Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton creates its own legal technology incubator, with a former Epiq executive based in Canada running the company.
Canadian Carla Swansburg is CEO of the new Cleary X, which the firm describes as “an experimental platform for highly efficient, AI and data-driven legal services”. Cleary X will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the global law firm.
“Carla has a deep understanding of the legal technology landscape and how to help law firms innovate to serve clients. She is also an inclusive, collaborative and energetic leader, which is vital in a startup environment, ”said Michael Gerstenzang, Managing Partner of Cleary.
Swansburg took up her post this week. She and the team she will build will run Cleary X independently from running the law firm, she said.
Several global law firms, including Allen & Overy, Eversheds Sutherland, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, have also established subsidiaries to serve as legal incubators or independent legal technology providers.
Cleary’s new company is “a kind of experimental platform” to build new platforms, services and products in-house and then grow to support customers and even develop stand-alone products, Swansburg said.
Gerstenzang noted that Cleary has a long and successful history of driving innovation and using new technology to deliver effective value to our customers. “The development of Cleary X is the next step in our journey,” he said.
Last year the firm supported two employees who eventually founded a legal tech company focused on capital markets 10BE5, in which Cleary had a 3% stake.
Cleary X will initially focus on supporting and streamlining Cleary’s merger and acquisition due diligence work. It is then extended to additional corporate work areas. Swasnburg said early on that AI tools such as Automation platforms and workflow tools, as well as some basic technology platforms and processes.
Prior to joining Cleary X, Swansburg was Vice President and General Manager at Epiq, a global legal services company specializing in e-discovery, information management, legal affairs and technology. Prior to that, she was Chief Innovation Officer at Blake, Cassels & Graydon, a leading Canadian law firm, and in-house counsel at the Royal Bank of Canada.
Her experience in-house and in law firms as well as with a legal tech company gave Swansburg a “360-degree view of how legal services are provided and the various options for providing legal services,” which made her an attractive candidate for Cleary , the company said.
The profession has developed a lot since it began in the 1990s. At the time, Swansburg said her enthusiasm for innovation was sparked by then-boss and RBC General Counsel David Allgood, who wanted to get into lean process improvement work for legal services at a time when “nobody was really talking about it.”
She originally joined Blakes to lead the firm’s professional development program but said she eventually “took over the pricing and development of this role, as well as project management and process improvement and legal technology.” She also decided on a master’s degree in business administration, because “why not?”
Although she didn’t want to leave Epiq, the opportunity arose for Cleary X, who gave her the opportunity to use all of her experience and join a startup on earth.
The silver lining from COVID, she said, is that everyone has learned to work remotely. She said she will travel to New York frequently, but will work mostly from her home base in the Atlantic Canadian province.