The University of Manchester has announced three new legal partners to its Law & Technology Initiative, the first industry-academic research collaboration of its type in the UK.

The Law & Technology Initiative is a joint venture between three schools at the University of Manchester: School of Law, School of Computer Science, and Alliance Manchester Business School, to bring together legal services firms with academics.

St John’s Buildings, the largest barristers’ chambers in the country, Southport-headquartered Fletchers Solicitors and Cheshire-based specialist consumer rights solicitors, Bott and Co, will join the consortium that aims to equip graduates with the technological skills to work in the legal sector both now and in the future.

The industry-university collaboration has been put in place to develop research and teaching centred on innovation and the application of new technologies in the legal services sector. The initiative was launched in September 2018 and combines academic insight with industry expertise to examine technology-related issues in the legal sector.

The firms join the consortium alongside DWF Ventures, Freshfields Brukhaus Derringer and Weightmans LLP.

Andrew James, Professor of Innovation Management & Policy at Alliance Manchester Business School, said: 

“The legal sector is evolving thanks to the growing impact of technology. It’s vital we keep abreast of these changes and equip graduates with the skills they need to navigate the sector both now and in the future. Learning involves more than just academia. It’s important we collaborate with industry partners, like St John’s Buildings, Fletchers and Bott and Co, so that we can capitalise on our mutual expertise by combining real-life practical experience with robust academic research to deliver both innovative teaching and provide unique insight on the digital transformation of legal services.”

Chris Ronan, CEO of St John’s Buildings Barristers’ Chambers, said:

“We are delighted to come on board with the Manchester Law and Technology Initiative (LaTI) at such an early stage in its development. We are firm believers in working collaboratively in order to fully explore and exploit the use of digital technology in legal services. 

“As a Northern-based barristers’ chambers, we are proud of our roots and keen to join with the very best in the region to place Manchester and the entire north of England at the heart of developments in the new legal technology landscape. Our chambers have already made a significant investment in technology to the benefit of our clients, barristers and employees. We look forward to developing our agility through further understanding of the possibilities offered at the interface of law and technology.”

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Ed Fletcher, Chief Executive of Fletchers Solicitors, said:

“We are already very much down the line with a programme we are working on with Liverpool University Computer Science department. Working with Manchester Business School is another example of us forging and building deep relationships with the best academic tech minds in the country. This will enable us to build cool, tech driven products which our customers will love.

“We want to be at, and remain at, the cutting edge of everything we do and collaborate with like-minded law organisations. This is central to our approach to AI innovation and tech in general.

“Tech is just an enabler of innovation which, in turn, enables us to provide a magnificent service to our customers. It gives us the tools that we need to put in place to have something tangible that we can use to improve the fantastic service we offer.”

Paul Hinchliffe, Managing Partner, Bott and Co said:

“We’re proud to be part of this unique industry-academic collaboration. As a consumer-focused law firm, we invest heavily in technology to provide the most effective customer journey, so we can continue to deliver cost effective access to justice.

“The legal sector is going through a period of significant change and it’s proven that those firms which are embracing IT and the efficiencies it can bring, are not only surviving but thriving. Staying ahead of the technology curve is essential to our long-term business strategy. Teaming up with global leaders such as the University of Manchester as well as other innovative organisations is key for progress in legal technology.”

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