R&D + Innovation in Big Law

This page is no longer current. I stopped maintaining this list somewhere after the last update in September 2018.  I stopped because I realized that I could not come up with good inclusion and exclusion criteria. Many firms announced innovation or KM or related initiatives. I realized that I could not, from the outside, distinguish between systemic and one-off initiatives, between “innovation by press release” and genuinely helpful initiatives.

A friend recently (November 2021) asked about the list and I shared this privately. I took his suggestion to mark  this page. I thought about deleting it but I view it as a historical record and, with this notation, a more accurate one now.

Let’s not overlook that many other firms invest in building legal technology and new initiatives. US-based firms with online services include Baker Donelson, Littler, and Foley & Lardner (see my list of firms with online services for more examples). And other firms have invested in legal project management, Seyfarth and Gowlings most prominently. So with or without the R&D label, we know that many a firm invests time and money to pursue new ideas and competitive advantage.

Expanding the List

September 2018

In an illustration of the challenges of keeping a list like this… I haven’t seen many formal R&D announcements since my last update. And many firms now have a senior person with innovation in her or his title. I’m not comfortable including those firms solely on the basis of a person with a title – it’s too hard to know if there is really a systematic program.

I have, however, noticed some firms announce legal technology / legal tech product initiatives. In my book, these are innovative. So I am now including them.

November-December 2017

As of late 2017, I realized that more inclusive criteria would yield a longer, and I think more helpful and accurate list. So instead of sticking with firms that have formally designated R&D or funded “innovation” initiatives, I decided to exercise a bit more editorial judgment. As of Nov 2017, I am including initiatives that seem innovative or R&D focused based on loose criteria of what ‘feels real”.

I’m sure some firms will feel left out and I welcome hearing from you via my contact form. Feel free to suggest additions (or deletions) and to comment on what the proper inclusion criteria should be. I reserve final decision rights.

For those tracking large law firm innovation, see also the Legal Services Innovation Index ( created by Daniel W. Linna Jr.

Law Firms with Internal R&D Units or Formal + Funded Innovation Initiatives

Firm Service Name
Reference(s) + Comment(s)
Addleshaw Goodard Intelligent Delivery
(Nov 2017)
“Addleshaw Goddard has combined its flexible resourcing, consulting and innovation arms under the new banner of Intelligent Delivery, or AG ID – a business the firm says is now contributing revenues of around £15m.
AG ID now encompasses the firm’s flexible lawyering service, AG Integrate; its strategic consulting team, AG Consulting; its process mapping and workflow management arm; its innovation and technology team; and its 150-strong transaction services team (TST).”
Legal Week article (27 Sep 2017)
Akerman R&D Council
(April 2014)
“plan to launch the first law firm R&D Council, dedicated to creating new offerings that advance the business of law and redefine service delivery models, jointly helping Akerman and its clients overcome future barriers to innovation and growth.” (Firm press release – see link)
See also
Allen & Overy i2
(April 2015)
The Lawyer Magazine reports here that “Allen & Overy (A&O) is launching an experimental “ideas and investment” group aimed at developing new technology-related opportunities, including in the area of artificial intelligence (AI).” See also the A&O write-up in The Lawyer UK 200 Business Services 2016 (p. 66, subscription required).
Allen & Overy Fuse
(Nov 2017)

Firm press release reports the firm is “opening Fuse, a new tech innovation space where tech companies, Allen & Overy lawyers, technologists and their clients will collaborate to explore, develop and test legal, regulatory and deal-related solutions.”

Legal IT Insider, 22 Nov 2017, provides details in Fuse Update.

Ashurst Ashurst Advance
(March 2016)
“Through Ashurst Advance, we are establishing an R&D capability to ensure that our offering continues to be market-leading and relevant. Applying insights from successful innovation in sectors outside legal, the Ashurst Advance team is focused on the capture, evaluation and deployment of new ideas, to ensure Ashurst remains at the forefront of change in the industry.” (See link)
See also firm press release
Baker McKenzie Design Thinking + Innovation program (Feb 2017)

Innovation Program to Reimagine the Business of Law:

  • Investment framework for innovation announced
  • Design Thinking-based client co-creation model for Services
  • First of kind partnership with leading edge consultancy, Peer Insight
  • New Innovation Committee launched
  • Long-term investment strategy for emerging technologies”
Blake Cassels Nitro program
(Nov 2017)

“It takes a village to build a company and it’s not so simple as just giving legal advice,” said [serial entreprenuer] Hyatt, a nonlawyer who will work part time with the firm in his new role. “There’s a lot of street-level practical advice that needs to occur in building a company. Blake [Cassels] is really cutting edge by doing this.””

