LinkSquares is a Boston-based legal AI company with a focus on automating contract review, reporting and analysis for in-house legal and finance teams. What makes LinkSquares stand out is its focus on high growth technology companies. Its success in this niche in turn suggests just how large the potential market for legal AI could be.
LinkSquares, the brainchild of CEO, Vishal Sunak and COO, Chris Combs, (pictured above, left to right), shows that the market for the use of AI doc review is broad and likely will widen further. That is to say, if you can make a good living providing legal AI doc review and data analysis services primarily to just one market vertical, then imagine how large the total potential demand for legal AI services could be as the enterprise market warms up to the idea.
This also suggests that if you can carve out a healthy and sustainable niche like this, then the new trend toward legal AI consolidation is not necessarily going to carry all before it. Just as with law firms, some businesses find they can live very well by becoming experts in a particular part of the market.
Combs and Sunak spoke to Artificial Lawyer and explained their strategy, which to some extent grew out of their own experiences as employees in a high-growth tech business, Backupify, an enterprise cloud security company that was acquired in 2014 by Datto. Not long after, in 2015, LinkSquares was formed by the two founders.
‘There are opportunities to help bring this technology in-house for companies that don’t have large legal teams, and save them hundreds of hours per year in manual document review,’ Combs explains, then adds that Boston, their base, is home to many fast-growing tech businesses. They have had initial high growth partners like DraftKings, CSpace and TraceLink working with their technology.
He adds that smaller tech companies don’t always have legal teams, but the executives know this is a potential issue down the road, knowing contracts will inevitably grow in number as the company rapidly scales. Many identify this potential compliance issue early, especially if they negotiate custom agreements with their customers.
In short, the team made an initial focus on a relatively narrow (and in some cases local) part of the legal AI market in order to establish their business. And it has worked out very well. After all, with limited resources as a startup, why go chasing companies and law firms that they had no immediate connection to? Growth begins at home, one might say.
As they explain, starting LinkSquares was also just a natural extension of what they had experienced in the workplace.
‘We lived this problem [of manual contract review]. Then we learned how to build our solutions from talking to customers. From there we were about focusing on where the biggest pain points were,’ the founders explain.
The idea that document review is not necessarily the automatic domain of lawyers is not new, but still underlines how the market is changing. And, as shown by Combs and Sunak, why can’t two people who are not lawyers really understand the issues around contract data analysis and provide a technology solution? The answer is, there isn’t much stopping them, not these days.
As with other legal AI companies in the document review space, they have developed their own natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning software with a focus on contract analysis and extraction of key clauses.
They add that being based in Boston also means they have great access to some very smart NLP specialists, given that they are in the same area as MIT and Harvard. So being locally focused has another benefit, at least in their case.
At present the company is focused on in-house needs for legal, finance, marketing and account management teams. They also focus on helping CFOs track and review key terms in a purchase agreement, e.g. contract length, payment terms and other important information for monthly and quarterly reporting.
In short this is non-lawyers working with AI tech to provide a solution for people who sometimes are not lawyers either. However the ‘legal cement’ that connects everyone together remains the contract, which clearly is a legal document, or at least a document with legal ramifications.
For the legal teams they work with the focus is around identifying compliance issues in contracts and completing legal review projects faster with more accuracy. Bringing key insights to the executive team around renewals and other business KPI’s, while reducing time and money spent with outside counsel, is another area that they help with.
With regard to this smorgasbord of use cases, the founders say: ‘We are seeing some real pain when we talk to these teams.’
And, given that nearly every company over a certain size has such problems, then we are just at the beginning of AI’s march into the world of contract analysis. Clearly the use of legal AI is not just for law firms, nor the largest of Fortune 500 companies’ inhouse legal teams, and LinkSquares’ focus on the high growth tech niche proves that.