Barclays launches Legal Tech Incubator with Law Firms

Barclays is launching a legal technology incubator programme in collaboration with law firms including Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford ChanceClyde & Co and Simmons & Simmons, as well as PwC, The Law Society and Legal Geek.

Participants of the programme will get access to a hundred-seat co-working space, mentoring, and workshops. Barclays general counsel Stephanie Pagni predicts the space will house 10 to 15 start-ups at a time.

Law firms will provide mentoring and advice, while The Law Society and Legal Geek will run events and workshops as part of Barclays’ intention to drive the programme across the legal industry.

Pagni said that she started talking to Barclays’ panel firms at the beginning of 2017 about a legal tech incubator programme, provoked by the Serious Fraud Office’s landmark use of tech in the Rolls Royce case.

A Clydes spokesperson said: “We’d been talking to Barclays for quite a while. Our involvement will be in providing testing ground for the tech companies. They might ask how the payment system work at a law firm, or how the disputes process works in insurance, for example. We provide a petri dish of information to allow them to test their tech out.”

Beyond providing the facilities, Pagni says that Barclays isn’t investing in the participating startups, but will facilitate funding connections. “We wont be investing ourselves, but in common with all our labs we want to create an ecosystem,” she said. “Law firms with large corporate clients will be able to make introductions. We’ll introduce venture capitalists from time to time, where we see fit to make an introduction.”

The firms involved in this programme are those likely to retain relationships with the bank after it scrapped panels and moved to a continuous review system.

The Law Society’s objective is to get students involved in the in the programme too. Pagni said: “Historically, tech its not the first thing you think about when you’re training as a lawyer. The Law Society is trying to bring on side the entirety of the legal community here. They might host specific events we host, or a particular start-up with a specific focused event to bring along law students and solicitors.

Clydes corporate partner Richard Elks claims that his firm’s involvement is not in order to buy emerging tech. “It’s to be part of the ecosystem. We’ve got a couple of other initiatives, such as Clyde Code, and an internal data analytics programme. So this is a much broader play for us.”

Elks said: “While there are other in-house incubators which are more likely to be focused on particular business needs, this to my knowledge is the first cross market incubator.”
 Mishcon de Reya runs an incubator programme called MDR Lab and Dentons announced a spacetech programme at the beginning of April.

The legaltech ‘Eagle Lab’ will be based in Notting Hill in a space that was converted from a bank branch. The legal tech lab is the latest in a UK-wide network of ‘Eagle Labs’. Many labs have specific industry focus on technology areas, such as the artificial intelligence lab based in Cambridge.

Legal Geek founder Jimmy Vestbirk said in a statement that the initiative is an attempt to replicate the success of the fintech industry in the London market. “London is emerging as a global leader in law-tech, with an increasing number of high growth international legal start-ups choosing the city as their second market,” he said.

Pagni said that the programme had already received an undisclosed number of applications, and that there are some already under consideration.

The full list of firms involved includes magic circle, mid-tier, regional and legal services firms. The firms involved are A&O, Baker McKenzie, Brethertons, Capital Law, Clifford Chance, Clydes, DWF, Gowling WLG, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, PwC, Simmons & Simmons, SO Legal, and TLT.
The University of Liverpool and University College London are also involved.

The programme is due to start in June. “It wont be the only site we’re going to open a legaltech lab in London,” Pagni added.

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