3rd May 2019

WBD Accelerate with Sam Dixon, Womble Bond Dickinson

Leeds is full of exciting digital businesses pushing the limits of what technology can do. However, there is a range of other firms providing essential services to these innovators, as well as making use of tech in their own unique ways. One of these is Womble Bond Dickinson, a transatlantic law firm with a heavy presence in Leeds. We spoke to Sam Dixon, managing associate at the company, to learn more about this exciting business and why it is sponsoring the Leeds Digital Festival.

“We’re always looking at ways to provide a better service for clients, and to improve the way that we deliver things internally,” Sam said when we interviewed him at the company’s offices next to the River Aire. There are many different ways a business could go about achieving these goals, but for Womble Bond Dickinson the answer is to make innovative use of tech.

Sam said: “We’re looking firm-wide how we can use technology to improve the service that we provide to clients. That might be by reducing risk in some way, or speeding up delivery time, or just making things more cost-efficient for the clients.” This has led to the company investing in a number of interesting digital tools, such as AI.

For example, Womble Bond Dickinson is using artificial intelligence to review large quantities of documents. This enables the firm to get through this process “far, far more quickly and – largely speaking – far more accurately than just a team of lawyers could do”, reducing both risk and cost for its clients.

Similarly, the company is automating some of its documents, providing staff and some clients with a logic tree of questions they can answer to fill out a legal document quickly and easily. While at the moment this still requires legal expertise to use correctly, Womble Bond Dickinson is looking to roll it out to clients in the future.

“There’s been a shift in the legal marketplace over the last few years,” said Sam. “We aren’t the only ones looking at tech, we know that, but the key for us is we’re not just buying the licences for the tech and getting off-the-shelf products; the art of it is looking at the types of work we do and working out how best to structure things to use the tech and deliver those workflows in the most efficient way possible.”

WBD Accelerate

On the other side of things, Womble Bond Dickinson is doing its best to provide useful services to Leeds’ many digital firms in order to help them grow. To achieve this, it has set up an initiative called WBD Accelerate. This project is only a few months old, but already has a lot of potential to help the Leeds tech scene.

The initiative is primarily aimed at startups and small businesses looking to grow. Sam explained: “We recognise that legal services can be quite a daunting prospect for firms that are starting off on their journey and aren’t yet established. We want to try and build relationships with those types of businesses at an early stage, help them in their developments and then hopefully build a long-term relationship with them.”

WBD Accelerate works simply by providing startups with a range of resources they can use to grow more easily. For example, there is a suite of documents they have access to, some of which are templates and others automated.

“For a lot of people, the basics will get them a long way,” said Sam. “It will protect them enough to keep things moving forward and to allow them to grow.” However, if startups need something more bespoke, WBD Accelerate can still provide them with this.

“We will give the clients the first hour of advice every month for free, so they’re not scared to pick up the phone thinking that there’s a clock ticking,” said Sam. “If they’ve got a quick query here and there, they can pick up the phone and get some proper advice from a well-established transatlantic law firm without the clock running.”

Many small businesses have the challenge put in front of them to access the legal advice they need. Sam believes Womble Bond Dickinson has “come up with a solution that helps them to access that advice in a really transparent and affordable way”.

The Leeds Digital Festival

To further encourage Leeds’ tech sector to grow, Womble Bond Dickinson is sponsoring the Leeds Digital Festival. “We think it’s important that Leeds shouts quite loudly about what it’s doing,” said Sam. “We want to help Leeds demonstrate its strength in the tech space, to allow it to attract the best talent from across the country and to attract investment.”

In addition to this, the firm is also running an event on April 30th at 8:00 am. “Automating Healthcare” will feature panellists discussing the future of the healthcare industry in Leeds, as well as a question and answer session.

“We’ve got James Gupta from Synap speaking, who is a doctor by background and now works in an education and training technology business, who are training the doctors of the future using technology,” said Sam. “We also have Dave Pearce from NEPHOS, who has a whole host of involvement in the medical space, especially around the data side of things.”

Sam has high hopes for this event. “What we’d like to have is a really good conversation, and if we can help introduce a few businesses to each other, which might in due course result in some synergies that help save someone’s life, I mean, that would be lovely; if slightly ambitious!”

While it might be ambitious, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Leeds is one of the foremost digital cities in the UK, and with the backing of companies like Womble Bond Dickinson it’s hard to see how it can do anything but succeed in the near future.