Are Incubators Only For Big Law? Austrian Firms Show Collaboration Is The Answer

Most people assume that legal tech incubators and accelerators are only for larger law firms. But, a group of seven Austrian law firms, most with less than 100 lawyers, took a different approach and pooled their resources to create a new shared Legal Tech Hub in Vienna (LTHV) that has just completed its first incubator cohort.

This appears to be a clever approach to the resource problem faced by many firms around the world when it comes to legal tech engagement. They want to get involved, they want to bring in new tech companies to help them – and learn from them in return – but can’t commit sufficient time and money on their own to do this.

By pooling resources between seven firms, and then bringing in the support of local universities and other bodies, the law firms (see below), which include major local brands such as Dorda, Schönherr and Wolf Theiss, have been able to put together what they may not have been able to do on their own.

For example, although Dorda is a well-known and leading firm in Austria and the region, it has less than 100 lawyers in total – and devoting fee earner time to creating and running an incubator would be a strain. But, if you combine a firm of this size with the firms below, then they have the resources of a far larger business.

Although the LTHV doesn’t appear to have gone down that road yet, another opportunity here could be to pool anonymised contract data to help NLP/ML start-ups – something that Singapore is planning to do.

Overall, this collaborative approach could be a model for law firms in other parts of the world that also want to explore working directly with start-ups and scale-up legal tech companies, but that feel limited in terms of resources. 

The LTHV has just completed working with a batch of companies from around the world:

The LTHV group is now looking for a second cohort. Artificial Lawyer caught up with the organisers to find out some more.

Why did the firms do this? 

The founding members believed that the legal field is ready for change. They wanted to redesign legal advice by joining forces to move forward the whole legal market to enhance services for their clients.

What do the firms provide the start-ups?

The LTHV is a POC driven initiative. We focus on pilot projects that are developed and worked on jointly by the legal firms and the start-ups. The start-ups and legal tech companies have access to more than 500 lawyers across the region and the firms.

The lawyers, as potential clients, give their most valuable assets: time and expertise. We tailor the LTHV programme individually to the needs of our participants by also providing business skills related to the legal industry.

Is it legal tech start-ups only?

The LTHV looks for various solutions for the legal industry. i.e. in the case of appbyyou the law firms were looking for a secure mobile communication and collaboration platform meeting the specific very strict security requirements and the bar guidelines of law firms.

Therefore the LTHV is open for tech solutions that solve legal issues and efficiency issues. But yes, we primarily accept legal tech start-ups and companies. e.g. the start up miso is a solution for litigators. What we look for is innovative technology which can be used in law firms or legal sectors.

Do you invest in the companies?

Generally no, it is not our primary focus, but it is possible if there is particular interest in the respective company. We also invite investors and the interested community for the first LTHV demo day on 11th July 2019 in Vienna.

Do you use the technology of the companies?

The LTHV founding members and partners all have different needs so they take interest in different companies. Our participants have the opportunity to test their technology with all law firms, but usually end up working closely with one or two and plan on using the technology in the future.

The LTHV tries to use all tools possible itself. So we are just implementing contractbook and look into using appbyyou.

(Note: Future-Law is the operating company of the LTHV, which runs the day to day work of the group).

‘Ahhh…….Vienna….!’ as said by Midge Ure of Ultravox.

If you want to apply to join the second cohort of start-ups and have the pleasure of working for a time in Vienna, then check out the info, here.