Digital Transformation Week 2020: It’s trial by innovation for Dentons Canada LLP

The winner of the DX Award for the Large Private Sector category, Dentons Canada LLP, is not your typical law firm. It realized that the digital revolution meant clients needed more than just legal services. Instead, they require services that will address their need to rapidly transform while still managing risk.

Enter Dentons Data, an end-to-end suite of services addressing client needs on a fixed-fee basis. Conceived by Kirsten Thompson, partner and national lead of Dentons’ transformative technologies and data strategy group, and launched in April 2019, the service currently includes end-to-end privacy and cybersecurity readiness and response, data strategy map, and compliance agility assessment.

Rather than clinging to the typical legal billable hours model, the services are offered for fixed fees. “There are no billable hours in Dentons Data,” Thompson said. “I hate them. My clients hate them. I didn’t see any reason to continue with them. It does require us to become very, very sophisticated at pricing and it’s not something law firms have traditionally done.”

However, she said, taking skills she had acquired as in-house counsel at a tech company that had a strong sales organization, she discovered that applying that skill set to legal services allowed Dentons Data to do what she called some fairly interesting things around pricing.

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The newest service from Dentons Data is the virtual privacy officer, launched in part because of issues arising from COVID. Companies were rapidly onboarding all sorts of technologies to help themselves cope, without having done privacy impact assessments or updating privacy policies. The virtual privacy officer is a subscription service that Thompson compares to a cell phone plan – clients pay a fixed fee for a certain number of hours of consultation.

“They don’t have to worry about being on the clock and they can either have one person call or they can have anybody in a department call and we just answer their questions,” she said. “The goal is to get them implementing these new technologies, surviving COVID, surviving layoffs, surviving whatever is going to happen in the next few months without sacrificing the privacy of their customers or importing a little too much privacy risk. The uptake on that has been tremendous.”

When Thompson arrived at Dentons in 2018, they had recognized that the digital economy was going to drive growth and prosperity in Canada and elsewhere and that they needed to be on board. They were at the early stages of reinventing themselves structurally, positioning in the market, and in terms of the talent. So, she said, it was perfect timing for her. Since then they’ve been digitally transforming themselves as well as helping their clients transform.

“So we provide more than just traditional legal advice,” she said. “Obviously, that’s a big component of what we do. But the data strategy piece, in particular, is really about advising companies on where they want to be and how to get there. So some of that is strict legal advice – ‘you need an agreement to get this kind of data. So let’s draft that for you’ – or it’s more strategic thinking like, ‘okay, let’s look at the landscape of potential acquisitions. And how would their datasets be likely to supplement yours to achieve whatever your strategic goal is?’

“It’s not only just acquiring data and managing data, but of course, when data gets away from you, you may have obligations to investigate, report or notify. And we do that as well. There’s a legal component to that, but there’s also a forensic component and an insurance component. Other services that are offered serve in conjunction with that. Our goal was to be a one stop shop that addresses the business needs of an organization, not just the legal needs.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

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