Slaughter and May has more technology-focused staff per fee-earner than any other top 100 firm ranked in this year’s UK 200: Business Services report, The Lawyer can reveal.
In 2016/17 Slaughters had a total of 84 technology staff to 754 fee-earners, a ratio of nine to one.
Collectively, in this year’s report 139 firms provided data on their technology teams. In total they employed 2,760 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in this area last year, an average of 19.9 each.
The 10 largest teams range in size from 62 at both Addleshaw Goddard and BLM up to 172 at Ashurst. Ashurst, together with Pinsent Masons, is one of just three firms in the sample with a technology team of more than 100 FTE staff members. Pinsents had 127.2 technology staff last year while Gowling WLG had 125.
The average ratio for the number of fee-earners to each technology staff member across the sample is 16:1. Over 60 per cent of the firms providing data on their technology teams have a ratio of fee-earners to technology staff of under 20:1 and 28 per cent a ratio of under 15:1, indicating the importance of technology to firms now.
In the full UK 200 Business Services report Slaughters’ head of knowledge and information Jane Bradbury confirmed the firm’s focus on technology and underlined the coming together of two trends in the legal market currently; namely the increased need to educate new lawyers about technology and the growing importance of tech in law firms, the latter necessitating a greater role for specialists who are recognised as such.
Bradbury said it was “very evident” that her firm, which famously became the first in the UK to adopt Luminance’s AI platform, was interested in expanding it technology capabilities.
“I’m most interested in where that gets blended with being a lawyer, that’s a real sweet spot at the moment,” she added. “We’ve always had KM lawyers in the central team working very closely with the fee-earners but we’re now currently recruiting, and seeing increased interest from, young lawyers who’ve seen the way technology can drive the changes in the way we can deliver our services to clients. There are lots of lawyers that are very excited about tech now. It’s not just being seen as a platform.”
Bradbury added that professionals who can bridge the knowledge gap between lawyers and technology are most in demand.
“We’re looking for them,” she admitted. “The message has to get through to the law schools and universities.”
Adam Curphey, BPP Law School’s head of innovation technology, who led a workshop on ‘the law department of the future’ at The Lawyer’s In-house Counsel as Business Partner conference this month, said there was a need to properly embed technology in legal education.
“At the moment, we get students to run track changes and so on, plus we have the module ‘Law Firm as a Business’,” said Curphey. “And millennials do have tech knowledge, it’s just not focused on the type of tech that any of the firms use, specifically. As we move towards creating new courses for the solicitors’ qualification exam, this is definitely something that has to be embedded.”
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