What does your company do?
Simmons Wavelength is the home of legal engineering at Simmons & Simmons, a global law firm based here in the UK.
Wavelength is about five years old and was founded by two incredible visionaries – Peter Lee and Drew Winlaw – both of whom are UK lawyers and who have worked and practiced here in the UK. They had a vision that multi-disciplinary teams of lawyers, data scientists, policy gurus and designers could work together to change the way that we experience and deliver legal services.
There are a lot of things about the UK ecosystem that make it a really good place for innovation in professional services. The UK is a space where folks are not afraid of collaboration. I've seen competitors time and time again join up for the greater good. That is not something that you find in most markets
Tell us about your UK and global operations.
We started in Cambridge where we were one of the first participants in Barclays Eagle Labs, which is a great programme that Barclays has where they incubate really cool start-ups doing all kinds of things.
Cambridge was chosen as a base not just because it is the home of our two founders Pete and Drew, but also because there is an awesome ecosystem and pool of talent here.
Nearly two years ago we were acquired by Simmons & Simmons and we moved out of Eagle Labs to occupy a larger space in Cambridge and also to build a London base inside Simmons’ headquarters. Our headcount is now around 30 people from all around the world.
Although our team is UK-based, our work is global and our clients cover a broad range of continents and sectors.
What are the benefits of being UK based?
There are a lot of things about the UK ecosystem that make it a really good place for innovation in professional services. The UK has a really strong regulatory regime and there are initiatives like the Innovation Sounding Board where like-minded people can share ideas or bodies like Tech Nation [a UK network for tech entrepreneurs] that are doing a lot to promote growth in the legal sector.
The UK is a space where folks are not afraid of collaboration. I've seen competitors time and time again join up for the greater good. That is not something that you find in most markets.
London being a global city also helps us to attract global talent. It is a very easy and attractive place for people who want to impact change on a global scale.
On a personal note, I've been in the legal innovation space for my entire legal career. When I finished law school I was a full-time academic for several years and did a lot of consulting. Through that work I always knew that the UK was the place for legal innovation in the world. So when the time came to come to London it was a really easy jump to make.
In Cambridge, given the university systems as well as the huge focus on science and technology and the huge draw of talent from around the globe in fields from health and life sciences to computer science, the city was a really natural place for a legal engineering business to take root and grow.
In Cambridge, given the university systems as well as the huge focus on science and technology and the huge draw of talent from around the globe in fields from health and life sciences to computer science, the city was a really natural place for a legal engineering business to take root and grow
What are your company's growth ambitions and how does the UK feature in these?
We are already expanding. We are adding new folks to the team across a number of disciplines. In the short term we are looking to add people in the UK but, longer term, we expect to use the UK as a spring board for international expansion.
What are your views on the perceived challenges of Brexit / COVID for the UK and what that means for your business?
There were practical, operational challenges for us as a result of Covid-19 but being so digital facing it was a really seamless transition.
The reality is most of our clients are large players in the financial services space, health and life sciences companies or in the technology, media, and telecom sectors. Generally, whether it's dealing with people or finance or regulatory issues, all of our clients across the board have challenges and opportunities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. The good news is that, as we are looking at data, design, policy and processes, we are really well positioned to help our clients with both.
For example, a lot of what we do is work with global legal teams on how to figure out what is going to be their virtual working and collaborative culture or help legal teams and their business partners better rework some of their processes now that their working situations are a little bit different, and how we can use existing tools and technologies to optimise ways of working in creative, more efficient ways.