Welcome to the latest interview in our Women in Law – Female Founders series by Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support.
This time Dana speaks with Finland-based Hannele Korhonen, co-founder and chairman of contract automation platform, Contract Mill.
Hi Hannele, first things first, what is your business story?
The story of Contract Mill started in 2015 when I was running my own law firm. I set up my own law firm because I wanted to make legal services more accessible; I soon found that my clients were often not able to pay my fees, even though they were really reasonable.
I asked myself if I could find a way to provide services at a more affordable cost whilst I was on maternity leave in 2015 and this is how I came up with the idea of document automation. I launched a DIY and online service that year providing automated content for B2B companies.
Kaisa Kromhof then joined me and we decided to build a user-friendly platform for lawyers to automate their own content and make that available for their clients.
How would you describe your company’s growth in just three key figures?
- 14: that’s the number of countries where we have customers, mainly in Europe, the US, Australia and Africa. We have seen growing interest not only from law firms and in-house legal departments, but also from accounting and auditing companies.
- 130: number of in-bound requests received concerning our product.
- 15 minutes: that’s how long it takes for anyone to learn to automate their own documents.
What are your thoughts on the state of document automation?
The maturity of legal industry to implement document automation varies by country. In the UK, you don’t really need to sell the idea of automation anymore, but in other countries the industry is at the start of the technology adoption curve. Luckily, the change we have seen over the last few years is encouraging!
How are you addressing some of the challenges facing the legal industry as a whole?
We are helping to transform the way legal services are delivered both for in-house teams and for law firms. Documents that are at the heart of lawyers’ work are very much still produced manually, which is slow and expensive, person-dependent and does not scale as a service and as a result there is a huge unmet market demand for legal services.
For us, disruption means that something that has been available only for a few becomes available for many. We make this possible by bringing a legal tech product within the reach of anyone. With the help of our technology, companies will create better access to knowledge and access to justice.
What is your role and your responsibilities in the business?
I am responsible for the Contract Mill brand and marketing, and I have also been heavily involved with the product development, business development, sales and the operational side of the business. In true startup fashion, I am multitasking!
How has your previous experience aided your current job?
My previous experience both as in-house counsel and running my own law firm has helped enormously. I have first-hand knowledge about the problems we are solving and, most importantly, I am able to relate to our clients’ pains and to translate the client needs to our tech people.
What has been the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect of your job?
It’s the people! People are both the most rewarding and the most challenging aspect of my job!
The people we work with and the numerous encounters with like-minded people around the world (I call it a tribe) has definitely been very rewarding. Being a female founder in the tech industry is not always the easiest path, but the support we have received from the tribe is amazing.
When I think about me on my morning run in 2015, when I first came up with the idea of document automation, and see where that idea and relentless work has taken us, it makes me very proud and grateful.
At the same time, people’s reluctance to change has been challenging. The law is a traditional industry and its ways of working change really slowly – it can sometimes get frustrating for a very early adopter like myself.
What’s in store in 2019?
We are joining the PwC´s first ever law tech scale up programme in London this summer. That is something that we highly appreciate and that we are already seeing benefits from it. Being selected – out of 200 companies – is a great achievement for us. In 2019, we expect to grow our customer base, expand our team and look forward to releasing new, powerful features in our product.
What is your favourite way to relax?
I relax by running. Nothing compares to the early morning run when the city is only waking up and a new day is ahead. Every single time I come home with a bunch of new ideas waiting to happen.
About: Hannele Korhonen, co-founder and chairman
Hannele is a lawyer-entrepreneur from Helsinki, Finland. She is co-founder of Contract Mill, an easy to use platform for lawyers to help them leverage contract automation for client-centric business.
She is a passionate advocate for access to justice and enthusiastic about connecting people, legal tech and legal design. She has in-depth experience of the legal industry in a global context having worked as an in-house counsel and advisor in both banking and technology industry and prior to Contract Mill she also founded her own law firm offering innovative and human-centric legal services.
Dana Denis-Smith, is an entrepreneur, ex-lawyer and journalist. She founded Obelisk to keep City lawyers, especially mothers, working flexibly, around their family or other personal commitments and to provide clients with an affordable and quality legal support solution onshore.
In 2014 she founded a unique history project – first100years – charting the journey of women in law through a video social history, @first100years.