Artificial Lawyer caught up with co-founder and former Freshfields lawyer, Richard Mabey to find out more. We discussed how Juro works, the difference between selling legal tech to lawyers and non-lawyers and where the UK-based company is headed.
First, congratulations on the $750k in seed funding for Juro, that is a great sign of confidence from what are experienced tech investors. Can you set out for the readers broadly what Juro does?
Juro is an end-to-end contract tool that helps businesses generate, negotiate, sign and manage contracts. As part of this, we use machine learning algorithms to help you see patterns in negotiations and give you insight into your contracts stack.
You mentioned previously that one of the key aspects of Juro’s sales contract workflow system is that counterparties receive the contract in HTML via email, and there are no attachments. The other party then can approve or send back comments to alter the terms of the contract ‘in-email’, e.g. commission rates. How is this an improvement on the traditional way of sending a PDF contract by email?
Three ways. First, we save you time. The traditional method of dealing with contracts – Word, pdfs, email tennis, hand mark-ups – is famously inefficient. As a former lawyer, I know this all too well. And the wasted time comes at a financial cost.
Second, we reduce legal risk within a business. Often in-house legal teams tell us that keeping control of contract templates as you scale fast can be a real pain and giving the business a free rein over contract text can lead to error.
Third, we deliver a much better experience with contracts for the sales, HR and legal people operating contracts within businesses, but also deliver a radically better experience for the counterparty, who more often than not is a trusted stakeholder, like a customer or an employee.
As well as offering clients the workflow system, Juro also offers contract analysis of a company’s ‘vault’ of historical contracts. Is this the same as what some well known contract analysis companies already offer? How does this additional service build upon the workflow offering?
We think of our machine learning offering as ‘augmenting’ our contracts workflow. In contrast to most of the AI legal players, we do not focus on document review use cases like due diligence. Instead, by processing contracts through Juro you are building up a single source of truth for contracts. We capture data produced during this process and use it to help you make better decisions.
One example of this is our negotiation heatmap, where our customers can see at a glance which of their contract terms is being most hotly negotiated. Because you know what your other customers have negotiated, we can help you (based on data) decide what your terms should be and what you should agree to in negotiations.
Now that we’ve got a good idea of what Juro does, let’s backtrack a little. You started your career as a lawyer at UK global firm, Freshfields; how did you get from there to Juro; and where did the idea first come from? And who are your co-founders?
The idea for Juro actually came from observing the way some of my clients managed their contracts – usually manually – and just how expensive it was to do anything with contracts. With advances in AI we thought we could do a lot better for a lot less.
I started to become interested in applying technology to the legal world while at Freshfields. When I left Freshfields in 2013, I decided to do an MBA (which I did at INSEAD) and from there was hired by LegalZoom to work on their UK product before founding Juro. I felt by then that I had the right combination of legal, technical and business training to do a really good job.
I ended up co-founding the business with Pavel Kovalevich, who was a classmate at INSEAD and who had the deep technical expertise we needed, having already founded and sold one software startup. He leads for us on product and tech.
Juro is sold primarily to corporates, but you sell both to sales managers as well as the inhouse legal team. What is the difference selling to non-lawyers as compared to the lawyers, and which group is more enthusiastic?
One of the things we were determined to do when building Juro was to deliver a product that would be useful not only for legal teams but for the business people actually operating the contracts.
So there are usually multiple stakeholders. The fundamental difference is that each of those stakeholders has a different incentive with contracts. For sales teams, it’s all about selling faster and spending less time on paperwork. For in-house counsel, it is about managing risk and lowering legal spend.
Generally we find the best lawyers are the most enthusiastic about Juro. For them, comoditisable legal work is not really what they go to work for. That we can free up their time to focus on more complex, higher value work is usually a source of great delight.
And finally, where next? You mentioned that Juro would likely expand beyond sales contracts and that you’ve already picked up several major clients, including Deliveroo. What are your key growth objectives now?
We have a waiting list for Juro that we are gradually working through, so the first step is to deliver solutions for those waiting. We are on track to process 100,000 contracts this year and expect 1m to be processed the year after.
We are already helping a few customers with their HR contracts too, and that is likely to become more of a focus, as well as expanding the range of services we offer to General Counsel and their teams. A busy time ahead…