Juro is one of a new group of Contracting Automation Tools, or CATs, that are sweeping the legal market and are part of the far wider and already established market for contract management software. Artificial Lawyer caught up with CEO and co-founder, Richard Mabey, to find out where the company has got to and where the now successful start-up, that also uses a dash of AI tech, is heading.
First, congrats on winning the Legal Geek start-up prize! What does winning that mean to you and the team?
Thanks Richard! The conference itself was an absolute triumph. Increased numbers on last year (both of attendees and startups on display) and some truly inspirational talks. I have been a supporter of Jimmy (see pic above of Richard Mabey, left, and Jimmy Vestbirk) and his team since they started LegalGeek just a couple of years ago.
It is incredible to think what they have achieved in such a short amount of time. I was particularly encouraged to see this year the narrative shift from the ‘hype’ of what could happen in legal tech to the problems lawyers actually need to solve and the solutions that are being built today. We are proud to have played a small part in that, and making our mums proud was the icing on the cake.
When we last spoke Juro was still finding its feet, though had already gained several major clients. Where is Juro now and are you still offering the same core service?
We last spoke in January I think, just after we raised a round of venture capital funding. It has been an enormously busy 9 months since and our customer base has grown by over 700%.
We are still focused on inhouse legal teams in tech businesses, especially those with high volumes of contracts, but we are now expanding into a couple of other verticals like Healthcare and Real Estate. We are more or less offering the same service, perhaps focusing slightly less on e-signing and more on workflow and contract management features.
The most significant developments, however, have been to our product, especially around the AI offering which we will come on to.
How would you describe Juro and this growing field of legal tech?
Probably the closest label to our current product is ‘contract management’. We prefer this term as it implies that the entire lifecycle of the contract is covered. There are several hundred providers offering various iterations of it.
Why we are excited about it is that we see two key problems with incumbents. First, customers are increasingly looking for providers that can integrate. Traditionally contract management providers have had low adoption, especially from the business side, due in part to a lack of integration into the systems they use every day (Salesforce, Workday, Slack etc.) and in part to poor user experience design.
Second, the perennial problem with contract management is the time it takes to input contract metadata (parties, key dates, terms etc.) to the system manually. We see a big opportunity to solve these really hard problems.
Juro is also using AI capabilities, could you please explain a bit more about what you’re doing there? Is this a use of NLP and machine learning?
In contrast to Kira, Luminance and co. we are not using AI for contract review use cases. These businesses already own this space, especially around due diligence. For us, the AI use case is much more narrow. We are using a combination of NLP, ML and OCR (we love acronyms) to extract contract metadata for the purposes of contract management.
Any pdf can be dragged into Juro and the metadata extracted from it automatically. Drag in an NDA and we will tell you it was with Richard Tromans, contains an indemnity, is 3 years in duration and we will send you a renewal reminder when it is due to expire. Equally, we are tracking contract negotiations through Juro to visualise for customers which terms are most impacted in standard forms. We see it as “AI-enabled workflow”, or (a term I learned in San Francisco last week) a “coaching cloud”.
It’s been shown recently (via Thomson Reuters) that GCs are far behind the uptake of advanced legal tech and many are still in the dark about AI. This is especially poignant given that many companies are using legal AI applications across the business in areas such as sales and procurement – but the inhouse team are not. What do you make of this? And how can it change?
I’m pretty sure TR’s analysis is correct. But there are legal teams out there innovating – I guess, your classic early adopters. The obvious limitations around budget size and risk appetite apply but we don’t see these as insurmountable challenges. We have successfully sold Juro on a bottom up basis, for example, starting with sales teams looking for great contract workflow – getting these departmental budgetary contributions certainly helps adoption.
At Juro, we are focusing and talking more and more about legal design and this seems to have resonated with in house counsel frustrated at their tech stack extending only to Microsoft Word and an overflowing inbox. I think often it is hard for legal teams (without being well advised) to identify the use cases for AI without looking at the design of their stack as a whole. If they are well advised, and if providers deliver enough ROI, I think we will see much greater AI adoption by in house counsel in the future.
And, last question, where do you see Juro heading in the future? Where else in the legal tech ecosystem of needs would you like to take the company?
Currently, we are laser focused on contract management. That’s already quite hard! We are very conscious that you cannot solve everyone’s problems, so we would much rather do one thing 10x better than anyone else than do everything averagely. This is in line with our view of integration, which we see as an increasing trend in legal tech.
All being said, we are guided by our customers. One area that is becoming of particular interest to customers is a ‘what’s market?’ analysis – this we think we would completely change the game in contract negotiations. To deliver on the promise, what you need is lots of contract data and customers willing for that data to be analysed on an aggregated / anonymised basis. This end game is probably a couple of years down the line…but hugely exciting.