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Leading law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP joins forces with Essex on new project

  • Date

    Tue 6 Oct 20

Dr Sefki Kolozali

Law firm Stephenson Harwood LLP is developing an in-house pricing tool in collaboration with the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at the University of Essex.

The partnership, established through the UK government’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme, will evaluate historical data sets from the firm’s past matters to generate data-informed estimates to help price future work.

“Clients are increasingly demanding greater certainty around how much a piece of legal work will cost,” said Eifion Morris, CEO, Stephenson Harwood. “This project will enable us to draw on the huge amount of experience, knowledge and data we have available – from across the firm – to develop an innovative tool that will help us to accurately and consistently predict the costs of our work.”

The firm will initially target two core areas of work – private M&A and English commercial court litigation – before broadening out the project across other work types. A group of 15 to 20 partners and associates will form a lawyer design group, which will play an integral role in supporting the project. As part of the partnership data scientist Jessica Cebrian will join the firm’s innovation team, on a full-time secondment, from the University of Essex.

"One of the first project of its kind";

“This is one of the first projects of its kind – if not the first by a law firm utilising the government’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme,” said Paul Orchard, Head of Innovation, Stephenson Harwood. “The complexity, and cost of legal work is driven by multiple complex and interacting factors which makes accurately and consistently predicting client fees a challenge. But, as an industry, we recognise that this is something that we need to improve.”

“Our data-led analysis will utilise leading natural language processing, machine learning and data analysis technologies to enable us to provide our clients with the information they need to know about what it will take to achieve their business objectives.”

Putting research into practice

Lead academic Dr Şefki Kolozali, from Essex's School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, said: “This project gives us an exciting opportunity to put our research into practical use. We aim to develop a pricing tool that predicts the correct price of and most suitable lawyers, for law cases, based on historical data. This is a fascinating and innovative research direction linking machine learning and (algorithmic) game theory. We are hoping that alongside building a successful pricing tool, we will identify approaches that can be used to address the effective use of data in the law domain.”

Potential to reshape the legal industry

Head of Business Engagement at the University of Essex, Robert Walker, said: “I am absolutely delighted to have started our collaboration with the impressive Stephenson Harwood. The combination of game theory and machine learning within complex legal pricing is ambitious and has the potential to re-shape the industry and we are grateful to Innovate UK for backing the project. At Essex, our research across the entire spectrum of AI is well positioned to support a broad range of industry challenges at differing stages of their innovation journey. Our team are keen continue to grow our research portfolio in the legal and services space over the coming months.”

The KTP programme, funded by the UK Government through Innovate UK, has been helping businesses to innovate and grow for over 40 years. The scheme links businesses with an academic or research organisation to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project through a knowledge-based partnership.