Bean bags primed – Allen & Overy buffs up disruptive cred as eight companies join its innovation hub Fuse

Bean bags primed - Allen & Overy buffs up disruptive cred as eight companies join its innovation hub Fuse

Having already carefully cultivated an image as the most free-thinking City law firm in its weight class, Allen & Overy (A&O) has taken another step to recast itself for the age of disruption after choosing eight companies to join its ‘tech innovation hub’ Fuse.

The City giant is offering companies space in its London HQ which will work together with the firm’s lawyers, technologists and clients to create services and products for companies, financial institutions and law firms.

From 80 applications those chosen by the firm to take up places in the hub include legal AI specialist iManage – previously RAVN; digital legal services innovator Avokka; regulatory risk intelligence outfit Corlytics; legal technology innovator Legatics; legal management software company Opus 2 International; and AI company Vable. The first company to sign up for Fuse was fintech outfit Nivaura.

The Magic Circle firm has also taken on not-for-profit enterprise Ithaca, which aims to create a mobile online technology platform to assist asylum seekers gain access to pro bono legal advice.

The companies, which will move into A&O in September, are expected to spend four months using the facilities. After that time the firm will look to invite others to Fuse.

Fuse is the latest attempt by a prominent law firm to adapt the Palo Alto-style incubator model, with Mishcon de Reya and Dentons currently pursuing broadly similar ventures.

The tech companies were invited to pitch to Fuse’s selection committee, which included JP Morgan’s Oli Harris, Funding Circle legal counsel Robert Kerrigan, Amazon corporate counsel Alex Wong and Balderton Capital principal Sam Myers.

Fuse’s chairman, A&O partner Jonathan Brayne, said the selection process had been an ‘extremely interesting and rewarding experience’. He added: ‘We’re looking forward to welcoming the companies into the space next month, introducing people from A&O and our clients’ businesses to it and, ultimately, helping shape what emerges from the Fuse environment.’

The project is the latest in a string of innovations for A&O which last year teamed up with Deloitte for the first marquee joint venture between a Big Four accountant and a Magic Circle law firm. The firm eventually closed the doors to new clients following the launch of MarginMatrix, a tech-driven service to help banks handle regulation of the $500trn over-the-counter derivatives market.

While Fuse and its legal counterparts are billed as a means of bringing in new ideas and collaboration to the profession, the industry’s many luddites will be waiting to see if such ventures ultimately prove to be more vapid marketing exercise than brave new world.

This article first appeared on The Lex 100‘s sister publication, Legal Business.