over the past two years. Briefs have included advising one client on creating its own legal technology team, developing a privacy compliance programme for another, and advising on a system that has seen a 42 per cent saving in the time spent by another client on contract review.

Standout

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
O: 7; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 22
“1792” is a scheme that incentivises lawyers to collaborate with the firm’s technology team on improving services. Projects include automation for amending contracts relating to the abandoned Libor interest rate measure, 10-K filings of companies’ annual reports, and structured finance documentation. The firm is also developing a blockchain tool for use in the commercial mortgage-backed securities market.

Commended

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
O: 7; L: 8; I: 6; Total: 21
The firm launched ClearyX, its alternative legal services offering, in June 2022. It has already helped on 20 matters, such as due diligence of transactions and post-merger integration.

McGuireWoods
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21
The practice innovation team has developed an automated litigation alert to inform when a new case is filed and generate a report on the firm’s previous experience with the client.

Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders
O: 6; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 21
The client experience department has rolled out Troutman Pepper Plus, a programme that helps the firm come up with bespoke answers to companies’ problems with input from non-legal specialists.

McDermott Will & Emery
O: 7; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 20
The firm’s Form Finder examines draft purchase and credit agreements received from opposing counsel, using AI to compare them to previous examples the firm has worked on, which cuts time spent on review.

Honigman
O: 5; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 19
The firm’s client services team streamlined a major document review process for one client on a fixed monthly fee, saving 27 per cent on cost compared with the previous approach.


People and skills management

WINNER: White & Case
Originality: 8; Leadership: 8; Impact: 8; Total: 24
A centralised “coaching office” supports learning and career development for all non-partners, lawyers and other professionals across the firm, globally. The coaching is delivered by experienced lawyers and business professionals at the firm. It is intended to support individuals in developing their skills, navigating current roles, and working toward long-term career goals.

Standout

Thompson Hine
O: 8; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 23
The business litigation practice led the development and rollout of a work-assignment tool that is now used by many practice groups. Rather than depend on ad hoc searches for staff able to work on urgent matters, the tool provides real-time data on individuals’ availability and qualifications — enabling a team to be assembled quickly. It also lets associates “raise a hand” if they are seeking a particular work experience.

Kirkland & Ellis
O: 7; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 22
The firm has introduced a platform that brings together its training materials in one place. The platform creates personalised profiles and enables the learning and development team to promote and manage training modules, as well as to track engagement.

Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders
O: 7; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 22
An app, called MobileOne, gives staff access to professional development, mentoring and wellness resources. It also provides information on individual office attendance on any given day, in order to encourage face-to-face meetings.

Commended

Baker McKenzie
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21
The firm has created a training programme for in-house lawyers who are working towards promotion to the role of general counsel. This programme includes networking opportunities and mentoring from the senior general counsel of today.

Hogan Lovells
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21
The firm has set up a global training programme for senior associates to improve their business development skills and improve habits and attitudes over the course of five months.

Morrison Foerster
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21
Staff can earn credits towards meeting their billable hour targets when supporting diversity and inclusion initiatives. The firm has also consolidated its mentoring and sponsorship programmes and created a supportive global “allies network”.

Reed Smith
O: 6; L: 7; I: 8; Total: 21
The Mastermind programme, which is organised by the firm’s Women’s Initiative Network, offers workshops and training to female staff who are preparing for promotion.

Borden Ladner Gervais
O: 7; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 20
The firm has introduced legal project management training for paralegals and legal assistants. Its aim is to ensure that common approaches are employed in all matters handled by staff.

DLA Piper
O: 7; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 20
The firm is the founding sponsor of the Legal Mentor Network — a free mentoring scheme for anyone who is looking to pursue a legal career. It has also helped to establish the scheme’s charitable status.


New services

WINNER: Borden Ladner Gervais
Originality: 8; Leadership: 8; Impact: 8; Total: 24
The firm struck a deal with Ivanhoé Cambridge, the property arm of investment group Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, to take on legal services for its Canadian shopping centres. This involved transferring some of the property group’s legal team to Beyond Leasing, part of the law firm’s consulting function. Working alongside property consultants JLL, the firm now delivers all required legal services. Having technical support and infrastructure already in place at the firm’s Beyond Leasing division was crucial for the smooth transition in arrangements.

Standout

McGuireWoods
O: 7; L: 8; I: 8; Total: 23
MWAccel is a consulting service launched in late 2021 to help clients with in-house legal operations — from strategy development to technology and project management. It has also advised the firm on its own internal processes, using data to identify trends and advise on strategic discussions. Commended: Tom Trujillo

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius
O: 8; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 23
The firm initially formed a workplace culture consulting service in 2017, which advises employers on issues beyond employment law. This has since been expanded and now offers assessments of the efficacy of diversity and inclusion policies for staff and other stakeholders. It also advises on how companies can foster more inclusive workplace cultures.

White & Case
O: 7; L: 8; I: 7; Total: 22
The debt finance practice created a “solutions team”, led by partner Nicole Rodger, that has met growing client demand without needing to take on large numbers of new lawyers. In one project, it reviewed 100 credit agreements in less than a third of the usual time.

Commended

Norton Rose Fulbright
O: 7; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 21
The newly established Chicago office has taken the lead in promoting innovation at the firm. This includes supervision of LX Studio, a new subsidiary that aims to drive digitally-driven services in-house, and for clients. Commended: Daniel Farris

Shearman & Sterling
O: 6; L: 7; I: 7; Total: 20
The firm has launched a legal operations unit that offers knowledge management, legal technology and other services to in-hous­e corporate law departments.

Goodwin Procter
O: 6; L: 7; I: 6; Total: 19
The firm launched a women’s health and wellness practice that pools expertise across fields including private equity, healthcare, technology and life sciences.

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
O: 7; L: 6; I: 6; Total: 19
The firm’s “transformation enablement” consulting service helps companies with outsourcing and finding the right external provider.