Australian law firm Mills Oakley has launched an AUS$500,000 legal tech accelerator to help develop a new wave of entrepreneurs in the legal sector and to partner with them.
The firm said it is their intention to negotiate a JV structure with the successful start-ups that complete the programme. The law firm would have a minority stake and first right of refusal in relation to using any new IP or service innovations with those it partners with.
The Melbourne-based firm is collaborating with locally-based Collective Campus, which is an enterprise innovation school that lists Uber and IBM as clients.
Applications for the programme need to arrive by a deadline of 14 October – so legal innovators still have time to enter. This will be followed by a boot camp and then a pitch night. If successful this will lead the short list of start-ups into the accelerator stage, which will seek to turn the ideas into viable enterprises over a 13 week period ending in mid-April 2017. After that, the best ones may then see investment from Mills Oakley’s capital fund and introduction to its network of contacts.
Wannabe startups will receive a stipend to cover costs, plus a free shared workspace, expert advice, including from the firm’s partners and staff at Collective Campus, as well as legal advice.
While there have been several Australian law firms with a long history of interest in legal tech and more recently some working hand in hand with leading legal tech companies to inspire innovation, for example with Neota Logic, the Mills Oakley scheme could be one of the first fully fledged legal tech accelerators in the Asia-Pacific region. I.e. this is not a project working with law students, or associates inside a law firm, but rather seeking explicitly to help launch new legal tech companies in the private sector.
Although the firm is perhaps not that well known outside of the region at the moment, it has won several accolades including a number for fastest growing law firm in Australia. It also has offices in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.
Artificial Lawyer asked one of the key figures behind the project, CEO, John Nerurker, about how this would work.
In terms of the start-ups they are looking for Nerurker is not setting any limits yet. ‘We have a completely open mind. We will consider start-ups of any kind,’ he says.
Nerurker adds that legal AI is something he would be happy to embrace. ‘We certainly see AI as being at the cutting edge of the industry trends we are hoping to explore and one of the most likely to bring far-reaching change to our sector,’ he said, though adds they will be looking at legal tech ideas across a broad spectrum.
He also adds that for now only Australia-based start-ups can apply for the programme.
It will be interesting to see if this becomes a model that other law firms around the world also adopt and what it produces. Artificial Lawyer will keep you posted.
Is your law firm also involved in supporting legal tech start-ups, or are you planning an accelerator project as well? Please let Artificial Lawyer know, see Contact.