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Legal tech innovation: “there is opportunity in the north” 

Over the last few years, London has been the centre point of legal tech innovation. Startups within the space are still emerging in the capital, while many are increasingly collaborating with law firms and businesses.

Outside London, however, there are pockets of innovation thriving in equal measure. Based in Sheffield, Legal Technology North is a legal tech incubator which seeks to establish itself as a central hub in the city to bring together fledging businesses to foster growth and creativity. Legal Technology North currently has a base at Kollider, an innovative incubator facility—and also home to Yorkshire’s first Barclays Eagle Lab.

To learn more about the innovation activity in the north, and also Legal Technology North’s inaugural conference, Legal Insights UK & Ireland spoke to the man behind it all, Managing Director, Matt Pennington.

Can you tell me about Legal Technology North and its vision?

The original aim was to put Sheffield on the map as a legal technology hub. We have a lot of good universities and a lot of good tech companies here already, and a lot of good tech focused law firms. But there wasn’t a legal tech meeting point here, and we felt that given those three strengths, people should be coming together to create solutions—or bring together people that already have solutions that they may not be aware could be applied to the legal sector. That was the starting point: to get those people talking, and we thought a conference would enable that. Since then, we have been fortunate that one of the Barclays Eagle Labs has opened within the same facility as us.

Through Kollider, which has partnered with the Barclays Eagle Lab, we’ve managed to get a lawtech incubator running alongside it. So, hopefully, as part of the conference, we can start to get people to think about what sort of solutions, and parts of the legal process could be improved and what solutions would provide such a means to do this—with better processes and technology. At the end of the conference we will discuss ideas, and anyone that wishes to take the ideas forward is welcome to come into Kollider and explore the idea.

If an idea is worth exploring, we can put it into an incubation process, and if anything comes out of it—we can provide the support to take it forward.

What’s the state of play for legal tech in the north of the UK?

Northern businesses generally continue to thrive despite a lack of support from government (don’t get me started on our northern rail network), and we need to be shouting about the fantastic companies that are already here—such as InCase and Rradar, and the benefits of being here to those that are not.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to launch a startup in London. The costs and overheads alone mean you will burn through any seed funding far quicker than you would if you were based up north. On the flipside, you do miss out on many of the networking opportunities and events that only happen in London at the moment—though over time we hope to change that too!

How will Legal Technology North work with legal tech startups?

It’s to capitalise on having the Barclays Eagle Lab/Kollider space and having people in one place to collaborate with Legal Tech North. Then it will be about engaging with startups and finding out what support they need throughout their journey. We have a strong team of people who have a wealth of experience in the legal industry and who have created technology for it, who will be contributing to our efforts in supporting startups. One of the key things for me is that we have now started to make strong connections with the law firms here as well, who can be involved with the development of the technology at an early stage and help shape them, get feedback—to ultimately develop great products.

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