15 years ago, Harm Bavinck quit his job as a lawyer to found Effacts, an online repository for contracts and other legal documents. Legaltech.se talked to him about the rapid development of legal technology and the challenges companies face when developing products aimed at smaller markets such as Sweden.
First off, what problem does Effacts solve?
- Effacts helps legal departments to collect, review and control legal management information. The software provides the company with valuable business insights for legal governance, risk management and compliance, says Harm Bavinck, Effacts Managing Director at Wolters Kluwer.
- The idea for the solution was born when a customer - I was a lawyer at the time - asked me for a solution to better manage their contracts. Looking at the market back then, 15 years ago, almost everything was focused on the pure financial aspects of purchase agreements. Together with a tech partner we started Effacts in order to service a need which was, and is, clearly there. With a continued dedication to development of the software and integration of new technologies, the Effacts solution has become a system Legal Counsel can depend on every day of the week.
What companies and authorities are best positioned to employ technology to deliver services more efficiently – legal departments, law firms, courts, startups, tech giants…?
- I think all types of companies can benefit from employing technology to deliver their services.
- By using a system like Effacts you will enforce a single method of data delivery through fixed, yet tailored, reporting, consistent quality of your data, as well as tooling to provide access to outside counsel or even customers to specific information whenever they need it. By using a single repository for all your legal information it becomes easy to recognize and mitigate risks and therefore save money. With its flexible price-point Effacts is affordable to startups, yet has the scaling capabilities to be of immense value to smaller legal teams in corporate multinationals.
- Today, smaller legal teams are using Effacts to have company information at hand, manage their documents in one central place and control officer records, as well as reduce risk and turn their legal information into a valuable business asset.
One could argue that 2016 has been the year of AI – several law firms and accountancy firms have started using applications, and it’s been a recurring theme at various legal conferences around the world. Yet there’s little talk among Swedish lawyers. Why do you think that is?
- The development of AI-based services within the legal sector is primarily driven by technology startups with venture capitalist backing. This is clearly visible in the U.S. market where many startups are driving the development of new types of solutions. I would argue that that lack of activity within this sector in Sweden is the primary reason AI-technology based solutions are not present nor discussed in Sweden today. Traditional providers have been slow to adapt. Progress within this area has so far been very limited.
Apart from law firms adopting AI solutions, we see the emergence of online dispute resolution platforms, online markets for legal services with fixed fees, computable contracts, DIY apps, and also the merging of law firms and legal tech companies. What kind of legal tech services and tools will be adopted by Swedish lawyers, companies and consumers the coming years?
- I think the key adoption driver of new solutions is the drive to become more efficient. Legal departments are finding it difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of the global business environment when they work with paper-based processes. They spend most of their time doing low-value, administrative work. Any solutions that can help automate, streamline or speed-up these processes will, in time, be adopted. This includes document automation software, AI-based research technology etc.
E-signatures is one field where Sweden has a strong presence. How do you think the sector will develop, and how do you think e-signatures will be put to use the coming years?
- E-signature technology is already today becoming commoditized and I think we will see this develop into standard features in many types of solutions. The key value of e-signatures is being able to process very high volumes efficiently. Collecting a signature using paper-based processes can take days, or even weeks. It takes just a few minutes to collect an e-signature. This makes it a very useful option for legal departments that have to process a high volume of contracts and legal documents.
You're the main sponsor of LegalWorks legal tech day 2016, one of few Swedish conferences on law and technology. The Netherlands has Lexpo and the Dutch legal tech startup awards. Would you say the Netherlands is ahead of the curve?
- The issue of both the Netherlands and Sweden is the size of the home market. It is difficult to expand successful technologies in a market with a very limited number of buyer personas. But we are doing a great job in supporting them and contribute to their daily work there, says Harm.
- Compared to the US, startups have a huge challenge in finding a market. Besides this issue, we also have a major challenge in the language and legislative differences. This is why Effacts has merged with Wolters Kluwer, a large multinational active in over 140 countries. The merger allows us to leverage the knowledge and language skills from all the local markets, but share all our experiences on a global level in order to continuously improve the Effacts solution.