Linklaters advances legal design agenda by reimagining key client documents and processes

Linklaters has concluded a series of legal design projects that have reimagined key client documents and processes. From redesigning an M&A document for clients to refer to between signing and closing a transaction, to transforming the due diligence process by tailoring data to meet clients’ specific needs. These initiatives demonstrate the firm’s commitment to innovation and embedding design thinking across its global network.

Helping clients understand their obligations

Following a global legal design competition within the firm earlier this year, a multi-disciplinary team of lawyers, business specialists and clients collaborated to develop a ‘Pre-closing Guide: Do’s and Don’ts for Business Teams’. The document is a clear guide to what non-lawyers need to know after an acquisition has been agreed.

Lucy Fergusson, Corporate partner at Linklaters, said:

"Using legal design principles, we have created a document that will help clients comply with complex legal obligations during a critical phase of an acquisition, ultimately helping to reduce risk.”

The guide was a collective result from the winning ideas of the firm’s global legal design competition, which saw 45 fully-fledged ideas submitted and widespread engagement from across its global network. Corporate managing associates Crystal McIntosh (Amsterdam), Denise Bryan (Singapore) and Jane Cai (London) came together to develop the idea into a final product after recognising an opportunity to innovate the firm’s existing pre-closing memorandum to better suit the needs of clients and their business teams.

A prototype of the guide underwent a series of workshops with input from business specialists, Meera Klemola (an external design consultant) and clients, resulting in an engaging, user-friendly and jargon-free guide. It is specifically aimed at highlighting prohibitions and approval requirements for business functions of a client company that is subject to an acquisition.

Reflecting on the client-led design process, Jane Cai commented:

"It was a fantastic chance to collaborate with and work alongside our clients. Ultimately, we’re trying to create something that will make our clients’ lives easier, so to have them involved at a really early stage and get their insights on how to shape the document was a useful exercise.”

Oliver Searle, Senior Counsel at Chevron, said: 

“Linklaters is leading the way when it comes to innovation in the legal industry and a great example of that is this use of legal design to rethink the pre-closing memo.”

Upgrading due diligence

The firm’s Structured Finance Group has made significant improvements to the due diligence process for fund clients – transforming the often complex and traditionally wordy output of legal due diligence into structured data. The improved end-product gives clients the ability to build the legal due diligence into their own processes (e.g. financial models and internal approvals), and to use the data to support their negotiating positions in real-time.

Peter Hudson, managing associate at Linklaters, commented:

"We have upgraded our legal due diligence process to create bespoke reports which are high on detail, but still straightforward to analyse. For any deal where legal issues on the underlying business or assets are critical for price and contract negotiations, we’ve seen that there can be a significant commercial advantage if you have the legal DD as a dataset because you can rapidly re-analyse it and update for new information.
By embracing legal design, we are adding real value to our clients’ business and helping them achieve their core objectives.”

Applying legal design thinking across the firm

The Mainstream Corporate practice in London has received positive feedback after it redesigned a periodical UK Governance and Risk summary to make it more succinct, digestible and visually appealing to our clients. The Employment & Incentives practice is also embracing legal design in its day-to-day work, following an ideas campaign earlier this year using the firm’s Ideas Pathway platform.

Linklaters’ Innovation Lawyers, Hannah Atkinson and Greg Baker, together with the Learning and Development Team, have played a key role in showcasing how legal design can support and enhance the advice given to clients.

These initiatives are just some of the highlights within Linklaters’ global portfolio of legal design work. They have been complimented by ongoing legal design training sessions for its lawyers and business specialists, and follow the firm’s adaptation of its training contract offer letter in 2019 to create a more user-friendly document.