Big law firms, Law Society and top academics back launch of major lawtech incubator

Blacklaws: Forum for solicitors

A host of leading law firms, the Law Society and universities have teamed up with Barclays Bank to launch the most significant lawtech incubator in the UK to date.

The ‘Eagle Lab’ will open soon in Notting Hill, in west London, with the aim of creating a centre of excellence.

It will provide co-working space and support for up to 100 individuals, with access to mentoring and workshops.

Barclays will administer the lab, which will be supported by a dedicated ‘ecosystem manager’ and Barclays’ staff who will provide onsite advice for entrepreneurs on areas including business and personal finance, as well as connections into the bank’s international networks.

Start-up community Legal Geek will organise events to encourage the sharing of ideas, and help entrepreneurs network and collaborate.

The partnering law firms, meanwhile, will provide feedback and guidance to help entrepreneurs develop, test and refine their products, with the potential to implement new technology into their firms.

Firms signed up include Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, Brethertons, Capital Law, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, DWF, Gowling WLG, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, PwC, Simmons & Simmons, and SO Legal.

Academic support will come from UCL and the University of Liverpool, offering expertise in artificial intelligence and lawtech.

Barclays will meet potential residents to discuss their aim and scale of ambition, relevance to law/regulation technology, their funding status and ongoing sustainability, how they will benefit from the initiative and their commitment to the lawtech ecosystem and wider community.

Selecting businesses for residency will be discussed by the partners, before Barclays makes the final decision on successful applicants.

Law Society vice-president Christina Blacklaws said: “As new technologies continue to be developed, they are changing the way solicitors and their clients approach legal issues. Lawtech is an important area of focus for us as we seek to help solicitors and law firms keep pace with evolving client expectations.

“We want to ensure the profession is promoting and adopting new ideas and technologies to provide the best possible service to their clients.

“This collaboration will create a forum for solicitors to learn and innovate with entrepreneurs and developers for the common good of the legal sector. We encourage all our members to get involved.”

Stephanie Pagni, general counsel for Barclays UK, added: “This initiative will help trigger a transformation in lawtech with significant potential, addressing not just commercial but also societal legal problems, and drawing on the expertise of data scientists, engineers and a range of other graduates and contributors from our university partners.”

Jimmy Vestbirk, founder of Legal Geek, said London was emerging as a global leader in law-tech, with an increasing number of high growth international legal start-ups choosing the city as their second market.

“The lawtech space has huge potential for growth, and with initiatives like this, I wholeheartedly believe that the same success we have seen in the UK’s thriving fintech scene can be replicated.”

The lawtech Eagle Lab is the latest in a network of 15 labs set up by Barclays to help start-up and scale up businesses. They originally converted under-utilised bank spaces and have developed into a UK-wide network. Many have a specific industry focus.

The new incubator will be modelled on the technology incubator at the Barclays Eagle Lab in Cambridge, which, since its launch nearly two years ago, Barclays said “has become an important contributor to the Silicon Fen ecosystem”.

Its first member was Wavelength Law, an alternative business structure that calls itself a “legal engineering business”, and it also hosts Prose, a legal drafting software company, and Aalbun, a global pool of intellectual property rights experts.

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