Business services report: Tech investment wave looms for UK law firms

The UK legal market is gearing up for an unprecedented wave of technology-related investment as the vast majority of firms put technology squarely at the top of their strategic agenda.

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This year’s UK 200: Business Services report includes research into attitudes among firms towards technology. An overwhelming majority (84 per cent) of respondents said technology had gone up their agenda, while 66 per cent said the budget for investing in technology had increased from last year.

This trend was underlined earlier this week by Allen & Overy, which reported that the firm’s technology budget was 5 per cent higher this year to fund investment in legal technology platforms and technologies “that support a more flexible and mobile workforce”.

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Jon Davies, one of the founders of technology leasing business 3 Step IT, said: “What strikes me is that most of the responders’ are recognising that technology and innovation has become more important from a strategic point of view.”

The COO of Simmons & Simmons’ new innovation group Ben McGuire admitted that there was currently “a lot of noise around tech” but added that innovation was “a much broader” topic.

“For us it’s absolutely about being focused on our strategic objectives,” said McGuire (the full UK 200: Business Services report includes a more detailed profile of Simmons’ technology-related initiatives as part of The Lawyer Technology 10, a group that also includes A&O, Boodle Hatfield, Cooley, Fieldfisher, Fletchers Solicitors, Gowling WLG, TLT and Mishcon de Reya).

Mishcon said in the report that investment in technology was now one of the “cornerstones” of its new 10-year vision and associated business plans.

“As part of the process of developing these plans, we looked carefully at what our clients wanted from us and what our own employees expect from us,” said Mishcon.

“It’s clear that, as technology becomes an ever bigger part of modern life, its impact on the delivery of legal services is also increasing. We want to be at the vanguard of these trends. Our 10-year vision makes clear that we will be technologically transformed. And so, we are investing behind that.”

Eversheds echoed Mishcon, saying that technology had “most definitely” moved up the strategic agenda and that it along with digitally-fuelled growth was now more important than ever.

“It’s been fuelled by two things,” Eversheds continued. “Opportunities to use technology are increasingly accessible and cost-effective and our clients are demanding a more digital service to blend the face-to-face traditional style of legal advice with technology to support and improve our expertise.”

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Earlier this week Osborne Clarke confirmed that it had set up an R&D budget this year specifically aimed at technology-related innovation as part of a push to grow technology investment levels firm-wide.

Recent data from HSBC suggests that firms are currently spending only a fraction of the levels of investment compared to other professional services businesses. It found that the average cost of IT was 2.7 per cent of total fee income, materially lower than the Big Four accountants which spend in excess of 5 per cent on IT Investment.

But the report also said that 95 per cent of UK law firms planned to undertake major technology projects in the coming year with a focus on driving efficiencies.

To purchase this year’s UK 200: Business Services report please contact Richard Edwards on 0207 970 4672 or at Richard.edwards@centaurmedia.com