Rajah & Tann, CMS, Cooley invest over US$10m in global open platform for lawyers

THREE international law firms headquartered in the UK, US and Singapore have invested more than US$10 million to take Lupl, an open industry technology platform for legal matters, through its development and beta launch.

CMS, Cooley, and Rajah & Tann Asia are the founding shareholders of Lupl, which was formed as an independent corporation to develop, own and operate the platform.

The three law firms provided the initial funding to take it to a public release, with a view for the US-based company to become financially independent in the long term, a spokesperson told The Business Times (BT).

Lupl aims to synchronise everything that goes into a legal matter - whether it is people, documents, information, communications or tech applications - into a single secure space.

This will enable lawyers and legal departments to work together on complex, high-stakes legal matters more efficiently, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

An open approach means that any legal department or law firm will be able to use Lupl. Any technology provider will also be able to integrate it via open APIs (application programming interfaces).

The platform will continue to operate in private beta mode for several months, before a wider public release later this year or in early 2021.

Lupl is a global initiative, available in all markets. With the beta version now live, it already has users in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific. "Lawyers in cities as diverse as San Francisco, New York, London, Frankfurt, Paris, Nairobi, Singapore and Sydney are using Lupl right now," the spokesperson told BT.

In its statement, the company said the platform was the result of thousands of hours of input from legal professionals at all levels across the world, in diverse sectors such as telecoms, financial services and technology, energy and natural resources.

More than 10,000 lawyers from major law firms and corporations in over 100 jurisdictions are beta-testing it.

Aside from the three founding shareholders, major law firms supporting the beta tests include UK-based Slaughter and May, Corrs Chambers Westgarth in Australia, Khaitan & Co in India and barristers' chambers One Essex Court in London.

Among the corporations involved so far are Unilever, Deutsche Bank, Airbnb and US-based peer-to-peer car-sharing firm Turo.

Lupl is being incubated through its development by CMS, Cooley, and Rajah & Tann. There is also input from an advisory board of 16 in-house lawyers from blue-chip multinational corporations and fast-growing tech companies.

Matt Pollins, Lupl's chief commercial officer, said the goal is to give lawyers real-time, 360-degree visibility across their matters, whether they are at their desks, at home or on the go.

"We knew the demand for a tool like this was coming because of the shift towards distributed teams and mobile working, but the (Covid-19) crisis has accelerated that shift far quicker than we imagined," he added.

LexisNexis, which provides computer-assisted legal research, is working with the law firms and legal departments behind Lupl, to explore how its solutions can be embedded into the workflow on the new platform, said Andy Sparkes, director of legal markets at LexisNexis UK.

Other industry partners looking to integrate their products into the platform include iManage Inc, which offers document and e-mail management software iManage Work, as well as NetDocuments, which has an open cloud-based document management system.

Michelle Fang, Turo vice-president and chief legal officer, said that existing technology tools often hold lawyers back rather than empower them. In contrast, the new open industry platform has the potential to enhance transparency and collaboration and "deliver better, more modern ways of working within our department, with other business functions and with law firms".

Lupl has a team of about 50 people, including a 36-strong product development team and a support team of eight.

The company is managed by Mr Pollins and an executive committee made up of Cooley partner Adam Ruttenberg, CMS executive partner Duncan Weston and Rajah & Tann partner Rajesh Sreenivasan.

Lupl was also developed with further support and guidance from Heidi Gardner, faculty chair and Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, who is an expert on workplace collaboration trends and the author of the upcoming Smart Collaboration for In-House Legal Teams.

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