Artificial Lawyer is always keen to hear about new legal tech companies, especially from markets that don’t get a lot of coverage, and so it was great to catch up with Nico Del Rio, Manager, at Knowlex, a Belgian legal tech pioneer working in the area of legal knowledge management and research, which leverages NLP and machine learning, and is also keen to expand beyond its borders.
First, please tell the readers what the core product of Knowlex does?
Knowlex is made to save, manage, secure, share, and reuse in-house legal knowledge. It allows law firms to work smarter and more efficiently with their knowledge.
In the ideal use scenario, everyone working in a law firm uploads their models, contracts, checklists, standard letters and forms, case law etc., so that others can easily find and re-use the firm’s collective knowledge, thanks to the state of the art search engine.
Knowlex is not just about uploading and sharing documents, but also about actively reusing them, which we incentivize through interactive features such as notifications, a weekly digest, document ratings and comments.
When did you come up with the idea and how did this turn into a company?
About two years ago, we were attending a legal conference on the sharing economy.
Throughout the day, various nascent ideas fell together like pieces of a puzzle and came to fruition. That night, we met with our developer, Willem Delbare – the former CTO of Teamleader, one of Europe’s most successful CRM tools – and Knowlex was born.
What type of technology does this use, and what new tech are you looking at using?
Knowlex uses various underlying technologies. The search engine relies on powerful search algorithms that reconsider the relevance of the documents in the results list after every keystroke (instead of merely focusing on keyword density).
We have implemented OCR to automatically make scans readable. NLP and machine learning is used to automatically render sensitive private information in case law unreadable.
We equally use NLP and machine learning to constantly improve the search engine for every individual user, so that it continues to yield ever more relevant results. In the future, we will turn to AI and machine learning to develop ever more intelligent features for our users.
Who are the clients now? What clients are you aiming at?
Currently, our client base consists of Belgian legal professionals: lawyers, notaries, company lawyers. A notable client is the Bar of Antwerp.
While Knowlex can be used as a knowledge repository for a single lawyer, its various features work best when used by a team. That is why we mainly aim at larger-scale firms.
What has been the reaction of clients?
Initially, potential clients had some reservations toward the search engine and the way it would sort results based on relevance. Once they were testing Knowlex, however, they were very impressed by the search function.
In addition, when asked about their experiences, many users cite Knowlex’s ease of use as a decisive factor. All in all, a major part of our user base uses Knowlex as a tool in their day to day business practice.
You mentioned you want to expand, where are your main targets?
We are currently aiming towards bigger international law firms, so as to facilitate the step towards Belgium’s neighbours and Europe.
Knowlex and its underlying technology knows no language barriers, so that it can be quickly implemented across Europe. One of our dreams is to facilitate collaboration and knowledge sharing across local offices of international firms.
And, last question: how is the legal tech scene in Belgium? How much are lawyers there focused on transforming legal practice?
We are pleased to see that the Belgian legal tech scene is picking up speed. A new generation of lawyers and entrepreneurs wants to change the dominant traditional practice of billable hours and working on paper.
The French-speaking part of Belgium in particular is very interested in legal tech: the francophone bar association even has an incubator devoted to spreading tech knowledge among lawyers and promoting legal tech initiatives.
More generally, we are seeing an increase in legal tech events and initiatives across Belgium, such as lex.be, which pioneers in the open data segment by providing access to publicly available case law and official legal documents.
Thanks! And good luck with Knowlex. Great to hear also about a growing legal tech scene in Belgium. The more the merrier.