Business ideas

Law Firm Leaders Win Business Ideas

Do you need greater leadership skills to create a pioneering legal business from scratch or to bring about a step change in a large, well-established firm?

For our jury in this category, both represent significant achievements in a profession not known for rushing into new ways of working.

For enabling women to fill almost two-thirds of the roles in his growing legal resources business – many of whom are returning to law after career breaks – and having global multinationals seeking their expertise, Dana Denis-Smith received praise and a special mention. But, by continuing to seek out creative new business opportunities in his third term managing almost 300 partners in a business with revenues of over £400million, Jeremy Hoyland has prevailed overall by proving that size is not an obstacle to managerial agility.

Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. ‘Winner’ indicates that the person has won an FT Innovative Lawyers Europe 2022 award

WINNER: Jeremy Hoyland
Managing Partner, Simmons & Simmons

During his third term as managing partner, Jeremy Hoyland diversified the firm’s revenue streams beyond legal services with the May 2020 launch of Solutions – a business unit integrated into the firm but with its own management.

Its offerings include Wavelength, a legal engineering firm that does projects such as large-scale document review and data visualization. The company’s flexible resourcing arm, also part of Solutions, expanded into Asia and increased external revenue by 30%.​

Hoyland has streamlined the firm’s legal practices in technology, banking, asset management and healthcare, and these account for more than 80% of global revenue.

Karen Davies
Global Chair, Ashurst

Karen Davies

Until her appointment as the firm’s first female global chair in 2021, Karen Davies led her corporate practice. During this time, she oversaw the team’s implementation of the Mindful Business Charter: a set of commitments that aim to improve well-being through measures such as respecting rest periods and avoiding out-of-hours emails. Davies now applies the charter to the entire company.

It also has a parental leave policy in place that provides 26 weeks of fully paid leave regardless of gender, as well as generous pregnancy loss leave. The policy covers employees at all levels. Legal staff receive a three-month reduction in billable targets upon their return to work.

Dana Denis Smith
Managing Director, Obelisk Legal Support

Dana Denis Smith

Dana Denis-Smith has campaigned for greater recognition of women and championed their contribution to the legal industry.

She founded Obelisk Legal Support, a flexible legal resource company, to enable lawyers to work freelance with clients such as Goldman Sachs and Intel. Of Obelisk’s more than 2,000 lawyers, 65% are women and 15% have returned to the legal profession after a career break.

In 2014, Denis-Smith founded the First 100 Years Project, a campaign to celebrate the first century of women being able to practice law in the UK and Ireland. Since the centenary in 2019, the project has raised awareness of the issues facing women in law.

david jackson
Managing Director, Shoosmiths

david jackson

© Paul Thomas

David Jackson is distinguished by his commitment to changing the way Shoosmiths provides legal services.

Prior to becoming general manager this year, Jackson launched Shoosmiths8 in 2021, which bundles various technology solutions under eight product categories. Highlights include Matters+, a matter management system for internal teams, and Cia, an AI-powered contract review tool.​

Shoosmiths8 also offers services such as diversity and inclusion consulting. Instead of being provided by a separate entity, this is provided by existing departments, with customer contact opportunities for those in training and development.​

Johanna Rantanen
Managing Partner, Dottir Avocats

Johanna Rantanen

© Timo Ahonpaa

Johanna Rantanen was one of the six founders of Dottir, a Finnish law firm, in 2016.

The fledgling firm has differentiated itself as an early champion of legal design methods to better serve its primary clientele: start-ups who often struggle to understand traditional legal documents.

As managing partner, Rantanen worked hard to maintain a non-hierarchical and collaborative culture even as the company grew. This has included implementing policies such as assigning customers to teams rather than individual partners.

Despite its status as a relatively small young law firm, Dottir enjoys a solid reputation among start-ups in Finland.

Peter Scott
Managing Partner, Europe, Middle East and Asia, Norton Rose Fulbright

Peter Scott

© Karl Attard

Appointed Managing Partner for Europe, Middle East and Asia in 2020, Peter Scott has made caring and motivating staff his priority. He created a board of directors made up of legal and business workers, which serves as a sounding board for the management committee.

Hearing perspectives from across the company helped Scott shape new policies, especially on bonuses. Hours spent on innovation activities now have the potential to count towards a bonus. This builds on a 2019 program that gives associates an uncapped billable hour credit for new product development.​

Scott is also a member of a City of London task force to improve diversity in leadership positions

Aku Sorainen
Senior Partner, Sorainen

Aku Sorainen

Unusually for a senior partner, Aku Sorainen says one of his personal priorities over the past five years has been legal technology. Since 2018, the Baltic company has invested €1 million in its practice management system to improve organizational efficiency, and it plans to launch a commercial version of the system in 2023, via a spin-off technology company.

The company also invests heavily in document automation. One of its greatest successes has been the automation of sales and purchase contracts. The firm automated more than 100 sale and purchase agreements in 2021, with estimated savings of four to seven hours of attorney time per document.

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