Deloitte seeks to leverage size advantage in tech race

Castle: portals suit in-house teams

Deloitte Legal in the UK is looking to ramp up its technology strategy as it bids to exploit its perceived advantage in providing multi-disciplinary services across the world.

The new UK managing partner, Michael Castle, told Legal Futures that the Big Four giant, which says it has over 2,000 legal experts in 80 countries, was recruiting a chief technology officer at the moment.

The former Allen & Overy banking partner – who was appointed in January to spearhead Deloitte’s technology-focused legal offering – added that the absence of industry standard legal technology aimed at corporate in-house clients gave the global consultancy an edge over its competition.

“While there are some very good products out there, they don’t talk to each other; we are certainly a long way from having a suite of products that are regularly used within in-house legal departments and law firms…

“I think what Deloitte has to its advantage is the multi-disciplinary nature of the professional services that it offers.

“We have [for example] experts in tech [and] in forensic document review. So we are able to offer clients the full multi-disciplinary team of experts to provide the advice they are looking for in any particular engagement.”

Having many teams around the world that dealt with similar client problems enabled the business to apply technology used in one place for similar, but not identical, purposes to be adapted for use in other locations.

“We are looking within the legal space to use technology solutions that have been developed elsewhere and that can be applied equally into a legal application,” he explained.

“For example, we are looking at client portals through which legal advice can be delivered which we have used elsewhere in the business.

“Equally, some of the document review tech can be used in the legal space, but we are using it in other areas where there is a need to review large-scale documentation in short periods of time.”

Another advantage Deloitte had, he said, was the financial muscle to invest heavily in legal tech, where other firms might struggle.

“I certainly think what will make particular firms successful in leading the legal tech market is an ability to invest, and clearly Big Four firms have a greater investment capability than smaller firms.”

He said Deloitte’s portal-based contract building platform, dTrax – an artificial intelligence-backed end-to-end contract life-cycle tool that allows in-house teams to create, analyse and store contracts without external lawyer input – suited the modern trend away from traditional legal practice.

“[Historically] legal advice or services have been delivered by a lawyer giving a piece of written advice in a Word document attached to an email… but more and more I think people want to consume legal services in real time… rather than sending it backwards and forwards by email.

“dTrax… allows documents to be created, negotiated, and amended online on the portal – multiple users can be on at any time negotiating and amending that contract in real time.”

On the future of lawyers in a tech-heavy world, Mr Castle repeated the now-familiar mantra that tech would not so much replace them as free them up from repetitive tasks to ‘do what they do best’.

“The law is still something that needs to be understood and interpreted by humans but the tech can speed up and remove the repetitive scale tasks, allowing lawyers to focus on the things they are best placed to focus on.”

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