Israel: Legal Tech in the Start-up Nation

As part of an effort to widen the awareness of different legal tech markets around the world Artificial Lawyer has asked guest writers to introduce their home jurisdictions.

Last month we covered Holland. This piece is about Israel and was kindly written by locally-based, Ido Goldberg, Head of the Law & Tech department at Robus Legal Marketing.

As Ido explains, it’s still early days for the Israeli legal tech scene, but despite some structural challenges much is changing.

Israel is often referred to as the ‘Start-up Nation’. Bill Gates once even called it a tech superpower.

Along the years Israeli entrepreneurs have founded and led some of the most innovative start-ups in the past decade. Companies such as Waze, Wix, Fiverr, Taboola, Gett and moovit have all originated there.

Ido Goldberg, Robus

Israel also has the highest number of lawyers-per-capita in the world, leaving behind countries like the US, Canada and Germany with a figure of almost 600 lawyers per 100,000 people.

Yet, although the Israeli legal market is super competitive; and although there are plenty of tech-oriented minds around; and although Israeli law firms are looking all the time for how to improve themselves, many law firms here have yet to embrace the latest wave of legal tech.

Most of the firms still use simple, low-tech solutions such as Word extensions and anachronistic practice management software. Why is this?

Reasons for the Situation

First, language tends to be a big factor in legal tech products, especially those that involve AI and machine learning. It’s clear then why Israeli companies aren’t too keen to develop such products for a language that is only spoken by approximately eight million people.

The legal tech company LawGeex is a great success, but also an example of this. The Israeli start-up offers a machine-learning-based product for contract analysis, and yet, like many other Israeli start-ups, its product is English language-based and a number of its clients are overseas.

Second, although being very well developed, the Israeli legal market is quite condensed. For a start-up, a larger overall market is often a necessity.

And the third reason, which is not distinctive for just the Israeli market, but perhaps more relevant due to the proportionately large number of attorneys, is the fear of being replaced by machines.

With all these factors in mind, it’s clear why we have not seen many Israeli legal tech companies yet, and those we do see, often aim for markets abroad.

But, perhaps the point is that we don’t see many yet.

Things Are Changing

A year ago, we at Tech & Law Robus launched the first-ever legal tech platform in Israel. We set out on a journey to empower lawyers and law firms using tech, and we’re seeing the results already.

A month ago, we also held the first legal tech event in Israel, hosting more than 70 legal-techies (as we call them) for the opening shot of the Israeli legal tech community.

We were surprised to find we had many lawyers in the crowd. And some of Israel’s most prominent law firms had sent their business development managers to learn about how they can harness legal technology.

That is part of the reason why the inevitable change is coming strongly to Israel now. In a competitive market like the Israeli legal sector, players have to find ways to stay ahead and new technology is certainly a way of doing this.

Moreover, a younger generation of lawyers, who are much more tech savvy, is entering the local legal market. In fact, we are meeting more and more tech-enthusiastic lawyers who demand tech solutions that will make their practice better and their working lives easier. Some are even quitting their day jobs as lawyers to become legal tech entrepreneurs.

A worthy example is Autorni’s CEO, Motti Bebchuk. Bebchuk, an Israeli attorney up until this year, has recently founded a start-up that promises to leverage cutting edge natural language processing and machine learning techniques to deliver corporate lawyers with the best technological tools for their needs.

The Israeli legal market is ready for the next step in legal technology. Apart from Israeli entrepreneurs sitting right now in their garages and working on the ‘next thing’ more foreign legal tech companies are starting to find the Israeli legal market an interesting one.

Overall, fierce competition here will compel Israeli law firms to step up their game and learn how to be better at using tech, and once that happens the sky is the limit.