Olswang’s former CEO put in charge of CMS’s tech revamp

In an attempt to boost its legal tech delivery services, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang has formed a new team focused on designing innovative ways to fulfil clients’ changing needs.

“CMS By Design”, led by executive partner Paul Stevens and a number of specialists, is born out of the innovation efforts that followed the merger with Nabarro and Olswang and comprises four different divisions to rethink processes and help clients integrate new tools.

“I was a partner at Olswang for over 20 years and, as part of the merger, I was mandated by managing partner Stephen Miller to drive innovation and bring together the efforts of different teams,” Stevens told The Lawyer.

Instead of a standalone group working on technology, the firm embedded 124 paralegals, legal project managers, developers and data scientists in its practices, involving partners and associates in the process. Most of them are currently based in Edinburgh and Sheffield.

The new team is articulated into four specific initiatives. A unit called Mix, led by head of legal service design and delivery John Craske, tailors tech solutions and resources to client demands in regulatory and commercial matters. For instance, Mix was used during HP’s $10.5bn purchase of Samsung’s printer business.

In addition, Developers on Demand, which is helmed by head of tech innovation Jane Challoner and head of IT Razvan Crefu, offers the assistance of developers and legal designers in finding ‘out of the box’ or bespoke solutions to help clients better manage transactions and panel firms.

“The idea is that clients are sometimes more interested in the mundane rather than in the shiny and brand new products and we try to help them find the most suitable solutions available,” Stevens added.

The last two initiatives are focused on educational purposes and knowledge management. Head of digital and data Elle Todd leads the Digital Academy, a consultancy aimed at upskilling in-house teams in relation to technology and which was initially supported by pharma giant GSK.

“Lawyers are often very afraid of embracing technology,” said Stevens. “We want to take them off their desks and educate them in all matters digital in the most practical way.”

Along these lines, Instinctive Understanding, spearheaded by head of client management Jo Witham, is a programme aimed at mentoring GCs and in-house legal teams on professional development and knowledge management.

“With the rise of legal operations, there was a shift over the last couple of years in the way in-house legal teams are perceived,” Stevens explained. “It went from seeing them as the ‘strange people in the corner’ to much more front-and-centre strategic advisors to the business.”

CMS’s investment in technology was said to have been a significant factor ahead of its merger. Its strategy included the acquisition of machine learning and data visualisation technology Brainspace in February 2017 as part of the litigation technology unit CMS Evidence.

Three years ago, the firm also set up CMS equIP, a start-up support programme that currently involves 65 active members and, in the past, included powerhouse AI provider RAVN, which was acquired by US document management specialist iManage in 2017. At the time, CMS also advised the start-up on the sale.

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