The Financial Times (London) has published its annual Innovative Lawyers edition. There is much in this collection of articles worth reading. 

Thought leaders is the lead item. For me, two findings stand out:

  • Legal process outsourcing is among the leading trends and top of mind in the market.
  • “Careers for lawyers and non-legal staff are already changing… Several firms also put forward entries that recognised that non-legal talent has a valuable contribution to the way a legal business is run.” Note the use of the term “non-legal staff”. I consider this term much better than the demeaning “nonlawyer” (see my post Musings on the Law Firm Caste System).

Taking Charge reviews billing practices and the billable hour but I was most interested in its what it had to say about a leading online legal service:

“Allen & Overy has created an online subscription service… Its Diligence product is a database of legal memoranda… The service has a fixed annual fee of $3,000-$4,000 per jurisdiction and has attracted 11 subscribers since it was launched in August 2007. It needs about 15 subscribers to break even and has a target of 48 within five years… Marc-Henri Chamay, head of e-business at Allen & Overy, says subscription products typically require a large upfront investment in the first year before becoming available to clients in the second year and starting to make money for the law firm in the third year. ‘This means that we are carrying the commercial risk, which is pretty unusual for a law firm’ he says. ‘But this is increasingly what clients are expecting from us to drive their costs down. Diligence is still in the investment phase but some products launched five or six years ago are extremely profitable for us.’ “

Use IT or lose it reports on interesting legal technology developments. Cleary Gottlieb features for “knowledge engineering techniques to capture the expertise of senior staff, embed it in a computer system and pass it on to junior lawyers online.” The firm created “graphic presentations of how to perform key transactional processes, with each stage backed up by extensive documentation.” Sure sounds like best practices to me!

Other interesting reports in “Use IT”:

  • Madrid-based Garrigues has create an e-sign system
  • ReWord from Reynolds Porter Chamberlain automates service delivery with “an electronic reviewer that quickly scans reinsurance contracts for legal risk.” The system analyze re-insurance contracts to identify automatically biases toward either the reinsurer or the reinsured.
  • Baker & McKenzie’s “combined outsourcing and offshoring” creates an ‘insourcing’ hybrid in Manila, where the firm’s “Global Services Manila, accounts for about 5 per cent of the firm’s total staff and is linked to the rest of the firm by technology, culture and reporting lines.”
  • Allen & Overy, CMS Cameron McKenna, and Latham & Watkins also feature in the article

Structural engineering reviews recent significant improvements in law firm management. FT research finds a common theme, namely “finding ways to address their ‘glue’ problem by seeking to break down internal barriers and to strengthen internal alliances.”

The article picks up on two themes common in this blog. It recognizes Freshfields integration of knowledge management and business development. “Bringing these functions together into a single operating unit has made it easier to anticipate the services that clients are likely to require and to deploy the relevant expertise more effectively.” And separately, it recognizes Clifford Chance for taking “two vital but relatively routinised support functions ‘information technology and finance’ and centralis[ing] them in one place: India.”