Venture capital-företagens intresse för legal tech-branschen har ökat markant - efter år av kräftgång. 2018 investerades omkring en miljard USD i företag som Atrium, LawGeex, Concord, Kira Systems, LegalZoom, DocuSign, Ligo, Apperio och Exterro, att jämföra med omkring 250 miljoner åren dessförinnan.
Trendbrottet märks främst på common law-marknaderna, men intresset tycks ha ökat även i Sverige. Legaltech.se har pratat med Dagna Oliwa, marknadsansvarig vid Donna:
First off, why now?
- A big blocker for venture capitalists getting excited about the legal industry has been that it’s traditionally required a very slow-scaling enterprise heavy sales process. It would often take months if not years before a single user ever even had the chance to try the product. However, companies like Slack have shown that even products that would have traditionally fallen into the enterprise category can build a great growth model simply by focusing on the end-user experience and leveraging a great freemium business model. There’s also a really big push currently for firms to move to the cloud, says Oliwa.
- In 2016-17 investors started to realize that the legal industry is ready for a serious injection of technology and in 2018 this coupled with the explosion of AI technology, saw a record amount of investment. So it really is a case of timing and industry readiness to start making a lot of manual processes much more efficient. A lot of this shift if also driven by clients and client pressure on fees and traditional law firm business models.
What obstacles are there yet to overcome?
- One of the biggest obstacles is for firms to figure out what parts of their process is worth innovating and finding the right technology to do so. Once they’ve done that, then they have the issue of user adoption. A lot of tech is bought but not used. That’s why a lot of the larger firms are hiring and focusing on innovation roles and teams with the sole focus of solving some of these obstacles. That’s also why our number one priority is user experience and ease of adoption, making a tool that is simple to use and one that anyone can get started with in a few minutes.
- And the biggest blocker still is the stringent IT processes that a lot of firms have in place. On premises solutions and strict deployments aren’t necessarily more secure but that is still thought to be the case hindering the ability for new companies to enter the market. Most IT departments have a strong desire to move away from desktop applications and plugins to a more cloud-based IT environment. But it’s a bit of a catch-22 situation because there’s very little cloud software available that works like their desktop counterparts.
What about attitudes among lawyers?
- It really varies. We have some users who are at the forefront of this change, they love technology and recognize it makes sense to invest in the latest innovations and ways to simplify workflows. Usually these firms are also offering different billing models to their clients and this necessitates the need to be more efficient. We’re also seeing that big firms are the first movers when it comes to testing and using technology.
What is Donna, and how did the company come to be?
- Donna is an AI - Assistive Intelligence - that lawyers use to write and review contracts. Donna analyses contracts and makes suggestions but more importantly provides relevant pieces of related information that might help a lawyer speed up their workflow or avoid complicated pitfalls. Unlike typical heavy legal-tech software Donna is available for anyone to use and even comes with a convenient Microsoft Word plugin.
- The team have been working on Donna for two years. The idea for Donna was actually born when Rik Nauta and Anton Gerdes, the two co-founders, decided to pivot from their original business idea. They have written a great blog post about the pivot and what inspired them to start Donna. Rik and Anton met whilst studying physics at Lund University, where they quickly decided that they preferred spending time outside the lab with people. They started looking at ways to combine their interest in coding and Natural Language Processing with their entrepreneurial streak.
And what does the future hold for Donna?
- There is a lot in store for the near future. The investment funding we have received will allow us to focus even more on the user. That’s our obsession. So we’re investing a lot into customer success resources. Currently we offer 1 to 1 onboarding for every user, we want to make sure that everyone has a great start and experience with Donna. We’re also updating our neural networks giving Donna the ability to understand contracts at a much deeper level, allowing us to offer assistance with many more of lawyer’s pain points.
- Later this year we’ll also be adding multi-user features that will allow users in a team to make the most of Donna’s insights as well as expanding Donna into more languages and platforms like Google Docs, Microsoft Office for Mac.
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