What is LegalTech?

Allen & Overy Draw Global Startups To Their ‘Disruptive’ LegalTech FUSE Hub

They came from Melbourne to Luxembourg to help disrupt the legal market

What is LegalTech?

Allen & Overy has stepped up its move into legal technology via its Fuse innovation division, with close to a dozen legal and financial startups joining the hub.

Allen & Overy, a firm with over 3000 lawyers, started Fuse to create ‘disruptive technology’ within the legal sector.

The move demonstrates a developing alliance between often ‘old law’ firms and new legal tech companies that see the law firms assisting in the development of legaltech software and programs. Some firms have created tech labs and have hired chief innovation officers and other internal teams to work on legal technology applications to create new products across the legal spectrum.

Law firms and in-house legal teams have been rapidly seeking to increase their digital transformation programs in response to Covid-19 and even without the stimulation of the pandemic, with lawyers increasingly relying on technology to do their jobs.

Last month cloud-based legaltech platform Clio became the world’s first legal practice management unicorn after it secured $110m in Series E funding, valuing the company at $1.6bn and Baker McKenzie also launched a firm-wide innovation arm last October called Reinvent, which acts as an umbrella for its new law programs.

The firm marked the launch by announcing a partnership with AI specialist SparkBeyond, which boasts MetLife and Anheuser-Busch among its clients. Baker’s said it would use its new partner’s technology, which analyses data to solve problems, to spot “unseen drivers of client demand.”

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The latest cohort to join the hub are the fifth since 2017 and include legal tech companies including a Melbourne-based document verification company Atticus, a New York-based contract company Draftwise, Toronto-based legal research outfit CiteRight, Luxembourg-based sustainability compliance company Greenomy and London-based data annotation and AI platform Humanloop.

Reuters report that Shruti Ajitsaria, head of Fuse, said the firm saw its highest-ever number of applicants for the current round, with 150 companies looking to participate in the hub globally.

The companies that have joined the hub previously include the U.K.-based firm, including Avvoka, Define, Legatics and StructureFlow.

The objective of Fuse is to form a space where A&O lawyers, clients and companies in the cohort can collaborate and test out solutions, which can look different for each company. The program has helped A&O lawyers work more regularly with new technology applications applicable to law firms. Fuse helps tailors programs for each of the participating companies, as well as giving them access to the firm’s lawyers, documents and feedback, permitting them to collaborate with the firm on the projects as they proceed.

The program has also drawn six financial technology companies and for the second year in a row is launching virtually, runs through the end of 2021.

“From my perspective, Fuse is a really win-win situation in terms of knowledge transfer,” Ajitsaria said.

The hub is open to all lawyers to learn more about the resident companies, introduce them to clients and see if the lawyers want to try a product out in their own work, Ajitsaria said, adding, “I think that has kind of led to a bit of a cultural shift in that legal tech is seen really as being for the masses.” It has also led to lawyers at the firm using legal tech products on a more regular basis, she said.

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