Clifford Chance aims to break away from 'terribly unpredictable' pricing with new AI tool

Clifford Chance (CC) is in the final stages of piloting new artificial intelligence (AI) software that will help work out how long lawyers should be spending on tasks in order to better predict pricing.

The firm is currently testing the tool, called Clocktimizer, in Amsterdam, in one of its ‘best delivery hubs’, which encourage teams to find more efficient ways of serving their clients.

The software can be used to analyse both historic and current timesheet data, enabling the firm to generate more accurate fee quotes.

CC plans to formally launch the tool this summer once its eight-month pilot has finished. The first stage is expected to see it rolled out across several practices in Europe, including London.

The technology is likely to be particularly useful for the litigation practice, where it could offer more pricing certainty to clients on long-running investigations.

CC global litigation head Matthew Newick, who took over from Jeremy Sandelson in January 2018, said: “A traditional response for a litigator is to suck their teeth and say the work is terribly unpredictable. That’s not good enough anymore. We need to be good at telling clients how much our work will cost and then committing to how much it will cost.”

Other law firms to have used Clocktimizer technology include Allen & Overy, Hogan Lovells and CMS.

Newick added that the “main attraction” of the tool is its ability to analyse historical data, which he thinks will enable CC to tell clients how much particular pieces of new work should cost.

“The whole driver for this is pricing and transparency. If we know how long a task has typically taken in the past, we can better predict how long it will take in the future. With this information, we can offer clients greater certainty when it comes to pricing our work.

“Within our time recording system, we have a whole bunch of information about what our lawyers do on a daily basis and how long these things typically take, all within those time narratives that our lawyers produce so assiduously each day.”

The rollout is a key priority for Newick, who has earmarked ‘best delivery’ as a key component of his strategy for the practice.

On assuming his new role, he appointed New York white-collar partner Rob Houck as global litigation and dispute resolution best delivery partner.

Another priority for Newick is the firm’s new 400-lawyer cross practice technology team. The group was pulled together in December to meet growing client demand for legal advice around technology and the regulation of data.

Houck has appointed Washington disputes partner Megan Gordon as the global lead for technology in the litigation practice.

Commenting on the appointments, Newick said: “I have asked Rob to focus his thinking on ‘best delivery’ globally to help me make sure we are developing as fast as we can in this area, increasing the pace of change. That new global role reflects the importance that I attach to this issue.

“Megan’s role is similar in the sense that that’s all about the other side of technology, which is helping clients deal with the risks that emerge from the incredibly rapid development of technology. We thought we needed a dedicated global partner to concentrate on that.”

  • Clifford Chance legal technology solutions director Anthony Vigneron is among the speakers at this year’s Strategic Technology Forum, which will take place in Italy this June. Subjects on the agenda include AI, the war for tech-savvy millennial talent, and how to react to a public hacking. Click here for more information.