From Innovation to Adoption at Mishcon De Reya
Many large law firms tout innovation. But as I point out in my first post this year, 2018 Prediction – Lawyers Must Change How They Work, innovation has value only with adoption: lawyers must change how they work. Reports I hear make me wonder how many lawyers actually adopt their firm’s innovations to improve efficiency and client service.
Lawyers at UK Mishcon De Reya do. Before I explain, some background. MDR has innovated for some time. In the last two years, it launched its an eDiscovery unit, a cyber consulting business, and MDR LAB, a legal tech start-up incubator. My curiosity was piqued in November 2017 after reading Mishcon Invests in Two MDR LAB Legal Tech Start-Ups (Artificial Lawyer, 14 Nov 2017).
Nick West, the firm’s Chief Strategy Office and head of innovation efforts, and I met a dozen years ago when he was at LexisNexis. So I direct messaged Nick on Twitter: “Nice to read about MDR investing in 2 of its start-ups. The key to innovation that I see missing in US firms is translating talk to actual changes in how lawyers work day to day. If MDR lawyers are actually changing how they work and you want to go on record, I’d be interested in a blog post at some point”
Nick replied to let me know that Mishcon lawyers were indeed adopting the innovations. I summarize here our subsequent conversation, in which Nick shared two examples.
A big tech-enabled change recently occurred in the firm’s large real estate practice. One of the Managing Associates, Nick Kirby, had begun re-thinking the practice and developing new technology applications before Nick West arrived.
Together, they spent time process mapping what Mishcon’s lawyers do to interpret leases and, crucially, what the clients do with the lease summaries provided by their lawyers. It turned out that much of the data the firm sent to its clients was left sitting in PDF documents in the GC’s office. That meant the client’s lease administration team had to do their own lease abstraction exercise to populate the lease management tools they rely on. So, there was an opportunity for Mishcon to provide sets of structured lease data which could be uploaded directly into the lease management tools. And because clients trusted Mishcon to extract data accurately, they were happy to accept those structured datasets – which led Mishcon to seek ways to do the work quickly and effectively using technology
The firm developed an end-to-end process for this work. It starts by interrogating land records and automatically capturing public record information (in bulk, using an internally developed tool) to populate a lease database with data about properties. For other data, the firm uses Kira, RAVN, or Leverton to extract information from leases and related documents. These data enable both Mishcon lawyers and clients to visualize real estate portfolios on a Google Maps-based application called Mishcon Maps. The data extracted also powers Contract Express document assembly to create key documents.
Mishcon Maps systematically captured and clearly visualized data otherwise buried in documents. This approach shifts what lawyers do from a narrow and data intensive task to a broader, more analytic task. Lawyers can focus on higher value tasks and have a better ability to advise based on a more comprehensive view of the data. Furthermore, the success of the Mishcon Maps initiative has led to Nick K being able to charge 20% of his billable hours to tech-enabling real estate practice. For additional details on this example, see Case study: Mishcon’s proptech transformation (The Lawyer, 22 June 2017 – subscription required).
Nick’s second example comes from MDR LAB. One of MDR LAB’s 2017 cohort was Everchron, a case management and collaboration tool for litigation, which enables lawyers to manage litigation more effectively. It has, Nick explained, a better way to manage pleadings, briefs, and other documents. Previously, lawyers would put documents only in the document management system (DMS). That’s fine for storage but does little to make connections among or collaborate on key documents.
With Everchron, lawyers can much more easily organize documents, comment on them, collaborate on those docs and comments, and visualize evidence and timelines. It hones in on the few hundred key documents in a big case that tell the story. And it keeps track of the list of actors and timeline of events. Nick says Everchron is much better than older, competing products.
During MDR LAB, a dozen or so Mishcon matters used Everchron, so the firm thoroughly road tested it on live matters. In October, the firm signed an enterprise license and then in November, invested in the company. That investment will help Everchron iterate faster on features (e.g., contemporaneous translation via 3rd party machine service) of particular interest to the firm and for the UK market.
With the enterprise license and features tuned to the firm’s needs, Nick says that it is being used on dozens of matters and has many users.
For me, Mishcon illustrates that types of changes on which law firms must focus. Announcing innovation initiatives is one thing; getting lawyers to adopt them another. Clients and firms will benefit if more firms share their story about how and why lawyers are working in new ways.
As we closed our discussion, Nick asked me to get the word out that MDR LAB is now accepting applications for its 2018 cohort. For more information on the program, the 2017 cohort and outcomes and for information on how to apply, visit lab.mdr.london.
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