Country Focus: How Australian firms are disrupting the legal market


Large law firms aren’t known for change. In this article we report on how Australian firms are adapting to the technology-driven disruption facing law.

1.  Corrs Chambers Westgarth – Beagle and Casefolio

Partnering with contract analysis tool Beagle with a 50:50 joint venture, Corrs is currently piloting the technology with a few select clients before rolling out to all Corrs clients (and even non-clients) throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Beagle reads contracts at about one page per second. It then automatically extracts key clauses and presents that information visually. This might include information about responsibilities and termination provisions. Collaboration is also in Beagle’s sights, with the ability to search and tag key words, allocate particular clauses to other team members for review, and edit contracts on a secure collaborative platform.

Also on the cards is Corrs’ mobile legal review platform, Casefolio. Designed to extend the functionality of litigation document review platforms, Casefolio enables PDFs, notes and other metadata associated with each document to be inputted into the app. Casefolio is downloadable from the iTunes store.

2.  Gilbert + Tobin – Smart Counsel, Energy Navigator, IPO Due Diligence and LegalVision

Gilbert + Tobin is rapidly developing its technological capabilities. Some have even suggested it is committing the legal equivalent of heresy. Some tasks now take 2 hours – rather than 20 hours – and Gilbert + Tobin’s latest release sees it automate parts of the verification process for IPO due diligence. Instead of the boxing process taking a day and a half, it has been reduced to five hours.

With 60 of its lawyers learning to design and build web apps, the firm has released many other software solutions.

·        Smart Counsel provides expert tips, example clauses and usage guides for in house counsel.

·        Energy Navigator provides a single place for lawyers to find key legislation, regulatory guides and related documents in the highly regulated Australian energy sector.

·        Telco Navigator is aimed at assisting users to understanding regulatory and industry arrangements and also act as a guide to the area of law.

·        ACCC merger clearance information is available in app form.

·        A careers advice app, aimed at law students and lawyers alike, is also available for download.

And there’s more planned.

Having taken an equity stake of nearly 20% in legal disruptor LegalVision, Gilbert + Tobin plans to leverage LegalVision’s technology expertise and potentially outsource high-volume, lower-value work, freeing Gilbert + Tobin up to concentrate on complex, higher-value transactions. Originally established as an online document platform, LegalVision has transformed itself into a tech‑driven, full-service commercial law firm operating primarily online. While offering fixed-fee services, the significant efficiencies achieved through its approach to technology enables LegalVision to earn attractive margins.

3.  King & Wood Mallesons – FIRB Approval and Smart Contracts

150 pages of legislation have been condensed into 90 questions and five decision trees by King & Wood Mallesons lawyers. Aimed at testing whether Foreign Investment Review Board approval is required, lawyers can now turn to the Neota-based system to quickly deliver accurate advice to their clients.

The main drawcard is efficiency. The Neota logic rules having been developed by subject specialists, so all the right questions get asked, enabling junior lawyers to do more of a client’s run-of-the-mill work and freeing up partners for more complex tasks.

Recognising the impact of Smart Contract and Blockchain, King & Wood Mallesons have published code for an interest rate swap smart contract, touted as ‘a smart contract which keeps lawyers in a job’.

Smart Contract is a hot topic in the marketplace, with a recent trial by the Commonwealth Bank, Wells Fargo and Brighann Cotton gaining worldwide media attention.

4.  Norton Rose Fulbright – LawPath, ContractorCheck and more

Norton Rose Fulbright has entered into a strategic alliance with LawPath to provide start-ups and SMEs with greater access to premium legal services. Similar to Gilbert + Tobin’s investment in LegalVision, users of LawPath’s online platform can access a range of fixed-price packages, including an Investment Package, Convertible Note Package, Employment Package and Additional Advice Option. Each package includes legal documents, and time with a senior lawyer to receive advice or tailor the document package further.

Available for use in Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, Norton Rose Fulbright also offers ContractorCheck – an online tDLAool built on Neota for determining whether a person is characterised as an employee or independent contractor in the sphere of workplace law.

Clients of Norton Rose Fulbright are also offered:

·        N-sure (a work, health and safety legal compliance audit tool), ecomply (an online legal compliance tool for business).

·        Mortgage Enforcement (a tailored online portal to view mortgage enforcement matters).

·        Iplan (an intellectual property management solution for Australian government agencies).

·        Connection (bespoke whistleblower planning solution).

·        Resolution (a dispute management planning tool).

5.  Notable mentions

DLA Piper is utilising Kira for due diligence in M&A transactions.

Hall & Wilcox has teamed up with Neota, with a solution that advises insurers, brokers and intermediaries on the recovery potential of insurance claims in Victoria and New South Wales.

Hive Legal offers an online app, also based on Neota, to advise the legal, risk and compliance teams of superannuation funds on whether incidents may trigger breach reporting obligations.

Have you used, or will you use, any of these tools in 2017? What did you think?