S+M Incubator Calls For New Cohort, Partners To Invest

Slaughter and May is calling for legal tech companies to apply for the third iteration of its Collaborate incubator. It will have several differences this time, including the potential for partners to invest via a new ‘Slaughter and May Ventures’ group. Up to four cohort members will be chosen to keep working with the firm, previously it had been just one.

Also different this year is that cohort members will have access to the firm’s newly launched Client Innovation Network. Established earlier this year, the Network acts as ‘a forum for members of in-house legal and legal operations teams to share ideas and experiences within the innovation and legal tech space, as well as test new technologies in collaboration with the firm’, the firm said.

Another key difference is that rather than have a very broad set of criteria for picking cohort members, the firm has outlined some key needs it would like to address. The firm explained their ‘problem statements’ like this:

  • ‘We are seeking to harness the power of new technologies to enhance our Knowledge Management documents and processes, in particular the ability to easily surface precedent clauses (from our internal KM system) whilst drafting.
  • Manually reviewing legal agreements to check whether they have been properly executed is a time-consuming and repetitive task. We are seeking a tool which can check whether a document has been validly signed by the correct parties to reduce the time our lawyers need to spend on this.
  • Law firms have historically relied on physical proximity to encourage learning. Our L&D and Innovation teams are working on a project to help support on the job learning experience for our people in a remote/hybrid environment, and would welcome tech solutions which might address this.
  • It is often difficult to collect and track large volumes of data, documents and communications from clients submitted in response to Requests For Information from regulators, in various areas of our practice. We would welcome a tech solution to assist with this.’

They will also consider companies outside of these areas, but if you want to get in, then directly addressing one of the above use cases will certainly help.

And as noted, members of the cohort will for the first time have the chance to pitch for equity investment from the firm’s partners via a newly launched investment group – and that should spice things up. Pitching for a chance to be used by a major firm is one thing, pitching for bags of cash to grow your business is quite another.

However, the firm noted that ‘whilst a pitching opportunity will be offered to all successful applicants, it is not a requirement of participation and is optional’. I.e. don’t feel you have to hand over some equity for cash just to be part of this incubator. That said, having Slaughter and May partners as investors could be handy for startups looking to embed themselves deeper into the legal market.

The firm is already an investor in doc analysis company Luminance, but that is totally separate from the new Ventures arm, which will allow those partners who want to invest in legal tech to do so, while those who do not will carry on as usual.

The move is in line with a broader trend across the market for firms to invest in legal tech companies. Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, CMS, Mishcon de Reya, Wilson Sonsini, Cooley, and Rajah & Tann are among a growing list of law firms globally that are now stakeholders in tech businesses.

So, there you go. Plenty of evolution taking place now at Slaughters’ incubator, and that’s a good sign that the firm is both committed to the long-term development of the project and that its partners are engaged, especially given the focus on solving specific problems.

And it’s good news for startups, with up to four companies to be taken on for a longer-term trial inside the firm, which should give them a greater opportunity to develop their products.

Jane Edwarde, Collaborate sponsoring partner, said: ‘The launch of Collaborate this year is really exciting. Having worked on the programme for the last two years, we saw an opportunity to develop both the content and benefits offered through the programme. The updates that we have implemented for this next year allow us to take an even more targeted approach to the use of legal tech within the firm, and to better support growth and development in the legal tech space.’

Knowledge and Innovation Manager and Collaborate Programme Lead, Billie Moore, added: ‘Our planning processes have allowed us to consult our people on where they experience pain points in their work, giving us a better understanding of where legal tech can assist our practice to improve the way we work.’

And Head of Knowledge and Innovation, Jane Stewart, concluded: ‘Working with our clients has always been a key part of Collaborate. Our Client Panel has continued to grow over the past three years, and formed the basis for our exciting new Client Innovation Network. We are now able to collaborate with even more clients, hear about process issues and technologies that are of interest to our Network members, and enable our clients to explore legal tech through us; whilst offering our successful cohort members the chance to engage with the in-house legal teams across a number of our client organisations.’

Applications to form part of the third cohort for Collaborate are now open. The deadline is Friday 17 December 2021 and things will kick off in 2022.

You will be required to specify which of the problem statements you intend to respond to, as well as upload a short video (no more than three minutes) explaining what your product is, how it addresses the problem, and why you would like to form part of the third cohort.

Good luck to everyone!

Previous Cohorts

In case it’s useful as a reference point, these were the companies to take part in the last two cohorts:

Cohort Two

  • Della accelerates contract review. Users ask their own questions in their own words to analyse the points that matter to them. Della is used in due diligence and internal audits as well as day-to-day analysis of contracts, leases and other legal documents.
  • thedocyard is a deal management and transactional workflow platform which digitises and automates deals by standardising repeatable processes, providing real time status updates, providing virtual data rooms and allowing collaboration between parties.
  • Immediation is a confidential online dispute resolution platform, providing advanced hearing and mediation technology to courts, and an alternative fixed-fee, easy, secure and highly efficient method of resolving disputes outside court.
  • Juralio enables lawyers and clients to map legal work collaboratively so as to plan, execute, control and report more effectively. This helps to deliver better value for clients, better margins for lawyers and less pain for everyone.
  • The Lexical Labs system is designed to review documents, identify problems or negotiation points and provide solutions, by combining advanced technology and embedded expertise.
  • Novastone is a secure instant messaging platform integrated with public IM such as WhatsApp and WeChat. It is designed for firms to deliver a personalised client experience through relationship teams.
  • Office & Dragons is a document automation startup on a mission to make documenting transactions simple, reliable and fast. It empowers lawyers to transform documents from a mess of static text into dynamic representations of data.

Cohort One

  • Tabled – a platform which helps lawyers manage tasks and projects by automating workflows and assigning tasks to team members, providing a full picture of the team’s legal work.
  • StructureFlow – a platform which helps lawyers and their clients quickly and easily visualise complex legal structures and transactions.
  • Clarilis – a document automation tool which can be used for even the most complex of legal documents without the need to amend existing precedents or templates first.
  • JUST: Access – an easy-to-use transcription and dictation solution using AI and natural language processing to produce transcripts and related analysis.
  • Logiak – a tool which allows users with no coding experience to create complex logic/rule-based systems, for example to create an app to assist in working out if a particular law or regulation applies in a certain situation.
  • LitiGate – an AI-powered litigation platform which uncovers hidden insights, provides a bird’s eye view of each case and automates day-to-day tasks.