Clifford Chance launches new R&D hub to accelerate digital product development

Innovation expert April Brousseau is named director of the new unit

April Brousseau Image courtesy of Clifford Chance

UK Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance has appointed April Brousseau as director of its new research and development hub, with the coronavirus pandemic boosting demand for products that can help lawyers work digitally.

Brousseau – who is based in London and was previously global lead for Clifford Chance Create & Innovation – will oversee the hub’s efforts to accelerate and scale the development of digital products for both clients and the firm’s operations. The hub will pool the firm’s product research and design and development capabilities – including expertise from its Clifford Chance Applied Solutions unit – making it quicker and more effective to roll out new digital products.

Bas Boris Visser, global head of innovation and business change at Clifford Chance, said: “The business of law is changing faster than ever, and pandemic disruption in the wider business world has set the stage for accelerating demand for digital legal products. By bringing together the research and development capabilities that we have developed both within the firm and in our […] subsidiary Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, we can boost the speed and scale to our digital product capabilities.”

Brosseau joined Clifford Chance in May last year from Simmons & Simmons, where she was head of innovation and new business. She also previously worked for Norton Rose Fulbright and Stikeman Elliot, among others.

She said: “It's an exciting time to be working in legal technology and innovation, and I can't wait to start collaborating within our new R&D hub, across our firm and with clients to invent the legal products and services of the future. We have learned a lot from the start-up culture of Clifford Chance Applied Solutions in recent years, and it’s great to be able to bring the product development expertise we’ve established there right into the heart of the business.”

Law firms and in-house legal teams have been seeking to accelerate their digital transformation programmes in response to Covid-19, with lawyers increasingly relying on technology to do their jobs.

Last month cloud-based legaltech platform Clio became the world’s first legal practice management unicorn after it secured $110m in Series E funding, valuing the company at $1.6bn.

US firm Baker McKenzie also launched a firm-wide innovation arm last October called Reinvent, which acts as an umbrella for its new law programmes. The firm marked the launch by announcing a partnership with AI specialist SparkBeyond, which boasts MetLife and Anheuser-Busch among its clients. Baker’s said it would use its new partner’s technology, which analyses data to solve problems, to spot “unseen drivers of client demand.”

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