West Midlands ‘supercluster’ aims to drive forward lawtech

Smyth-Allen: Unique, multi-year plan of joined-up initiatives

Plans to boost innovation and the use of lawtech in the West Midlands over the next decade have been unveiled by the UK’s first professional services technology ‘supercluster’.

Among the ideas in its roadmap is the development of a central body to foster best practice among legal services and technology providers.

The ProfTech Research and Innovation Roadmap 2024-33 was developed by ‘supercluster’ SuperTech, which covers fintech, proptech and Insurtech as well as lawtech.

The goal is to foster substantial economic growth and generate jobs in Birmingham and the West Midlands region over the next decade.

The region’s professional services sector was worth at least £28.5bn in 2022 – legal services accounted for £2.9bn – with a total workforce of 182,000.

SuperTech is the representative body for the West Midlands within the LawTech national network, the collection of regionally based cluster bodies such as Legal Tech in Leeds and Bristol & Bath LegalTech. These in turn support the national, government-backed LawtechUK and other partners, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Developed with the help of law firms Fieldfisher, Gowling WLG and Gateley, the roadmap identified productivity, open data, sustainability, inclusion and wellness as the “critical focus areas for innovation and research in and from the West Midlands”.

Researchers said law firms had “referenced the potential value of enabling more ‘self-service’ for employees to solve challenges locally”, rather than depending on “senior management or the IT department”.

They went on: “The ability to drive change locally could support a more agile and proactive approach to process automation – assuming that it is governed in an appropriate manner.

“Processes that are high in volume and have limited variability were considered prime candidates for this type of innovation.

“Processes that involve multiple stakeholders may serve to free up a greater amount of employee time than those conducted by a single employee, however, there was wide agreement that these may be more difficult to automate.”

The roadmap said automation tools “like those based on low and no code software were noted as potential innovations to consider”, while data aggregation platforms could be created so law firms could offer “a single client view” and help them with business development, case management and relationship intelligence.

In a section of the roadmap on suggested actions, researchers said the project could “develop a blueprint of a regional model for fostering change readiness and innovation culture within law firms”.

There was a “recurring desire” by law firms to improve data management and “generate insights that offer better client outcomes”.

Client profiling tools could “aggregate and analyse client preferences, behaviour, and preferences across multiple touchpoints, helping law firms tailor their services and communications to client needs”.

One suggested action was the publication of a white paper on the development of “a central body charged with sharing and fostering best practice among legal services and technology providers”.

A section on access to legal services by SMEs said a collaborative white paper could be produced to “develop a blueprint of a digitally led mediation service for small businesses in the West Midlands”.

Another idea was a research project on developing a “regional framework for smart contracts for use by SMEs with embedded cancellation, refund and resolution functionality”.

Hilary Smyth-Allen, SuperTech executive director, commented: “This roadmap is not just about improved transformation and ambition, it is a unique, multi-year plan of joined-up initiatives that will fully enable and serve businesses, consumers and investors in the West Midlands and beyond.”

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