In this episode of LawTech Industry Insiders, Ryan Fong is joined by Will Lilley, Scrum Master & Legal Engineer at Simmons Wavelength Limited.
Will Lilley is a qualified lawyer and legal engineer. He was previously a solicitor in financial services and commercial litigation in the City, and has also worked in a bank and a credit reference agency as a data assistant. As a Scrum Master, Will is presently responsible for promoting and supporting the scrum process which involves supporting continuous feedback and shared decision-making. Examples of legal engineering projects that Will has recently worked on include:
• a ‘process re-engineering’ project to redefine the way in which lawyers approach and undertake due diligence in corporate M&A;
• a tool that iteratively generates reports based on client legal data and international tax treaties, for use as visual evidence in a tax litigation matter; and
• an automated ‘funds management creation’ platform, to remove the burdensome administrative and manual processes lawyers must ordinarily undertake in the setting up of private equity funds.
Q. Please introduce yourself and give us a brief summary of your role and career journey to date.
I’m Will, a legal engineer at Simmons Wavelength and a qualified solicitor. My career journey so far has consisted of various part-time jobs in banks, a training contract and now a legal engineering role at Simmons Wavelength. Wavelength itself was the first regulated legal engineering firm in the world, before being acquired by Simmons & Simmons.
In my role, I work with different teams at Simmons & Simmons to understand their internal procedures in order to optimise and improve the way they deliver legal services. Considering my legal background and passion for technology, you can also say that I act as a link between lawyers and data scientists.
Q. Can you tell us about the services you provide and what makes Simmons Wavelength unique?
I think the most unique thing about Wavelength is it’s multidisciplinary team. We have people from many professional backgrounds working together on different things everyday. A simple example is when our legal engineers relay the ideas of lawyers in the field to data scientists who use code to stitch together personalised solutions. It's very exciting and I think if you ask anyone at Wavelength what they actually do, you'd get a different answer depending on the day.
The key service we provide is modelling and implementing a robust legal process. In other words, we work out what somebody does day-to-day, find the cracks in terms of efficiency and improve them.
In terms of other unique selling points, I would say that we work in a very agile way. We have "scrums", which are small teams of five to six people working together on a specific project for a client. The teams often include legal engineers, data scientists, technologists, lawyers and designers. This way of operating ensures constant communication between team members at all stages. Moreover, this allows us to easily and quickly personalise the final product based on client feedback.
Furthermore, we are technology agnostic which means we’re not tethered to any provider. We don’t push any commercial interest other than the best solution for our client. This clearly requires us to have a deep understanding of all the different technologies available in the market so that when we need to build a pipeline that's relevant for a client, we can do so with ease.
Q. Why did you decide to become a legal engineer?
To answer that I’ll need to rewind the clock far back before I started university. Back in the day, I had a job as a customer service associate in Yorkshire bank in Leeds and basically spent my summers working on transactions, loan calculators and other things on Excel spreadsheets. I found myself constantly innovating little things in these spreadsheets and really enjoyed it. I did the same thing later when I worked at a credit reference agency.
At university, I studied English which had nothing to do with Excel and consisted of reading and analysing texts. I then decided to pursue a career in law and therefore completed a GDL and LPC, with a masters in Law and Business, from the University of Law in Leeds.
After that, I trained in a firm called Memery Crystal, which I enjoyed greatly. As part of my training contract, I did three litigation seats: one in real estate and two in commercial disputes. During these seats, I realised how valuable my Excel skills were when doing tasks. I began making many datasheets that formed things such as court fee calculators and bank statement comparators, which added value to the teams I worked with. I really enjoyed perfecting the datasheets and making them more efficient as I went along. That’s when I found Wavelength and applied to them as somebody who is technologically enabled and keen on innovation, but who also has a good understanding of the law firm processes.
So, it’s kind of serendipitous in a way, because it all comes together from my previous experiences... which is quite nice.
Q. Did you face any technological difficulties starting as a legal engineer?
The first thing I was actually asked about in my interview was my technological expertise. In response to that, I think it's important to remember that everybody is different and there is no need to worry about these things as you can always learn. It will obviously still be an added bonus if you already have excellent Excel skills or have some knowledge of coding languages or AI tools.
What I would say though is that when you learn to use a programme like Excel, you do not only learn the jargon but you also start to view the world from its perspective, i.e. from a data perspective. Let this spill into the way you view and understand the law, since this is something you'll need in order to succeed as a legal engineer.
Q. Can you tell us about a difficulty you face in the LawTech industry these days?
In my personal opinion, I think clients generally find it difficult to understand what we can really do. Once we explain this to them, it’s usually easy to help them tell us exactly what they want. I think for people who have never come across the technological solutions that are available these days, they could find it very confusing and complex.
All this means is that we have to put more effort making people and our clients aware of what is available and how they can deploy these technologies in the best way possible.
Q. What advice would you give to students that are interested in LawTech?
The industry is quite small at the moment, so it's possible to fully research it. You can learn who the main players are as well as the methods and techniques used to deliver more efficiency in certain legal procedures. A good way to start would be to read articles about LawTech on websites such as SCL Student Bytes.
It would also be good if you could get some legal experience. Knowing what solicitors do day-to-day and the procedures and documents they interact with regularly is crucial. Having a holistic view of what solicitors do and developing your technological awareness is a really good way of understanding how to bring them both together.
Lastly, always stay curious. If you’re curious then you probably won’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff there is to learn. Also keep in mind that there are many different ways of learning, so don’t stress and keep pushing.
About Simmons Wavelength
Simmons Wavelength Limited (Wavelength) is an SRA-regulated firm of Legal Engineers. Established in 2016, the business was acquired by Simmons & Simmons in the summer of 2019.
Wavelength’s philosophy is to operate in an agile, ‘technology-agnostic’ way. To this end, Wavelength operates small, multi-disciplinary teams, known as ‘Scrums’, which are delivery focused units that may include a mixture of ex-in-house and private practice lawyers, data scientists and business transformation specialists. Wavelength’s legal engineers have an excellent working knowledge of the legal technology landscape, and are able to offer bespoke, multi-faceted solutions to the problems they encounter. Its legal engineers are also able to deploy bespoke code and proprietary, in-house artificial intelligence capabilities where necessary.