The Financial Times recently released its 2014 North America Innovative Lawyers. Five firms won the top business of law award (“Stand Out”):

Seyfarth Shaw: “Developed SeyfarthLink, an online tool that enables better client-firm collaboration by improving flows of information.”  Seyfarth also won a “Commended” spot for its legal tech R&D, which “has handled more than $152m of business in the past 18 months.”

McCarthy Tétrault: The firm saves clients up to 30% by working with strategic partners – a legal process outsourcer (LPO) and “alternative supplier” – and applying technology and Lean Six Sigma to improve efficiency. The related article Canadian law firms abandon traditional pricing model has more… The firm created MTOptimize in 2012 to reduce client legal spend while maintaining quality. It partnered with Cognition, “a Canadian firm with a different work model” and with Exigent, a legal process outsourcing (LPO) provider. On one research project, clients saved 80%; on a real estate matter, 20 to 30%. Separately, the firm also uses staff lawyers to reduce costs.

Weil Gotshal: The firm monitors daily share prices for drops of 5% or more. Such big drops may signal shareholder litigation. Using other research and information about its own clients, the firm then pitches legal services to some big droppers. “It has resurrected a former client relationship that way, and was prepared for litigation for another client when the lawsuit was filed.”

Conduit Law: This new model Canadian law firm saves clients as much as 40% with fixed fees. More detail from Canadian law firms… Peter Carayiannis launched Conduit in 2012. It offers fixed-fee billing and service options to meet the needs of both small local and large global businesses. It has three types of services: embedded counsel work onsite at clients; gap counsel “fill holes within an in-house legal team”; and “targeted lawyers come in for short-term projects.” One banking client estimates a 30 to 40% saving over a traditional law firm.

Kirkland & Ellis: The firm built a database of its own work on private M&A transactions to analyze deal terms and market trends.

I highlight one other firm among the winners because its two awards recognize knowledge management initiatives:

Littler Mendelson was “Highly Commended” for its Workplace Policy Institute, which represents employer interests on Capitol Hill. It was “Commended” for its technology tools that “enhance lawyers’ ability to advise employers on how to manage regulatory charges and reduce litigation costs.” Furthermore, its KM leader, Scott Rechtshaffen, was named one of ten 2014 North America Innovative Lawyers.

At the conclusion of the winner write-upFT comments:

“That technology is so client-centric among law firms is certainly a positive, but are firms perhaps missing a trick? In the UK legal market, technology has been harnessed to streamline processes and to make business models more efficient. But this is not really the case in the US, where the vast legal market gives less of a financial imperative to trim fat.”

[For more on the Business of Law Innovation – FT North America Awards, see the article Business of law: Knowledge is beginning to take wing and table Most innovative North American law firms 2014: Business of Law. For details on the survey, see Methodology of the FT North America Innovative Lawyers report.]