Could the legal industry benefit from ‘a little help from friends’?

Collaboration leads to new and better ideas, cultivating knowledge and harbouring innovation. From the age old Japanese proverb “three heads are better than one” to the classic Beatles ‘With a little help from my friends’, the message is clear – we are better when we work together. 

2020 was the year that could have put a stop to collaborative working but fortunately for everyone, it didn’t. On the contrary, we realised the importance of working together and we found new ways to do so virtually through technology. The pandemic did not squash innovation, it was the catalyst that many sectors needed to really step up a gear. The industry that perhaps felt the impact of this gear change the most was the legal industry, and perhaps arguably have gained the most benefit from it. So, why should they stop there?

Getting legal collaboration projects off the ground is not easy

There are a huge number of industry-wide problems that could be addressed and solved through collaboration. However, there are still a significant number of barriers that we need to overcome. 

At the recent Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Summit, this was an interesting topic of discussion: 

  • One such barrier, according to Debra Filippin, Head of Business Development Asia Pacific at Pinsent Masons, is the idea that ‘law firms and lawyers think that we need to have all the answers’. 
  • Another challenge relates to ‘ownership structure’ in law firms, according to David Fisher, Founder and CEO at Integra Ledger, who believes that this structure makes it very expensive to reach a consensus to even begin to collaborate. 
  • There is also of course the challenge of time (and lawyers not having enough of it). So, if legal professionals are faced with an urgent issue, of course this will take precedence over anything else. Tom Saunders, from RSG Consulting concluded the discussion with the suggestion that ‘collaboration needs to be prioritised, despite the fact there is no instant gratification’. 


So how can we tackle these barriers and how can we convince lawyers that collaboration is key to bigger and better ideas? Perhaps one way is through example. The Financial Times recently launched the Collaborative Innovation Award’ which invited organisations to put forward their collaborative projects to show the potential impact such a project could have on a certain industry.

Giving the construction industry a helping hand 

When it comes to large-scale construction projects, nothing puts the brakes on harder and faster than extreme weather conditions. So naturally, there are protocols in place when the unforeseen happens. 

The reality is however, that the construction industry is struggling to follow protocol because it is hidden deep within extensive contracts. Construction lawyers face two main problems. The first is the sheer size of the contracts they need to deal with which can be 100 – 1,000 pages. Secondly, they have to prepare the on-site construction teams who have no legal background to ensure they can handle unforeseen events. As a result, up to 30% of projects lead to disputes over the contract and each dispute costs on average 30 million dollars*. Surely this can be avoided?

At Della, we want to help the construction industry save time and money. Our collaborative project combines the legal expertise of Eversheds Sutherland, the legal construction knowledge of Bouygues Batiment International and the advanced AI capabilities of Della to create a revolutionary solution. 

Della’s AI capabilities are perfectly suited for this project as it focuses on finding the element that answers a specific question from a user to provide actionable information. For instance a question might be: ‘What is the protocol in the event of extreme weather conditions?’ or ‘If extreme weather prevents work being completed, what is the protocol to ask for an extension?’ 

An initial successful pilot was completed to prove the suitability of Della’s AI to meet the needs of the client. The pilot proved not only the effectiveness of the artificial intelligence technology, but also the ability to ask questions in your own language and to get the answer from documents that might be in different languages (in this case French and English)

We want to explore how far we can push the AI to meet the needs of the end users. The goal is to build an easy-to-use solution allowing  contract managers to find the answers to their questions quickly and communicate more effectively with the on-site project management team. 

The AI is likely to be used initially to speed up the creation of guidance to help address common scenarios. The core plan is to evolve towards a more interactive user interface which will be easy for both legal and non legal teams to get to grips with. At a later stage, it might evolve into a voice activated contract assistant.

Della’s question-answering technology is very similar to the way Google has started to answer specific questions, except in this case it applies to a specific set of legal documents. The technology has proven to be extremely easy to use for end users during the pilot which enables adoptions by lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

Christophe, CEO at Della, presenting our Collaborative Innovation Pitch at Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Summit.

In this complex industry, it is often difficult to reconcile what is being written in the contract and what is done on the ground. We believe that providing end users with a solution which clearly explains the relevant parts of the contract will be hugely beneficial. 

We want to invite construction companies across the world to get involved and together we can help the construction industry as a whole gain better communication, save huge amounts of time, money and frustration. Peace of mind after all is priceless.

“Technology will augment lawyers and lawyers will augment technology

Wise words from KPMG’s Global Head of Legal Services, Stuart Fuller from the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Summit and a testament we fully support at Della. After all, our AI is collaborative in nature – the more lawyers use it, the smarter it becomes.

The legal industry could benefit enormously from taking a collaborative approach to so many challenges. If contractual challenges are costing your company money, AI could be the simple solution you need. So, rather than thinking of legal technology as the enemy, why not try thinking of AI as the friend who can provide a little help to make your life that much easier.

*Stats provided by Bouygues Batiment International

How to get involved

Our project has been selected as a finalist as part of heat 2 of the Financial Times’ Collaborative Innovation Award. If you would like to get involved in Della’s Collaborative Innovation Project and help us make it a success, please get in touch below.

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