See article of 21 Nov 2017

Bryan Cave Innovation Team
(May 2016)
“Our award-winning Client Technology group researches and develops new technologies to deliver improved and more cost-effective services to clients.”
Clifford Chance Applied Solutions
(Sep 2018)
“Clifford Chance launched Applied Solutions in July to offer regulatory and compliance products to banking clients. It operates as a separate entity from the Clifford Chance LLP law firm.” New York Law Journal (7 Sep 2018)
Clyde & Co Data analytics lab
(Dec 2017)

“Clyde & Co has launched an in-house data analytics lab in partnership with University College London… is intended to help Clyde & Co accelerate exploration of product development in 2018.”

Legal IT Insider (12 Dec 2017)

CMS UK By Design
(Sep 2018)
“International law firm CMS UK has today announced the launch of a dedicated group bringing together specialists from across the firm to focus on the future of its legal service design, delivery and technology for clients.” CMS Launches ‘By Design’ Legal Delivery Group (Artificial Lawyer, 13 Sep 2018))
Cuatrecasas R&D
(June 2015)
Cuatrecasas brings in R&D budget and eyes startup market, Legal IT Insider (pdf, p 2), March 2016
DAC Beachcroft Innovations Labs
(May 2015)
DAC Beachcroft Claims Solutions Group has unveiled details of its Innovations Lab, a new R&D hub. Operating as a physical and virtual space, Innovations Lab will provide a creative environment in which multi-disciplinary teams of lawyers and operational experts can work collaboratively with clients and the wider insurance market to identify, evaluate, design, prototype and launch new commercial products and services.
Davis Wright Tremaine DWT De Novo
“Through DWT De Novo, the research and development arm of Davis Wright Tremaine, we’re re-imagining legal services. By applying people, process, and technology in new ways, our firm is delivering more efficient, transparent, and cost-effective legal services, ….” [De Novo home page]
Dentons NextLaw Labs
(May 2015)
“a global collaborative innovation platform focused on developing, deploying, and investing in new technologies and processes to transform the practice of law around the world.” (Firm press release – see link)
Freshfields Global Associate Innovation Group
(Nov 2016)
Associates “will pitch their ideas at a senior level and any ideas that have legs will be given financial backing.”
Legal IT Insider (March 2017, p. 5)
Gilbert & Tobin
g+t <i>
“g+t<i> brings together the G+T team with clients + startups to explore better ways of meeting the needs of our clients, new business models and more efficient business processes [via] rapid prototyping and a ‘fail fast’ and learn methodology. The g+t<i> team’s R&D process moves ideas and opportunities through 3 main phases:” Investigate, Incubate, Implement
Kennedys Ideas Lab
(July 2017)
“supported by ideation software Ideawake, is a platform through which any member of the firm can come forward with ideas about how to create future products + deliver modern legal services… anchored to the firm’s core principle of helping clients to use lawyers less.”
Legal IT Insider (27 July 2017)
Kennedy Van der Laan
Dedicated R&D Resources
(Mar 2016)
Independent “operating Knowledge and Innovation Center with [its] own Research and Development Budget”
Firm brochure (PDF, downloaded March 2016)
Mishcon de Reya
“programme for tech start-ups in the legal space”
Ogletree Deakins Innovations
Innovations page plus see LEI article where CKO discusses R&D Council + annual Innovation Summit
Orrick Orrick Labs
(Nov 2017)
“Orrick Labs looks at opportunities to be more efficient, improve quality and reduce human error, such as document categorization, drafting, transaction automation, contract review and complex legal queries” Labs landing page
“firm recently hired three developers to staff an internal technology ‘incubator,’”
Big Law Business (14 Nov 2017)
Osborne Clarke Tech-related R&D
(Nov 2016)
“Osborne Clarke has set up an R&D budget specifically aimed at technology-related innovation as part of a push to grow technology investment levels firm-wide.”
The Lawyer (29 Nov 2016); Legal IT Insider (30 Nov 2016)
Reed Smith GravityStack R&D
(Sep 2018)
A “US subsidiary to house the solutions and products it already licenses out as well as provide legal technology and systems ‘counseling’ and managed solutions.”
Reed Smith launches legal tech subsidiary GravityStack (Legal It Insider, 29 April 2018);
Simmons & Simmons Time off for innovation
(Nov 2016)
Initiative launched, Nov 2016, to encourage lawyers + staff to apply for time to develop ideas.
Simmons invites lawyers to pitch for time off from fee earning to develop innovative ideas, Legal Week, 17 Nov 2016

Law Firms with Partnerships for R&D

Firm Business Partner
Reference(s) + Comment(s)
Allen & Overy and Baker McKenzie Ulster University
(Feb 2017)
Legal Futures article (21 Feb 2017)
Blakes MaRS
(Feb 2016)
Firm landing page describing initiative.
McCarthy Tetrault MaRS
(Nov 2015)
Firm landing page describing initiative.
Osler Legal Innovation Zone
(Jan 2016)
Firm landing page describing initiative.