27 September 2021

Baker McKenzie focuses on AI

Baker McKenzie has announced the next step in its AI transformation, by appointing two Co-founders to lead its recently formed 11-strong team who will be charged with combining the firm's legal domain expertise with data science and machine learning. Brian Kuhn, former Elevate Vice-President, and Danielle Benecke, a senior attorney at Baker McKenzie, will co-lead the team when they start their new roles in the coming weeks.

Danielle and Brian will work closely with leading AI technology company, SparkBeyond. Under the leadership of Chief Innovation Officer, Ben Allgrove, the team will leverage SparkBeyond’s AI-powered advanced analytics and augmented research platforms on a series of projects, exploring new ways to apply machine learning to transform the legal industry and address key societal problems. The exclusive partnership, announced in May 2021, is a moon-shot venture forming part of Baker McKenzie's wider innovation program, Reinvent.

Speaking after the announcement, Ben Allgrove said, “We received over 750 applications for the Co-founder roles, validating our belief that we were offering something different here in setting up this new team. We were truly impressed with the caliber of lawyers, technologists and others who applied. I could not have asked for a better response. In Brian and Danielle we have found two outstanding Co-founders with a strong track record of successfully leading teams, collaborating across multiple jurisdictions and driving legal innovation within the organizations in which they have worked, including our own firm. The experience they will bring, from both inside and outside our firm, will help us to continue to explore what the future of the law - and in particular machine learning enabled judgement - will look like."

“Danielle and Brian are expertly positioned to drive our specialist, multi-disciplinary new team, helping us to accelerate growth in our Reinvent strategy, whilst also embarking on the next stage of our partnership with SparkBeyond,” said Milton Cheng, Global Chair of Baker McKenzie. “I look forward to seeing them take the next step in embedding machine learning in our business to create new value for our clients and our communities."

Danielle is a US and global IP and technology lawyer in Baker McKenzie’s IP and Technology team. Admitted in California and Australia, she has been recognized by Fortune 500 clients in Lawyers Weekly's 30 Under 30 as “nothing short of spectacular” and Australasian Lawyer's 50 Rising Stars as “having a level of sophistication beyond her years.” As well as being a Reinvent Ambassador, Danielle is one of the Firm’s regional Reinvent Champions, acting as an ambassador network leader in the region to help guide others on their innovation journeys. 

Brian has spent most of his career creating AI-based software offerings and AI-augmented services for lawyers. He is joining us with a background at alternative legal service provider Elevate, where he was Vice President of Digital Strategy and Solutions and having co-founded and run the IBM Watson Legal consultancy for IBM, one of the first efforts to apply a platform strategy and rapid customization to the design of AI-based product and consulting offerings for the legal industry. He was responsible for envisioning, launching, and directing all aspects of Watson Legal and its offerings, serving law departments within Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies. Brian is based in Washington DC.

As part of Baker McKenzie’s moon-shot, the Co-founders will be provided with access to SparkBeyond's cutting-edge technology and a dedicated team of data scientists, data architects, data analysts and project managers along with a 3-year runway to deliver a series of projects for clients, internally and which will have social impact, identifying and solving those problems that would most benefit from combining human judgment and machine learning capability.

One of the first projects that Brian and Danielle will work on will be to oversee the launch of “Project 

Liberty,” an AI-driven study on the unintended negative consequences of child detention that was generated by SparkBeyond’s AI engine.  In its research for Project Liberty, Baker McKenzie leveraged SparkBeyond to mine the entirety of Web data about global child detention. The AI platform revealed a troubling view of cause and consequence. The Firm plans to presents its findings at the World Congress on Justice with Children, taking place virtually in November, alongside SparkBeyond and pro bono partner Terre des Hommes. An interactive tool will be made available to all participants, allowing them to interact with Baker McKenzie’s data, and empowering them with a more accurate understanding of cause and consequence to inform policy, public opinion, and advocacy on behalf of these children.

“We’re very excited to work with Danielle and Brian on continuing to build our AI transformation and social impact initiatives,” said Sagie Davidovich, CEO, SparkBeyond. “Our shared mission to transform the legal industry and tackle critical global issues with AI and machine learning will gain even more momentum under their leadership. Our work on Project Liberty is a first and major step in this direction, and we look forward to the next giant leap in leveraging AI for the greater good.”


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