Legal Tech: 3 Startups Planning to Disrupt Corporate Practice in 2017
The advent of new technologies has defined modern society, leading to the fast-paced lifestyles of today’s world. Meanwhile, many argue that the legal market represents one of the nation’s least innovative industries. According to TechCrunch, “legal” is the sector of our economy with the least amount of venture capital investment (19th place).
As clients are reportedly more cost-conscious than ever, inside counsel often demand increased responsiveness and elite work product. Together, these trends have created a perfect storm for market disruption.
A growing group of companies are working to improve the accuracy, efficiency, and comfort of tomorrow’s legal world:
Ping: Automatic Timekeeping for Lawyers
Ping is a state-of-the-art timekeeping software developed in San Francisco, California, that aims to automate the time entry process for lawyers and law firms.
Ping’s co-founder, Ryan Alshak, is a graduate of the USC School of Law and a former corporate litigator. “I very much enjoyed practicing the law,” shares Alshak. “But my least favorite aspect of the job was the constant need to monitor my time. In fact, when you really think about it, attorneys have two jobs: one is lawyering, and the other is documenting everything that they do in six-minute increments.”
As Alshak spoke with more lawyers, he found timekeeping to be a constant pain-point. “Our initial research showed that lawyers miss out on as much as 6-7 hours/week in time that they worked, but didn’t bill. The average attorney dedicates another 4 hours/week attending to the timekeeping process. For firms, the lost time represents a clear revenue opportunity.”
Ping’s software taps into the universe of programs that lawyers use to create billable work, recording a basic description of the project as well as the time spent. Email addresses are stored and paired with discrete client matters, acting as a safety net against any human error.
The company’s beta has received an overwhelming response, and is now operating under wait-list only. The trial is discounted, as lawyers are working with the company to perfect the software’s individual functions by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
Ping’s customer base spans from solo practitioners to partners at the country’s largest law firms. “One of our top priorities is making our software IT-compliant, so individual lawyers can leverage the technology regardless of whether their firms are also clients.”
Doxly: Reshaping the Transactional Experience
The idea for Doxly was born at 1 A.M., when founder Haley Altman sat surrounded by hundreds of manila closing folders. She and her colleagues were hunting through thousands of pieces of paper for one missing signature page. A multi-million dollar closing scheduled for the next day hinged on that one document. In that moment, she realized there had to be a better way.
Altman left behind her equity partnership, endeavoring to create a cloud-enabled software that would revolutionize the user experience for attorneys and clients engaging in complex transactions. Doxly’s centralized data room offers built-in communication and workflow tools, customizable diligence checklists, and enterprise-grade security.
Meanwhile, clients can access the software, granting them greater transparency into the work being performed – and insight into what deliverables (e.g. signature pages) are still outstanding. Deal progress and document changes can be tracked in real-time. Closing books can be generated with a few simple clicks.
Through Doxly’s Insights and Reporting feature, managers can gain instant information into how transactions are staffed, as well as customizable reports that analyze key deal trends. The software also aggregates practice performance metrics for marketing and business development purposes (including the number, size and types of deals closed).
“Law firms have a ton of data,” Altman emphasizes. “When it comes to following key deal trends, we provide important insight, removing the need for attorneys to dig through and analyze past deals.”
Doxly’s growth has been rapid: after launching in July 2016, the company raised a $2.3 million round of capital. The end-to-end product was completed in September. Today, Doxly is managing a pilot program with Dentons and other AmLaw 200 firms.
Eventually, Altman hopes that Doxly will positively highlight law firm impact, as clients gain greater vision into deal-making processes.
eBrevia: Extracting Data Using Artificial Intelligence
eBrevia leverages artificial intelligence technology to bring unprecedented accuracy and speed to document analysis, due diligence, and lease abstraction. Law firms can now extract key data in seconds, processing hundreds of transactional documents at once.
The software captures concepts that a human being might miss through manual keyword searches. Afterwards, summaries of the platform’s analysis can be seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Office or a law firm’s own management system.
Ebrevia’s co-founder, Ned Gannon, graduated from Harvard Law before practicing within the M&A departments of several global law firms. It was there, at 3am, that he witnessed the pain points in document management – especially for M&A clients working against intense deadlines.
In 2012, the artificial intelligence technology was developed through a partnership with Columbia University (eBrevia is a Columbia portfolio company). To date, the company reports a 30%-90% increase in speed (as compared to manual review) with a 10% increase in accuracy.
“We’re in a hot space – where artificial intelligence meets the legal industry, so there’s been a lot of outside interest” shared Gannon. “Our core customers are large law firms, corporate boutiques, F500 legal departments, and real estate managers.”
The software’s pricing varies from a transactional to a subscription basis. Lately, corporate departments have become licensees, requesting that their outside counsel leverage the technology. In Q4 2016, eBrevia raised another $1.75 million – resources that will help Gannon and his team expand into the New Year.
2017: The Year Ahead
The propensity to experiment – and even fail – is indispensable when it comes to innovation. As these companies plan to penetrate the world’s leading law firms, it will be compelling to witness the response: from junior lawyers to corner offices.
Sina Chehrazi is a Huffington Post contributor based in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA. He covers entrepreneurship, the law, and the business of tech.