30 July 2018

Legal techs increase efficiency for lawyers

In recent years, a considerable number of start-ups and scale-ups have been launched to develop technological applications for the legal world. These legal techs, as they are called, offer a raft of opportunities for lawyers who wish to streamline their internal processes and communication.

The legal profession has long been a closed world, so open innovation has gained little to no support in the past. However, over the last four years we have seen increasing numbers of start-ups and scale-ups approaching the legal world with efficient technological solutions. This trend is opening the doors to the digitisation of law firms.

Legal techs in Belgium

“It is estimated that there are around fifty young technical companies in Belgium that focus on legal technology,” says Omar Mohout. “These start-ups and scale-ups are developing new platforms, SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions and AI (Artificial Intelligence) applications with a view to digitising and simplifying certain processes within the legal world.”

The activities of these companies can be divided into a number of categories:

1. Simplifying and automating legal activities

A good example is the company Happy Flights from Nevele, which helps consumers to claim compensation for a delayed, cancelled or overbooked flight using a digitised process. If necessary, they engage a lawyer and initiate legal proceedings. In the past, the cost of engaging a lawyer would outweigh the financial return. However, by making this process more efficient, this is no longer the case.

2. Offering a marketplace model

There are various platforms that match certain legal needs of consumers to service providers. The rules and code of ethics certainly play a role here in determining what can and may be done. A fine example is Jureca.

3. Support activities is an innovative legal search platform that gives citizens, enterprises, academics and the authorities easy access to the judiciary. The databases contain all the legislation and case-law that can be found in genuine data sources in Belgium. The platform gives legal service providers the opportunity to find relevant legal data easily and to convert such data into legal insights. Customised features – such as electronic dossier management, notifications and the storage of search requests – increase efficiency.

4. Artificial intelligence

Chatbots help to answer frequently asked questions automatically. The user types in a question, and the chatbot searches for the right answer in a linked database using pattern recognition.

deJuristen is a prime example of a company of legal experts who are moving with the times. They are committed to digital transformation and artificial intelligence, and are working hard on projects aimed at making the law accessible again. This firm believes in law that is open, transparent and innovative.

Shoot&Prove from Evere offers users the option to record information on their smartphones and to use this to generate and exchange electronic originals. Users can use their smartphones to scan documents which are converted into legally enforceable originals with geolocation and time stamping.

Legal Techs in Europe

Over the past two years, we have seen relatively few scale-ups that are developing legal technology. Some thirty to forty companies have together raised around 240 million euros in capital. In Belgium, this figure is much lower at around 10 million euros. This indicates that we are dealing with a young niche market with plenty of potential for growth.

Efficient contract processing

Luminance is a name that stands out. This spin-off from Cambridge University offers an AI platform that allows contracts to be assessed with greater speed and precision. The technology uses machine learning to detect key information in large quantities of data. Clauses, documents, currencies, locations, applicable laws and so on are tagged automatically in order to speed up document checks, while anomaly detection highlights potential risks. This tool can ease a lawyer’s workload by as much as 95%.

Captain Contrat is a company from Paris that simplifies the creation and management of contracts for businesses. Various lawyers are on hand to draw up the right documents and to answer legal questions.

Making legal action accessible

CrowdJustice is also attracting attention in the European legal tech landscape. It is a crowdfunding platform that was set up by lawyers to raise funds for legal action.

Liesker Procesfinanciering (NL) is a Dutch company that provides litigation funding for all kinds of legal and arbitration cases with a claim value starting from 150,000 euros. As payment, the company receives a share of the proceeds from the lawsuit, but only if it is successful. This means that you, as an entrepreneur or private individual, can litigate without any risk.

Reclamador from Madrid is a platform that groups consumer complaints on the basis of technical models. They manage the lawsuit and keep the user informed in their own personal environment. This company too only charges if the lawsuit is concluded successfully.

Artificial intelligence is the big game changer

“AI, in particular, will enable huge efficiency gains within the legal profession in the near future,” predicts Mohout. “Technological solutions, such as chatbots, are getting smarter all the time. As a lawyer, it makes sense for you to embrace these systems sooner rather than later. After all, they are not the competition but rather they support the activities of legal professionals and offer major efficiency improvements.”

This text was written in collaboration with Omar Mohout, Entrepreneurship Fellow at Sirris, the collective centre of the technology industry. 

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ING is keen to encourage and assist lawyers with their digital challenges.