CLM Leeway Bags $4.2m – Largest Ever French Legal Tech Seed Funding

French CLM startup, Leeway, has raised $4.2m, in what is the largest Seed funding round ever in France for a legal tech company.

They have already gained around 30 clients in the UK and France, and are ambitious about their growth now that they have come out of Beta. They are certainly launching at a great time for CLM companies, with a surge of interest in the idea of an all-encompassing platform to support inhouse legal teams’ contract work.

Some of their clients so far include: Evaneos, Fitness Park and Ifop. The fundraising was backed by HenQ, Kima Ventures, and several Angel Investors, including founders of companies such as Eventbrite.

The funding will allow the company to recruit around 20 people in 2021 to work in coding, product development, marketing and customer success.

All well and good, but what is Leeway? First, it may be based in France, but they have a global perspective, with the platform operating in English, as well as naturally in French.

So far over 10,000 contracts have been created inside the platform, which offers much of what you’d expect from a CLM, such as: contract/workflow tracking, negotiation support, and signature.

But, what will set them apart? Their focus is very much on making pre-signature collaboration far easier. As Antoine Fabre, Leeway’s co-founder and CEO, explained: ‘Past [CLM] products focused on contract archiving. But the problem is far wider. Today, companies waste huge amounts of time and money on the pre-contract stages, before signature.

‘The future of contract management lies in modern, intuitive solutions that encourage both internal and external collaboration. We want to drive that change.’

Fabre added this is all about ‘taking back control’, (although this is not a reference to the Brexit battle cry and is more about the need to digitise inhouse legal work in a remote working environment.)

‘From one day to the next [during the pandemic], in-house lawyers have had to deal with completely new areas. The increased workload has highlighted significant legal and financial risks. As a result, most legal departments have turned to contract management solutions to automate low value tasks and take back control,’ he explained.

Artificial Lawyer asked co-founder, Thibaut Caoudal, what the company’s vision was for the CLM space and the growing need for it.

‘At Leeway, we believe that the complexity of new regulations, increasing risks, digitalisation and the pandemic are all increasing the legal needs of businesses. Unfortunately, this growth in legal needs is accompanied by a significant increase in the workload of inhouse lawyers and puts them under increasing pressure to do more, and at a faster pace.

‘Faced with this trend, legal departments have no choice but to transform the way they work if they want to keep pace with the growth of other departments in the company and not slow down the business. Our mission is to help them achieve this by reducing the time spent on contract management and gaining more control and visibility over legal and financial risks through technology. Honestly, it is an exciting challenge to be part of the transformation.’

Also, this site asked: how do you see the French legal tech market now?

The French ecosystem is establishing itself as one of Europe’s tech powerhouses. The French legal tech market is expanding rapidly, with the emergence of champions capable of developing quickly and exporting abroad. This represents a very important source of growth and job creation. France has tremendous assets to become a leader in legal tech in Europe,’ Caoudal, said.

In terms of the various features Leeway offers, these can be summed up as covering:

‘Access your company’s templates, start a new project and send your documents in one click.

  • Document template management
  • Optimized and intuitive editor
  • One-click send from the platform

Manage your negotiations more efficiently and reduce the number of internal back-and-forths without effort.

  • Ongoing negotiations dashboard
  • Automation of internal workflows
  • Calculation of deadlines

Find all the versions of the document and collaborate easily with your teams from your project space.

  • History of the negotiation
  • Collaborative document editor
  • Versioning and complete change tracking.’

And in terms of the investors, Alexis Robert, partner at Kima Ventures, added: ‘Millions of contracts are created every day yet most of those managing them complain of disastrous experiences. We are still stuck with solutions such as Word, which was created in the 1980s. The market is vast and the use of electronic signatures has paved the way. Companies are ready to adopt solutions like Leeway.

Is this a big deal? First, new CLMs coming into the market is a sure sign of growing demand. Second, it’s a great bit of news in terms of the French legal tech market, which is just over the Channel, and this site for one is always glad to see more growth there.

And as noted in the piece yesterday (‘Who Will Win The CLM Game of Thrones?‘) there is a huge potential market globally, but there are also a number of very established and more recent players all battling it out for market share. Leeway has entered the fray, and there is everything to play for.

All that’s left to say from Artificial Lawyer is: Bonne chance, et vive la legal tech!

[ Main pic: the three co-founders ( L to R) – Thibaut Caoudal, Antoine Fabre, Sébastien Decrême. ]