In just over a week, on the opening night of ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, 15 legal technology startups will take the stage in a pitch competition, where each will make its case for why the audience of TECHSHOW attendees should vote for it as the most innovative.
This will be the fourth annual Startup Alley pitch competition at TECHSHOW — a tradition that started in 2017. Again this year, as I have every year, I will serve as moderator.
As I’ve been getting ready for the 2020 pitch competition, it got me wondering whatever happened to the startups that participated in the first competition in 2017? How did they fare? So I decided to do a check-in.
That year, the winner of the competition was Ping, an AI-powered timekeeping application that automatically tracks your billable hours. It seems the voters selected well, as Ping has gone on to achieve notable growth and adoption.
Not long after TECHSHOW, the Ping team moved to London for the summer to participate in the MDR Lab incubator run by the law firm Mishcon de Reya. The firm clearly liked what it saw, since it then signed on as Ping’s first enterprise client and also became an investor.
From there, the company raised a seed round of $3.7 million and then, last November, it raised another $13.2 million in Series A funding, bringing its total investment to $17.4 million. Four years after TECHSHOW, it now counts among its customers some of the largest global law firms in the U.S. and U.K.
Second place that year went to Doxly, a transaction-management platform. After the 2017 TECHSHOW, founder Haley Altman, a former biglaw partner, spent two years focused on enhancing the application and growing the business.
Her hard work paid off in August 2019, when Doxly was acquired by Litera Microsystems for an undisclosed amount. Doxly is now Litera Transact, and founder Altman has stayed on with Litera, where she is now general manager of transaction management.
(For my recent LawNext interview with Altman, see: LawNext Special Report – Doxly Founder Haley Altman at the Clio Cloud Conference.)
eBrevia and JustLegal
Doxly was not the only one of the startups that presented that year to have been acquired. Two others were also:
- eBrevia, an AI-powered contract review platform, was acquired in 2018 by Donnelley Financial Solutions.
- JustLegal, a service for matching clients and lawyers, which originally launched as LawBooth, was acquired as an asset sale in October 2017 by DigitalTown. After the acquisition, founder Willie Owgorzaly left and, in 2017, DigitalTown launched a new iteration, called Got.Law, with Frank Robles, who was JustLegal’s CTO, as CEO. “Got.Law is still here and moving forward,” Robles told me in a recent email.
While those three companies were acquired, one of the 2017 contestants has been so successful that it has become the acquirer. Alt Legal, a cloud-based, IP docketing software company founded by former Kirkland & Ellis lawyer Nehal Madhani, has acquired two former competitors in trademark docketing: MarkTend and Name Warden.
Since the 2017 pitch competition, Madhani tells me, the company has nearly tripled its customer base and quadrupled its revenues. The company has also rebuilt and redesigned its software to serve organizations of all sizes, Madhani says, allowing it to work with Am Law 200 and Fortune 100 companies.
Next month, it is holding its first-ever trademark conference, Alt Legal Connect 2020, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
(For my recent LawNext interview with Madhani, see: Special Report – Alt Legal CEO Nehal Madhani at the Clio Cloud Conference.)
As for the other competitors that year:
Aggregate Law, a platform where law firms can hire freelance project attorneys, has recently relaunched with a new platform and a new payment model. While the original version charged a small, one-time connection fee, founder Jennifer Downs tells me that Aggregate has changed to a subscription model, where freelancers pay a monthly subscription. Firms can search freelancers’ profiles for free. “We wanted to disrupt the model that takes a percentage from the freelance lawyer’s paycheck and we stand by this commitment,” Downs says.
ClariLegal, a vendor RFP and management platform for law firms continues its mission to “make complex simple and easy,” founder and CEO Cash Butler tells me. Since 2017, Butler says, the company has continued to save corporate and law firm customers 35% or more and enabled procurement of premium, vetted vendor services in hours instead of days or weeks.
Court Buddy, a service that connects consumers with vetted lawyers based on the client’s budget, started making news just months after the 2017 competition, when Kristina Jones, who cofounded the company with her husband James Jones, became the 14th African American female founder ever to raise $1 million or more for her startup. Then, in October 2018, Court Buddy raised a $6 million Series A round, bringing its total financing to $7.1 million. Recently, Court Buddy won second place at the Mayors’ Civic Tech Pitch held during the 2019 Annual United States Conference of Mayors.
Paladin, a company founded by Felicity Conrad and Kristen Sonday that helps corporations, law firms and other organizations streamline and manage their pro bono programs, has gone on to attract some notable investors, including billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and host of the show Shark Tank, and also notable development partnerships, including with the law firms Dentons, Wilson Sonsini, and Clifford Chance. In partnership with the Chicago Bar Foundation, it helped create a digital Pro Bono Opportunities Guide for the state of Illinois.
(For my LawNext interview with Conrad, see: LawNext Episode 35: Felicity Conrad, Cofounder and CEO of Paladin.)
TrustBooks. I first reviewed TrustBooks almost a year before the 2017 pitch competition, describing it as “trust accounting made simple and painless.” In the years since, founder Tom Boyle tells me, the company has continued to grow. Among the milestones, it launched integrations with LawPay and Clio; it was added as a member benefit by the The Florida Bar, The North Carolina Bar Association, and the Oklahoma Bar Association; and it was the winner of the 2017 Duke Law Tech Lab Pitch Day. Meanwhile, TrustBooks is developing full legal accounting functionality that will go live this summer.
UniCourt, a company that provides easy access to court records and legal analytics, and the third-place winner in 2017, continues to expand, with coverage of most federal courts and certain state courts in Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, New York and Texas.
One product appears no longer to exist. LegalClick was a SaaS platform for lawyers to sell their services directly to clients using a document assembly shopping cart. While the company still exists as a lawyer marketing agency, I can find no trace of the product, and my emails to the company asking for an update were not answered.
Bob Ambrogi, LexBlog
Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division. At LexBlog, he oversees LexBlog.com, the global legal news and commentary network.