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          The Manchester Law and Technology Initiative (LaTI)

          Collaboration between the legal and education sectors is paving the way for new skill sets within legal businesses.


          The challenge


          As innovation changes the way legal services are delivered, the related roles and skills need to adapt. Nowadays, legal services providers need legal engineers and data scientists just as much as they do lawyers. This raises questions about how the legal sector can collaborate better with academia to ensure our next generation of graduates are appropriately skilled.


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           The innovation


          We joined forces with Freshfields and The University of Manchester to launch an ambitious project to explore how technology is impacting the legal sector. 

          The consortium is the first collaboration of its type in the UK to formally combine the capabilities of leading law firms with the academic expertise of individual schools inside a globally renowned university. 

          Funded through corporate membership fees, LaTI focusses on: 

          1. developing future skills

          2. training needs and curriculum development

          3. organisational behavioural factors in the adoption of new legal technologies

          4. developing and evaluating new technologies; and

          5. creating long-term research partnerships.


          Since the launch, other legal firms have joined LaTI in order to ensure a broader perspective across the different segments of the legal market. 

          The initiative has a dedicated aim to publish research and create curriculum content that is focused purely on the successful use of technology in the legal sector. 

          Senior-level leadership was provided by Freshfields’ co-chief legal innovation officer and the managing director of our innovation and R&D business, DWF Ventures, alongside senior academics from each of the law, business and computer science schools in the university.

          To ensure the project had the right blend of expertise, both the law firms contributed a diverse mix of specialists to work alongside the academics. This included experts in law, technology, data analytics, innovation, consulting and R&D.


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          The results


          Collaboration between law firms and universities has been notoriously difficult. But LaTI is setting a new standard, being the first of its kind in the UK and receiving endorsement and recognition from government ministers.

          Success will be measured by the value of curriculum changes and research output over five years but since launch, the initiative has made a positive impact via:

          • Legal experts from both firms delivering lectures in the Law and Business schools
          • the innovation masters course using legal services innovation as a case study 
          • a new short course on legal technology, along with a full curriculum review and a year-long law and technology course being launched in 2020 
          • unprecedented collaboration, with content being taught across all three schools
          • In addition it has delivered legal technology based experiences and opened up new research capabilities including: 
          • a competition to work on an innovation project with DWF Ventures and a major sports club
          • part-time legal engineering roles with legal-tech business SYKE 
          • sponsorship of the Manchester Legal Tech Meetup and the Global Legal Hackathon
          • the recruitment of a full-time dedicated researcher 
          • opportunities for students to complete research projects for DWF and Freshfields as part of their modules.