Last week was an intense week of legal innovation discussion, debate and (I hope) progress toward defining what the future of our industry will be. There were a number of great events and gatherings of very smart people, and I was fortunate to meet and spend time with many of them. It was also a week full of contrasts and contradictions. While there was a palpable energy and enthusiasm in the air, there was also a feeling of impending doom as pundits shared their predictions of the “end of lawyers” and the legal world as we know it. But at the center of it are a growing number of entrepreneurs and startups focusing on the legal industry. As Karl Chapman, CEO of Riverview Law, put it during his ReinventLaw presentation, “it’s rare to see a market opportunity like this. Go out and take advantage.” It seems many have heard this calling, and have answered.
Fellow Law Angel Josh Kubicki invited legal startup founders onto the stage (pictured above) and boldly stated that these startups are the “engines of change in the legal world” and challenged the room to “stop talking, and start doing”.
David Perla, another fellow Law Angel and legal entrepreneur, summarized the legal startup landscape during his presentation, describing more than 170 startup businesses across categories from document automation to legal research and lawyer referral services. According to Perla, we have not yet reached a “Cambrian explosion” of legal startup activity, we are seeing a more diverse mix of new entrants than ever before. We estimate that in 2013 more than $250M USD was invested in the legal startup space from a number of angel and VC sources, and the pace seems to be increasing (this does not include the $200M investment in LegalZoom by PE firm Premira in January 2014).
While I believe that true innovation in the legal market involves more than new products and technologies, I do believe that these startups are paving the way toward a new and better environment in which legal services will be delivered more efficiently and affordably, for consumers and global businesses alike. I believe that new data-driven tools and tech will drive this, but that we will also need new business models, and new businesses, to really move the needle. But the “the crazy ones” – the startup founders and entrepreneurs who’ve committed their lives, and in many cases their livelihoods, to bringing new and innovative products and services to the legal market – are truly the fuel for the engines of change. Having built companies, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for folks that make the leap from “thinking about” to “doing”.
Law Angels hosted an event on Wednesday evening at which founders from dozens of legal startups met with investors and industry thought leaders to have a meaningful dialog about what it will take to fuel and accelerate the legal startup community. After talking to these founders and seeing the passion and enthusiasm they bring to our industry, I’m more confident than ever that the future of law is closer than you think.