Law firm professionals driving radical change
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These five law firm professionals are working alongside lawyers to change their organisations from the inside: David Curran is building a significant ESG advisory practice at Paul, Weiss; Gillian Scott is creating legal products at Osler; David Wang is automating legal processes and collaborating with other law firms and clients at Wilson Sonsini; Mollie Nichols has built a team at Hogan Lovells focused on data solutions.
Michael Hertz, chief marketing officer at White & Case, stands out for how he has overhauled the firm’s approach to important clients such as Deutsche Bank, revamped the firm’s leadership training, and integrated law firm professionals from other business areas into the firm’s legal offering.
Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. ‘Winner’ indicates the organisation won an FT Innovative Lawyers 2021 award
WINNER: Michael Hertz, chief marketing officer, White & Case
Michael Hertz is an unusual marketeer. Thanks to him, the firm has a comprehensive, joined-up approach to clients — including, most recently, a client delivery solutions team of lawyers and business professionals who are expanding and improving White & Case’s relationship with its largest multinational clients.
Hertz started as a litigator at Latham & Watkins, before moving to found non-profit Pro Bono Net in 1998, helping lawyers to use technology to improve access to justice. In 2005, he became the chief knowledge officer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where he merged the business development and knowledge management functions — an early such move in the global legal industry.
David Curran, co-chair, sustainability and ESG advisory practice, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
David Curran joined Paul, Weiss to set up its sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) advisory practice in March 2020 — one of the first of its kind at a large law firm.
Combining experience in business and the law, he has built a multidisciplinary team to advise clients on legal, finance, governance and risk issues relating to sustainability and ESG, with training sessions to help clients avoid misleading claims or “greenwashing”.
Curran also created the ESG and Law Institute at the firm. In partnership with Berkeley School of Law, this offers research and a forum for companies and the legal community to share intelligence. He sees an urgent need for education on ESG reputation and governance matters as they become critical issues for businesses to manage.
Mollie Nichols, head of advanced client data solutions, Hogan Lovells
The number of data-focused roles within law firms has been increasing rapidly in recent years, but Mollie Nichols holds an unusual one: leading the development of data-driven solutions for Hogan Lovells clients.
As a litigator earlier in her career, Nichols experimented with technologies to find and analyse information, and to help devise legal strategies.
She began to focus on electronic information, taught digital discovery to law students, and ran ediscovery for law firms.
In her current role, Nichols continues to work at the intersection of law and tech, leading a 30-strong team of Hogan Lovells lawyers and technologists.
The team is using cloud computing technology to help the law firm’s clients manage and analyse litigation, compliance or deal data.
Gillian Scott, partner, innovative products, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt
After spotting an opportunity for the firm to invest in developing and selling legal products, litigation partner Gillian Scott took on this function as a full-time role.
Since then, she has helped to develop and expand a range of products that automate legal documents and contracting, monitor regulatory changes, and help to manage litigation processes.
Scott draws on her 15 years as a lawyer, and her three years running client development, to lead Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt’s products business — which requires a different approach from the law firm’s traditional services.
She has raised awareness internally about the opportunity to digitise legal knowledge and turn it into products.
The suite of legal products that she now manages is helping to generate new revenue and clients for the firm.
David Wang, chief innovation officer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Previously an associate at the firm, David Wang took on an innovation role in 2018 and became chief innovation officer in early 2020.
Wang leads the firm’s efforts to digitise, automate and apply artificial intelligence and data analytics to the practice of law. He created Neuron, a software service to automate legal processes for start-ups. Through a strategic partnership, Neuron integrates with bank Morgan Stanley’s Shareworks software to help start-up companies manage their shares and other securities.
Wang also played a leading role in founding the Open Cap Table Coalition — an industry group formed by law firms, software companies and Morgan Stanley — to standardise and improve the transparency of capitalisation table data, which shows who owns a company’s securities.