Q. When is a law firm not a law firm? A. When it is providing little legal advice at all.
That was the scenario when we collaborated with an English Premier League football club to develop and license a legal technology solution to one of its most pressing challenges: player transfers.
The football industry is competitive on and off the pitch, and the battle for talent is intense. Nowhere is that more evident than during the transfer window when millions are spent on players.
Transfer negotiations are tough and often run to the wire, with a hard deadline for player transfers.
Often a club will not be willing to complete a sale without completing a purchase. This drives tension, challenge and extreme time pressure – all in the full glare of the media.
Deals are also contingent upon completing contracts and submitting paperwork to various authorities before a FIFA-enforced deadline.
It is in a rarefied environment, where saving time can be the difference between success and failure in deal completion, and millions of pounds rest on accuracy. The football club and Pinsent Masons realised that by collaborating they could hand the club a competitive advantage. They could also reduce transaction risk.
Head of Football Operations
Premier League football club
There aren't many firms that would actively work with clients to reduce the time they put into transactional work, let alone license a product that enables the client to do so. That is what marks this partnership out.
We have pioneered the use of document automation in the legal market. We discussed with the club how some of our solutions might assist in areas such as commercial contracts.
Their in-house legal team quickly realised that by evolving our technology and tailoring it to the specifics of football transfers they could help the team deliver streamlined talent acquisition.
They worked with us to develop a form of 'contracts wizard' which was subsequently rolled out to the in-house team. The wizard handles all types of transfer. These include loans in and out, purchase and sales, both domestic and international, and player contract renewals. The right paperwork will be generated depending on the option selected.
Users open an app and answer questions relevant to a transfer through multiple-choice fields and free text boxes. These questions are bespoke and were developed by the club in close collaboration with us. At the click of a button, users create:
These are then refined by the individual lawyer, and a task which used to take hours can be done in minutes.
Though the principle and the interface might seem simple, there are many variables in such transactions. The Pinsent Masons team had to work hard with the club to develop comprehensive suites of documentation to cater for them.
The information is then pulled through to the draft document depending on how the user answers the questions. The team succeeded in making a complex process simple.
They also did this at pace, developing and implementing a complex solution within a month. This ensured they were ready for the January transfer window, where it was used for temporary and permanent transfers.
In just one 30 day transfer window close to a full day of legal time was saved. The teams at Pinsent Masons and the club continue to work closely to develop the system further.
The club's Head of Football Operations said: "The system that we have developed in conjunction with Pinsent Masons was a product of genuine collaboration and innovation for mutual benefit. It has given us competitive advantage in the short term, and over the longer term I genuinely believe it has the potential to become commonplace across the industry. In some senses, though, that's not even the most innovative part. There aren't many law firms that would actively work with clients to reduce the time they put into transactional work, let alone license a product that enables the client to do so. That is what marks this partnership out."