Barclays and the Law Society launch 'law-tech' incubator

Source: Barclays Bank

Barclays today launched a new law-tech incubator in partnership with the Law Society.

The venture is backed by major law firms, as well as leading universities UCL and The University of Liverpool.

Together, they aim to turbo-charge the UK’s law-tech sector, helping companies start up and scale up, and become international leaders in their field - matching the UK’s reputation as a leader in the legal services sector.

The law-tech Eagle Lab will open soon in Notting Hill, London, and create a centre of excellence. It will provide co-working space and support for up to 100 individuals, with events and meet-up space expected to be confirmed soon.

Ashok Vaswani, Chief Executive of Barclays UK, said: “Law-tech is an area where the UK has every reason to be a world leader. It is home to some of the greatest law firms in the world and we want to help build on the success of its legal sector, and play a leading role in transforming law-tech in the future. The impressive range of partners supporting this initiative shows just how important this is.

“Our Eagle Labs are supporting thriving new businesses up and down the country, and our Notting Hill lab will lead the way as an industry centre of excellence for law-tech.”

Stephanie Pagni, General Counsel for Barclays UK, said: "This initiative will help trigger a transformation in law-tech 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."

The new incubator will provide access to mentoring and workshops. It will be supported by a dedicated Ecosystem Manager and Barclays’ colleagues who will provide on-site advice for entrepreneurs on areas including business and personal finance, as well as connections into Barclays’ international networks.

Legal Geek, a start-up community, will also play a vital role in organising events to encourage the sharing of ideas, and help entrepreneurs network and collaborate.

Partnering law firms will provide feedback and guidance to help entrepreneurs develop, test and refine their products, with the potential to implement new technology into their firms. Academic support will come from UCL and The University of Liverpool, which have valuable expertise in artificial intelligence and law-tech.

Christina Blacklaws, vice president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: “As new technologies continue to be developed, they are changing the way solicitors and their clients approach legal issues. Law-tech 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.”

Jimmy Vestbirk, Founder of Legal Geek, said: “The launch of this new law-tech incubator marks an exciting time for the legal profession. Technology is transforming how legal services are delivered and the market is starting to sit up and take notice, with the number of start-ups and investment in the sector rising. London is 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 law-tech 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 law-tech Eagle Lab is the latest in a growing network of 15 Labs set up by Barclays to help start-up and scale up businesses to create, innovate and grow. Eagle Labs originally converted under-utilised bank spaces to create thriving ecosystems at the heart of their community. They have developed into a UK-wide network, partnering with organisations that share Barclays’ vision to empower businesses and communities to drive the UK economy. Many of the Labs have a specific industry focus on technology areas such as artificial intelligence and home automation.

The new incubator will be modelled on the highly successful technology incubator at the Barclays Eagle Lab in Cambridge, which since its launch nearly two years ago, has become an important contributor to the Silicon Fen ecosystem. Today it hosts companies including the following law-tech firms that have proved the value of the Eagle Lab approach in the field:

Wavelength Law: the Cambridge Eagle Lab’s very first member. Wavelength is the world’s first regulated firm of Legal Engineers - a multi-disciplinary blend of data experts, technologists, process specialists, information experts as well as lawyers. The firm uses technology, data, legal analysis, design thinking methods, and teamwork to design and deliver solutions that dramatically improve legal practice

Prose: Legal drafting software that helps lawyers author structured legal documents such as contracts and legislation
Aalbun: redefining the Intellectual property value chain with software tools and giving access to a global pool of specialists to build IP portfolios cost-effectively

The success of the Cambridge Eagle Lab in supporting law-tech and other technology start-ups, along with the willingness to collaborate pan-industry for the benefit of the sector, were key factors in persuading law firms, which visited it, to back the new incubator.

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