Innovation and law firms aren’t always used in the same sentence. However, many law firms are dispelling the narrative that firms are slow to adopt change.
Australia-based Clayton Utz is one of these firms. The firm is eyeing new areas for growth and has a pulse on the changes erupting in the legal tech space.
“There has been a massive shift toward clients demanding that their complex business issues are solved through multidisciplinary innovative solutions,” said Paul Fontanot, partner at Clayton Utz. “Some firms believe having manual solutions such as document reviewers is enough. To their detriment, they don’t invest heavily in technology. Forward-thinking firms have to adapt.”
The firm is developing apps to solve a challenge within the industry. For Clayton Utz, that took the form of AcquiRE. They built the app to aid in the compulsory land acquisition process.
“Our firm does a great deal of work in helping large organizations with land acquisitions,” said Owen Bourke, director of forensics and technology.
Owen explained the process can become convoluted. As more players enter the mix for deals, the team has to track more information. For example, a company developing road infrastructure needs every land owner’s approval. They must also keep track of land owners’ and title deeds’ identifiers.
“Companies must also track restrictions on the land,” Owen said. “Historically, this has been tracked through an Excel spreadsheet. This leads to information falling through the cracks and lost communication between parties.”
The team looked to improve this process when a new opportunity surfaced: The New South Wales Government issued a proposal for a firm to handle a contract for two parcels of land.
“We were competing against other law firms that vowed to use technology to handle the deal,” Paul said.
“But they didn't have anything tangible yet,” Owen added. “So, our teams got to work to show the government we already had the technology to take on the challenge.”
Owen’s team automated the process through AcquiRE. The app has a centralized database to track information and communicate updates in real time.
The app is integrated with other applications such as Google Maps. Within Relativity, users can access an interactive map of land locations.
Additionally, Clayton Utz partnered with Heretik on its contract review platform. The platform allows the firm to effectively manage and track deals related to a compulsory land acquisition project.
“With Heretik, we have developed client solutions that improve efficiency in due diligence activities,” said Deepak Pillai, director of forensic and technology services. “Their deep integration with Relativity allows us to deploy their app as part of a wider solution.”
“We didn’t acquire new tools to do this type of work,” Owen noted. “We applied our skillsets to code existing tools and formed partnerships to do this. After four weeks of coding and scripting to get this right, we were ready to submit our proposal.”
Those four weeks paid off. The firm showed the app’s ability to create a customizable and repeatable process. AcquiRE sealed the deal with the government.
Delivering Legal Services, Better
As the industry changes, the way firms deliver legal services will evolve. In APAC, firms should be preparing for this change, especially given regulatory changes.
In 2017, the Royal Commission came to fruition. Officials created the commission to identify instances of misconduct among financial organizations.
“Public regulators are facing scrutiny to ensure they were doing their jobs,” Paul said.
As a result, many financial entities tightening up compliance throughout their organizations. For Clayton Utz, this presents an opportunity.
The firm is looking into Relativity Trace, an application built on Relativity to support compliance monitoring. The app helps organizations proactively understand what is happening within their organization, flagging any suspicious communication before it escalates.
“Organizations can use the tool to diagnose cultural and compliance issues from the onset," Paul said. “In the next four years, the pendulum will swing toward more policies requiring compliance. We want to be ready now.”