Bring­ing dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion to the let­ter of the law

The Irish Times - Business - - BUSINESS INNOVATION -

Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and dis­rup­tion are not usu­ally associated with le­gal ser­vices pro­vi­sion but that is chang­ing quite rapidly, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional law firm Pin­sent Ma­sons.

The firm, which set up its Dublin of­fice in early 2017, has been in­vest­ing in in­no­va­tion to as­sist clients to deal with these new pres­sures for a num­ber of years. “Many in­dus­tries are go­ing through dis­rup­tive change and a grow­ing num­ber of our clients are go­ing through dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes”, says Pin­sent Ma­sons part­ner and a founder of the Dublin of­fice, An­dreas Car­ney. “Of­ten clients are chal­lenged in how to ap­ply those pro­grammes to le­gal ser­vices and we ap­ply our ex­pe­ri­ence and in­vest in in­no­va­tion to sup­port them through this.”

This in­vest­ment in in­no­va­tion is noth­ing new. “When I joined six years ago, our in­no­va­tion strat­egy had al­ready been started by our part­ners,” says di­rec­tor of in­no­va­tion David Hal­li­well. “They had taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for chang­ing the way we de­liv­ered our ser­vices.

“The firm al­ready had an on­line news ser­vice called out­ We are now ex­pand­ing that out from UK head of­fice into other re­gions.”

The firm’s in­no­va­tion strat­egy is very closely aligned with its over­all busi­ness strat­egy, Hal­li­well con­tin­ues. “A key part of our vi­sion is how we sup­port our clients to cre­ate com­mer­cial value. Our strat­egy is to build long-term re­la­tion­ships with clients. It’s not a purely trans­ac­tional re­la­tion­ship. We don’t view our clients as or­anges to squeeze as much out of as pos­si­ble. We col­lab­o­rate with clients as part­ners to help them achieve their busi­ness ob­jec­tives.

“We are not just a provider of ba­sic le­gal ser­vices,” he adds. “Typ­i­cally, we en­gage with clients who have their own in­ter­nal le­gal ser­vices func­tion. Our strat­egy is built around how we work with those in-house teams to de­liver bet­ter com­mer­cial out­comes for our clients.”

At the heart of that strat­egy is the Pin­sent Ma­sons SmartDe­liv­ery so­lu­tion. “It’s about of­fer­ing clients more for less,” says Hal­li­well. “We de­liver in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to client needs, pow­ered by tech­nol­ogy. We have been look­ing at ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and au­to­ma­tion for a long time and we took the de­ci­sion to build our own tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­ity very early in the process. We have 30 peo­ple in the in­no­va­tion team now. They are ex­perts in var­i­ous ar­eas in­clud­ing com­put­ing, data an­a­lyt­ics and so on. The team de­liv­ers ser­vices to clients and can build be­spoke so­lu­tions for them.”

Hal­li­well gives the ex­am­ple of a ma­jor re­tailer client which has ben­e­fited from this ser­vice. “When we first started work­ing with the com­pany, 70 per cent of its spend with sup­pli­ers was not con­tracted for,” he says. “Worse still, only a third of the sup­plier con­tracts they did have were based on their pre­ferred terms. The re­tailer was choos­ing to take on risk rather than dis­rupt its sup­ply chain with le­gal de­lays.

“What was our so­lu­tion? Us­ing our mat­ter-tracker soft­ware, we cap­tured the key data about each trans­ac­tion. Then we worked with the busi­ness to build them a doc­u­ment au­to­ma­tion sys­tem. We also built a play­book of the client’s pre­ferred con­tract po­si­tions, au­to­mat­i­cally gen­er­at­ing a risk note to in­di­cate how, if at all, each con­tract de­vi­ated from the pre­ferred terms. Se­nior man­agers also wanted to be able to ex­am­ine and ap­prove each sup­plier con­tract be­fore sig­na­ture.

In­tro­duc­ing SmartDe­liv­ery

“We worked with them to in­te­grate our pro­cesses with their IT sys­tems so that the ap­proval process be­came sig­nif­i­cantly smoother while re­tain­ing the all-im­por­tant over­sight. By in­tro­duc­ing SmartDe­liv­ery in this way, we helped our client move from con­tract­ing for 30 per cent of its spend to con­tract­ing for 95 per cent. And 85 per cent of these con­tracts were done on their pre­ferred stan­dard terms. Time to con­tract was re­duced from more than 10 weeks to less than four.”

Car­ney con­cludes by point­ing to pres­sures faced by clients and how in­no­va­tion can help deal with them. “Our clients, whether we’re deal­ing with in-house le­gal teams or com­mer­cial teams, are un­der var­i­ous pres­sures when they utilise le­gal ser­vices,” he says. “They in­creas­ingly need to source ser­vices at lower cost and have them de­liv­ered in shorter time frames, while at the same mak­ing sure that they ap­pro­pri­ately man­age risk and have con­fi­dence in the ser­vice out­puts.

“Embed­ding tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions in our ser­vice de­liv­ery model or pro­vid­ing them to our clients en­ables them to re­spond to those pres­sures and helps to al­le­vi­ate them. That can be a ‘quick win’.

“But be­ing in­no­va­tive in the le­gal space is only partly about the tech­nol­ogy it­self.

“We take a far more holis­tic view – for us it’s about lis­ten­ing to what our clients’ chang­ing needs are, look­ing at how we can de­velop or adapt tech­nol­ogy and our ser­vices to best meet those needs and be­ing will­ing to in­vest in long-term re­la­tion­ships.”

‘‘ A grow­ing num­ber of our clients are go­ing through dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion pro­grammes – Pin­sent Ma­sons part­ner, An­dreas Car­ney

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