Professionals widening range of law firm skills
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As new kinds of legal professional continue to emerge, the individuals featured here show the sheer range of specialisms at work in law firms. They include a forensic accountant, a computer scientist and a management consultant — as well as lawyers who combine their legal training with other types of professional experience.
In a measure of how far specialists such as data scientists, cyber security experts and technologists are changing law firms, FT award winner Paul Fontanot joined his law firm as an equity partner despite not being a lawyer.
Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. “Winner” indicates an Innovative Lawyers 2023 award, the rest are in alphabetical order.
Winner: Paul Fontanot, partner, Clayton Utz
Forensic accountant Paul Fontanot joined Clayton Utz in 2017 to build its forensic and technology services (FTS) team. The firm changed its partnership deed to allow him to join as an equity partner despite not being a lawyer.
He has since expanded an existing team of seven people into a diverse practice of 150 professionals that includes data scientists, cyber security experts, and technologists.
The group works with the rest of the law firm to offer joined-up advice to clients on investigations and on various tech issues, including how best to deal with cyber attacks. They also develop technology for the firm’s other practices and clients. In addition, as an evangelist for spreading data and tech expertise in the law, Fontanot has created training programmes for all graduates interested in these sought-after skills.
Andrew Beasley, regional programme director, innovation and best delivery hub, Asia-Pacific, Clifford Chance
Andrew Beasley has developed a tool to show how lawyers spend their time on client work in order to encourage the best use of the firm’s resources, including its lower-cost delivery centres and automation technologies.
The “time narration tool” analyses time sheets and allows lawyers to visualise the data in various ways. A leaderboard identifies lawyers doing client work in the most efficient way. In the past two years, the technology has cut lawyer time by more than 18,000 hours and increased the use of the firm’s delivery centre in India — for work such as due diligence, document review, drafting form precedents, and research — by 30 per cent.
Beasley leads a team of technology, data science and change management experts who work across the firm to save time spent on tasks, boost revenues and improve the delivery of its work.
Rohan Dias, special counsel, Lander & Rogers
In addition to giving specialised legal advice, construction lawyer Rohan Dias works with clients to automate complex legal documents and processes. He recently led the automation of professional services agreements for a development and construction company in Australia.
The new method saves time and money, reduces errors and captures valuable data. The technical approach moves beyond that previously used for simple legal documents to help generate contracts of higher complexity and value.
With a combined degree in law and physics, Dias combines his professional and science training with experience working as an in-house lawyer to design both the technical and legal elements of his solutions.
Komal Gupta, chief Innovation Officer, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas
Since being hired to lead the implementation of an artificial intelligence tool for reviewing documents, Komal Gupta has helped drive both technical and cultural change at the firm.
A year after joining in 2017, she launched Vichaar, an annual “innovation week” when lawyers and staff work to tackle challenges and deliver new ideas. One result is CamPlead, a time-saving database of the many documents used by courts across India that has been developed and is now used in the firm. Overall, the programme has encouraged lawyers to think differently about how they work and use tech.
In 2019, she also launched Prarambh, a legal technology incubator. The firm backs Indian entrepreneurs and legal tech companies for six-month periods, by providing expertise and mentoring to help them grow. Gupta studied law but began her career by working in legal process outsourcing.
Arjuna Guruge, associate director, ediscovery and legal technology, Australia and Asia, Herbert Smith Freehills
A central part of Arjuna Guruge’s role is working directly with the firm’s clients to help generate new business.
In 2021, Guruge created a new service, initially for one of the big four Australian banks, to house and manage its legal data. The firm hosts a central repository of data and documents that provides secure access to the client and any law firms or advisers the client engages. In this way, the service cuts risks in transferring sensitive data and helps clients respond quickly to regulatory investigations or disputes.
Over the past decade, Guruge, a computer scientist by training, has also focused on bringing advanced technologies and analytics used in the US to investigations and disputes in Australia.
Shane Woodhouse, chief client officer, business advisory, DLA Piper
After more than two decades running his own management consultancy, Shane Woodhouse joined DLA Piper in 2021 with business partner Sean Faehrmann to set up a consulting subsidiary.
Woodhouse worked with the firm’s lawyers and clients to identify areas where consulting and other professional expertise would be valuable. As a result, they developed an integrated mergers and acquisitions service, which guides clients through the entire course of a deal. The team also launched services covering environmental, social and governance topics to help advise clients on challenges such as managing “greenwashing” reputational risk and improving workplace diversity and inclusion.
In two years, Woodhouse has built a team of 30-plus people who generate revenue for the law firm.