13 May 2019

Burges Salmon and the University of Bristol have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a new collaborative initiative that will explore the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science, improving productivity in professional services and the future of work.

Burges Salmon and the University will share both academic and professional insights into the law firm of the future and how fast-paced changes in this area translate into benefits for clients today.

Roger Bull, Managing Partner at Burges Salmon, explains: “Putting advanced technologies at the heart of service delivery is a key part of our business strategy. We are keen to take an informed, research-based approach to how we successfully adopt these new technologies.

The University of Bristol is one of the most successful universities in the UK and internationally recognised for excellence in research. So this collaboration is about us being at the forefront of new thinking in professional services and actually delivering visible benefits to our clients.”

Collaborating with the Faculties of Engineering and Social Sciences and Law, those engaging within the partnership will work to better understand the professional and societal challenges, plus the opportunities that digital technologies can offer.

“It is essential that academia and organisations work together to crack the productivity puzzle. The School of Management relishes the opportunity to draw on its world leading research and scholarship in the fields of professional services, the future of work and ‘big data’ to establish meaningful connections with Burges Salmon. There is huge potential for social sciences research to bring innovation to companies and thus to contribute to economic growth,” said Professor Jonathan Beaverstock, Head of the School of Management.

Rachel Roberts leads Burges Salmon’s multi-disciplinary Business Solutions team, which includes technologists and innovation and change specialists that work closely with lawyers. Roberts comments: “We have seen an influx of new technologies in the legal sector over the past couple of years and it could be tempting simply to buy the latest thing. However, we have developed a far more comprehensive strategy that includes building strategic relationships, like this one with the University of Bristol.”

Roberts explains that a long-term strategy that invests in thought leadership, client and employee engagement and building new skills and capabilities is required for professional service firms to realise the benefits for their people and clients that the newer technologies offer. She continues: “We are addressing questions around how technology can augment and support the traditional roles of the lawyer and other professionals and how we can best meet the changing needs of clients. Our collaboration with the University of Bristol will be invaluable as a contribution to this.”

New technologies relevant to law firms include using machine learning (AI) to predict case outcomes, smart contracts that run using code and blockchain to provide secure authentication and payment by cryptocurrencies. But Roberts comments that “the reality is a far cry from the hype with many legal processes still operating in analogue rather than digital. This link with the University of Bristol (amongst others) is designed to help us be forward thinking and in a better position to successfully adapt to change.”

In January, Burges Salmon also ran its inaugural B-Innovative week showcasing demos and talks that encouraged curiosity and innovation. This included a fascinating session by Dr Harry Pitts, from the University’s School of Management, that looked at the challenges of innovation in professional services.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, added: “We are delighted to develop this exciting and multi-disciplinary relationship with Burges Salmon. This relationship will span different disciplines, research and teaching, and will provide valuable opportunities to address and tackle some of the major issues that we see arising in many workplaces as the promise of ‘digital’ becomes a global reality. This partnership will contribute towards fulfilling our vision as we develop a world class centre for research, enterprise and innovation at our new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus.”

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Roger Bull

Roger Bull Managing Partner

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