DWF launches 'new ideas incubator' as part of business services reorganisation

Andrew LeaitherlandDWF has launched a new research and development division as part of a reorganisation of its business, which has seen the firm place a number of its service offerings into a standalone company.

DWF Ventures, described by the firm as “a new ideas incubator”, will focus on developing innovative new ideas and development opportunities.

It forms one part of Connected Services, a standalone business that sits alongside DWF’s core legal offering.

Connected Services also includes DWF’s in-house advocacy team, tech consultancy DWF 360, its claims management business, its forensic accountancy arm, and its resourcing and consultancy offerings. DWF launched its contract lawyer offering, DWF Resource, and consulting service, DWF Consultancy, in 2015.

Jonathan Patterson, who joined the firm from Addleshaw Goddard in 2014 as development director, has been appointed as managing director and head of development for DWF Ventures.

Patterson said: “DWF Ventures is dedicated to research and development. We work on priority areas with [managing partner] Andrew Leaitherland and the board, so we have priorities now such as artificial intelligence document review tools. Looking further ahead, we are looking at self-executing contracts which are not necessarily an improvement to our business model now, but could be in the future.”

Leaitherland added: “We have decided to lift our services into a discrete business entity and integrate the services under one roof. It is about providing a comprehensive solution to a client’s needs, rather than only dealing with the legal aspects of one big case. If you are an insurance company, Connected Services can provide and host software, we have a claims handling team and we have a forensics team that can assess the value of a claim.”

Patterson added: “I was with a client yesterday who spoke about the idea of ingredients – if you offer all of these separate ingredients in one place, the client can work out which solution will solve their problem.”

DWF is one of a number of major law firms focusing on technology research and development. In 2015, Dentons launched NextLaw Labs, a technology company aimed at developing systems and processes to be sold to other firms in the legal industry.

Last year, Ashurst also established a research and development arm as part of its new innovation initiative, Ashurst Advance.