These individuals lead five very different law companies but each has carved out a unique space in the legal industry. Their firms aim to be the best in their particular niche, whether that is consumer rights, helping in-house lawyers on digital strategy, advising young tech companies or building a diverse legal workforce.

Simon Levine, global co-chief executive of DLA Piper, stood out for identifying and prioritising the prerequisites for innovation: access to capital; human-centred design thinking; and space to experiment.

Researched, compiled and ranked by RSGi. ‘Winner’ indicates that the organisation won an FT Innovative Lawyers Europe 2021 award 

Winner: Simon Levine

Global co-chief executive, DLA Piper

Simon Levine

Determined to change the traditional law firm model and culture, Simon Levine set out to radically shake up the firm’s approach to innovation. He established a “change council” — a group of people who are able to drive and implement new ways of thinking.

In 2019, he set up Aldersgate Holding to enable the firm to invest in research and development initiatives separately from the law firm partnership mode.

Levine has overhauled the firm’s strategy as well as policies on human resources and inclusion. More than 2,000 people have been trained in design thinking. Law&, the firm’s rapidly expanding rapidly expanding solutions and products arm, has developed new artificial intelligence platforms and client-facing tools.

Michael Castle, managing partner, UK and North and South Europe, Deloitte Legal

Michael Castle

Michael Castle joined Deloitte Legal from Allen & Overy two years ago. His challenge at the Big Four firm is building a reputation for its lawyers to rival the likes of A&O, while also emphasising the differences.

He has assembled a team of leaders in managed services, technology and legal expertise. Other moves include acquiring law firm Kemp Little, and recruiting a chief technology officer who could connect the legal arm with Deloitte’s existing tech portfolio. They set out to combine Deloitte’s deep knowledge of clients’ businesses with specialist legal expertise, which won Deloitte Legal a place on telecoms company Vodafone’s law firm panel.

Shane Gleghorn, managing partner, UK, Taylor Wessing

Shane Gleghorn

Since becoming UK managing partner in 2018, Shane Gleghorn has put innovation and digital initiatives at the heart of strategy.

Taylor Wessing competes globally for work in key sectors including life sciences and tech, and In order to compete for global work in these industries, Gleghorn has taken it into a partnership with Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini.

Recognising that the life sciences and tech sectors were receiving significant funding from private capital, the firm, under Gleghorn’s leadership, created a private wealth team that is now one of the largest in Europe. As a result of these efforts, Taylor Wessing has seen a near-80 per cent increase in combined revenue from its 10 most important clients.

Caroline Green, senior partner, Browne Jacobson

Caroline Green

Elected senior partner in 2019, Caroline Green has pioneered several diversity and inclusion initiatives at the UK law firm. For example, Browne Jacobson has been recognised in the FT Innovative Lawyers awards for its decision to remove A-level and degree grade requirements when recruiting.

Green says that inclusion is important in the fierce war for talent in the legal industry. Recognising that the UK Midlands-based firm cannot compete with London salaries, she says Browne Jacobson has to offer something different. Being more inclusive, she hopes, will lead to loyalty and enthusiasm among associate lawyers. Recruitment efforts include focusing outreach on areas of the UK where social mobility is low.

Anthony Maton, London managing partner and global co-vice chair, Hausfeld

Anthony Maton

When he co-founded Hausfeld in 2009, Anthony Maton envisaged a law firm that specialised in class action. As a practitioner, he was one of the first to use private enforcement of damages in competition law cases in Europe — winning damages for 100 claimant groups in one early case.

Maton has overseen the firm’s expansion and developed the use of third-party funding and flexible fee arrangements. In April 2020, he pledged £1m worth of pro bono time to help businesses handle litigation arising from the pandemic.

He has also championed diversity: the firm now has 44 per cent female partners, compared with an industry average of 33 per cent.

Case studies in best practice

Researched, compiled and ranked by RSGi. ‘Winner’ indicates that the organisation won an FT Innovative Lawyers Europe 2021 award 

New business solutions

Medical Staff prepares a vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Comirnaty vaccine against Covid-19
© Getty Images

Law firms are experimenting with new tools and approaches

Winner: Dentons
Bretislav Simral, Europe insight and intelligence director, has created a tracker that helps the firm to win new business. The app draws on 20,000 sources and links big data with the firm’s proprietary knowledge, presenting opportunities to lawyers via an iOS app or a web page.

Littler Mendelson
The San Francisco firm has successfully exported its US workplace legal practice across Europe. All clients can now enjoy a seamless front-end and back-office service and receive a single bill. Covid-19 vaccinations have been an issue for company boards internationally and Littler’s 350 lawyers have given advice in 11 European countries.

Mishcon de Reya
The law firm launched MDR Cyber, an ancillary business that helps clients both to prevent and respond to cyber attacks, by integrating cyber and legal professionals. Unusually, Mishcon developed its expertise in-house.

Travers Smith
The firm has collated and coded all the legal data in its document management system, marking 100,000 papers with labels for 1,500 legal terms. The firm has made its work open source, so that clients and other law firms can benchmark their own systems.

Breach Assistant was launched by the multinational tax specialist in 2020. The platform guides clients on what to do in the event of a data security breach, helping them to act speedily and avoid fines. Available on Android and iOS, Breach Assistant can give advice on data protection law in 70 jurisdictions.

Ecija Tech is a consulting arm of the law firm, made up of lawyers and legal engineers who work with clients to help with the digital transformation of their legal departments. The team employs automation, artificial intelligence and robotics, helping to create integrated tech strategies. One client has automated half of the processes in its legal department while others report that their costs have fallen by up to 30 per cent after working with the team.

Side view of male it professional using laptop while sitting by female coworker in office
© Getty Images/Maskot

This five-year-old firm combines the roles of law firm, legal tech provider, and alternative legal services provider. As well as traditional legal services, it offers contract automation and a blockchain platform to manage non-disclosure agreements, and more. Lawyers at Lexr have to be coders who hold an MBA or have corporate law experience. The firm uses alternative fee arrangements rather than billable hours.

The firm built a platform, Pérez-Llorca Insight, that uses artificial intelligence for document review. Building the tool — as opposed to using an off the shelf product — means that it is better at interpreting the Spanish language and allowing for inconsistencies in the documents. It also acts as a project management tool.

McCann FitzGerald
Clients can access digital services at any time via the firm’s portal, launched in May 2021. This provides industry news and the ability to execute documents, as well as access to learning resources. The platform was built on Microsoft Dynamics, which will enable the firm to add to its capabilities.

Uría Menéndez
The firm’s digital law group has developed expertise in all areas of business transformation. It comprises around 70 lawyers who sit in practices across the firm, providing expertise on operations ranging from fintech to ecommerce and legal tech esignatures.

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