Many legal tech companies seek to build one distinct product, then put the rest of their effort into trying to sell that tool. Not HyperDraft. The company, which offers the unusual mix of both doc automation and NLP analysis, has created what it calls HyperLabs, a function of the company that can build out customisations for clients, and is also working on new products to add to its offering. In short, it’s a kind of tech consultancy approach that has been added to the regular ‘make the core product, sell the core product’ strategy that most companies have.
Artificial Lawyer caught up with Los Angeles-based CEO and Chief Engineer, Tony Thai (pictured), to find out some more, as well as hear about HyperDraft’s product mix and broader legal tech vision.
– First, what is HyperDraft? It seems to be both a doc automation company and is also providing NLP doc analysis tech. Many companies focus on one or the other.
HyperDraft is a full-service document generation and editing platform for legal professionals. As you keenly noted, legal tech companies have either offered docgen or AI analysis tooling. One of our market differentiators is that we decided to couple docgen with AI/NLP analysis. As a result, and as far as we’re aware, HyperDraft is the first of its kind product and service offering. Having built out the doc generation and analysis tooling, we’ve set our sights on the other parts of the problem, and plan to roll out new products very shortly.
I know a lot of companies use the term ‘full-service’, but I’ll clarify what we mean by that. By full-service, we mean that we do not just provide you software that you have to then put hours into molding into something useful for your team to use. We also customise the implementation for our clients; integrate into their existing techstack and infrastructure; code and update their templates; and customise our onboarding and training so our clients can experience immediate results without additional work. What used to take months and weeks, our team accomplishes in days.
I created HyperDraft years ago when I was practising because I was frustrated with the existing legal tech solutions. I’m a software engineer by trade and became an M&A/VC lawyer, so I assumed that there would be the same or better tooling than I had as a software engineer. I was sorely mistaken.
All the solutions I found either required a ton of work upfront (thereby making the solutions wildly cost prohibitive from either a money or resource perspective) or were not solving the actual problems my teams and I were facing day to day. When you’re an attorney, your value to your clients is based upon your responsiveness and output, and for most attorneys a bulk of that time is tied up in drafting legal documents and contract review/diligence.
As for the product mix, we didn’t want to enter a saturated market and just build another shinier widget.
– Why are you doing HyperLabs? As a startup, isn’t your main focus on selling your core product(s)?
The services are an extension of the product. That is the core of our company’s ethos and mission statement.
We don’t just build products and hope that clients figure it out. With HyperLabs, we are letting our clients know that they are not going to be left high and dry to figure out customisations and solutions on their own, we’re here to help no matter how complicated or custom a client thinks their needs are.
We’re the experts and we’re pretty good at building software quickly and at scale. We have been working with multiple clients on custom projects and it’s helped inform some of the new products that we are adding to our roadmap.
– Will these products mainly be around doc automation? Or areas of tech totally different to this?
Document automation is only one part of our overall platform. We are gearing up to launch products that address other attorney pain points very soon.
– How big is the team now and how many will be working in HyperLabs?
We have a small but mighty team, but we are growing and expect to grow a lot bigger as our client base is expanding. Our core leadership team is six people, and the engineering team is scaling to match the demand for our products Our entire engineering team is currently working on HyperLabs projects along with other client customisation requests and will continue to do so.
– What is your main client focus, law firms or in-house teams?
I’ll answer that somewhat indirectly – whoever touches a contract or other legal document can use us, so our focus is on those users. They don’t have to be an in-house or law firm team.
However, having been in-house and run in-house legal teams, and done the same at major law firms, I can tell you with certainty that there are more similarities than there are differences. So it may seem odd since usually companies pick one or the other, but we serve and focus on both law firms and legal departments.
When we originally started the company, we were fortunate enough to start off immediately with a number of in-house clients that were our former law firm clients, and that group has steadily grown by word of mouth. Our in-house clients loved our approach with our HyperDraft and HyperSight products so they started requesting managed service solutions to help outsource their large-scale contract review and diligence projects. In response, we launched the HyperDiligence and HyperReview services earlier this year.
Our products have been quickly adopted and enjoyed by small and midsize law firms across the US and Canada and we are very excited that our traction in this space continues to grow in North America and abroad. HyperDraft is a huge product for these types of clients because it allows them to force multiply their output and use their time more effectively. Since they have small teams and typically no IT staff, they appreciate our team’s level of service, and in many respects has allowed them to battle the bigger law firms.
– Generally, how do you view the doc automation market? There are a lot of players in it, how does HyperDraft stand out?
If I’m being honest, when I started in the legal tech business, I was not excited to break into document automation. Honestly it seemed boring and on first glance, it definitely seemed saturated. I had the same gut reaction many do. Anyone can create a document generator, right? Sort of. You can make a document generator, but in terms of matching its performance versus the output of a manual process, the document generators that were in the market prior to our solution were riddled with errors.
To put it in terms of self-driving vehicles, think about a self-driving car system that would very frequently jump the curb or occasionally drive on the wrong side of the road. Useful in some instances, but I wouldn’t ever be confident in it enough to not pay attention every second (assuming I valued my life).
We’ve seen law firms and companies pour millions of dollars into solutions and all of the generators came with an instruction guide on all the things that could go wrong with the process that would yield an incorrect output. What does that mean? That means if you generated a document through the system, you still couldn’t trust it. That’s when we realized that there is still a key component missing from the market, trust. Trust in the system and trust in the documents being used.
For our team, doc gen was a way to build trust (and show off a bit of what we were capable of doing). To break down our thinking, we needed to find an area that was low risk to the user that had the potential for high ROI. The lowest risk parts of managing a contract (or any legal document for that matter) is what I refer to as the bookends of the process. On one side you have the initial drafting process (i.e. the initial generation). It’s low risk because if anything should go wrong, then the users can just manually fix or write the document and it’s not too much of a waste.
On the other end of the deal, you have the final review and analysis portion. Again, if you apply AI tech to it and it tells you a somewhat wrong answer, you always have the benefit of manual review, so while the risk may feel high, you always have the option of manual intervention. We stand out in a crowded space, because we’re the only ones applying both of the bookends to one process.
We took the analysis portion which allows us to rapidly create forms based on our users’ forms that they know and love, and coupled it with the generation portion, which makes it easier for our users to adopt the solution since the overall risk is lower should anything go wrong (we make sure it doesn’t). As a result, our clients realize value much quicker because it’s low risk with immediate benefit. By undergoing that trust building process with our users, we earn the right to be in their toolbox, which is what we’re banking on for our users to adopt the suite of other tools we’re building.
I am excited that the space is growing, and that legal professionals are becoming more familiar with document automation. Something I always say is that I want lawyers to be using a solution, ANY solution, and be learning more about how technology can help them. I think that our tooling at HyperDraft is superior, but I do think that the more attorneys are experiencing results with tech solutions, the better for our industry and the practise of law.
Many attorneys still wonder if they should even be considering legal tech or how it would help them and in the next few years, I want attorneys to be so familiar with legal tech solutions and the benefits that it’s not even a question anymore.
Yes, indeed on the last point, and thanks! This site looks forward to seeing what you build next.
P.S. all of this follows the recent move of two senior lawyers to the company’s advisory board: Michael Roster, Adjunct Professor at USC’s Gould School of Law, former Managing Partner of Morison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office, and former General Counsel of Stanford University and Stanford Medical Center; and also Erik Birkeneder, previously a partner at Nixon Peabody.