By Ruth Doris
The common perception of the legal process is as a lengthy, cumbersome one beset by inefficiencies, delays, and mountains of paperwork.
This judgement is being turned on its head as new companies use data-driven technologies to disrupt the industry.
One of them is Irish startup Vizlegal.
Founder Gavin Sheridan says the service makes it easy for legal professionals to track, search and save judgements, cases and other legal information.
“In the Irish context that would include things like tracking their cases flowing through the High Court via new filings or listings; knowing what circuit court lists they’re on; getting alerted when new judgements appear that contain words or phrases they define from Irish, UK or European courts,” he says.
Mr Sheridan was working for social media news company Storyful researching Ireland’s bad bank Nama when he encountered difficulties in accessing legal information. Vizlegal’s data-driven technology reduces time spent on repetitive tasks, giving legal practitioners more time with their clients.
Customers include sole practitioners, barristers, and SMEs which need to keep up to date with relevant case filings, lists, and judgments.
Vizlegal was self-funded until the prototype stage. The company took part in the NDRC Catalyser programme, which includes a €100,000 investment.
Having taken on angel investment, Vizlegal recently received €50,000 in feasibility funding as part of an award from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 SME Instrument.
While there are other legal information platforms such as Lexis, Westlaw or Justis, Mr Sheridan doesn’t see Vizlegal as a competitor, as these tend to supply products focused strictly on legal research.
“We see ourselves as in the legal data and legal intelligence space, not just interested in judgments and statutes but in the tasks and workflows of practitioners. We also think there are opportunities in analytics and better machine understanding of large text corpuses,” he says.
Vizlegal takes a data-oriented approach to the information it gathers, ensuring it has structured legal data that allows the company to build insights and tools on top of the rich data.
The platform charges customers a flat yearly or monthly fee for access to tools on the platform and the legal information, which is continuously updated.
Vizlegal plans to continue its expansion into further jurisdictions and increase coverage of more quasi- judicial bodies which, Mr Sheridan says, have been largely ignored by larger systems. It aims to add more tools, more consolidated laws and a focus on machine learning and analytics to help practitioners understand broader trends and give them an edge.
Meanwhile, another Irish startup is providing a solution to delays in the booking process of solicitors and notaries. Oathello simplifies the process of getting documents certified and notarised, making it as easy as booking an Uber, and reducing the time spent to minutes, instead of hours, days or even weeks, says founder Jennifer Hourihane.
The former lawyer, who had worked for A&L Goodbody before founding Oathello, had encountered frustration and delays by clients and businesses.
Everyone in legal tech talks about AI and Machine Learning - but few talk about the basics - the 'boring' plumbing. But it's a huge problem and it needs to be fixed https://t.co/ac5bkTKodj— Vizlegal (@Vizlegal) April 23, 2018
She says these services “touch the most important moments in the lifetime of an individual or business, and should operate in the most professional and efficient manner possible, which is where Oathello comes in”.
Oathello’s initial product offering is a mobile app launched in 2017, which allows users to find, book, and pay for document certification and notary services on demand.
It also offers additional products tailored to the needs of multi-tier banking and financial institutions, legal and investment firms and general business needs from sole traders up to multinationals.
Earlier this year, Oathello took part in the 13-week Barclays Accelerator which is powered by Techstars. The startup had received €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start-Up Fund in 2017. Ms Hourihane says legal professionals can retain their competitive edge.