Last night, MDR Lab, the incubator and innovation group inside Mishcon de Reya, held its Showcase event with an array of companies presenting and clearly showing why incubators inside law firms are such a powerfully good idea.
At the event within the firm’s offices in Holborn, London, everyone presenting had connected with the Lab in some way, which now has multiple streams ranging from very early engagement for founders, to the more well-trodden path of bringing in young companies and working with them to improve the product over several months.
It was clear from what so many of the startups said on stage (and several of those are highlighted below) that MDR Lab had made a real and very positive difference for them.
Dan Sinclair (pictured), who heads the Lab, kicked things off by noting that they have now been through six iterations of their core incubator programme and have worked with 30 companies, of which 10 of those now have a licence deal in place for their software to be used by Mishcon. And they’ve also invested in several of those companies as well. But it was the stories from the startups that really made it apparent just how important the Lab has been.
A host of companies then came on stage to present, with the former chief of LawtechUK, Jenifer Swallow, emceeing things. The companies were divided into several groups: Documents, Multi-Party Transactions, Risk Mitigation, and For Society.
We can’t really look at all of them here, instead Artificial Lawyer has picked out a few key moments (and apologies for not getting everyone’s names).
DraftWise has a very impressive product for document drafting and negotiation that allows you to search for past contracts via NLP to find whole documents or just specific clauses, then you can see how precedent documents differ ‘to decide the best move’ for your current document.
They made a very important point that underlines why incubators really matter: lawyers are too busy to give feedback, under normal conditions, on what they feel about a tech product. Whereas MDR Lab is specifically designed to engage with a selection of lawyers at the firm who both want to work with the product and are happy to give constructive feedback.
This point is essential, as it’s not just about a company getting useful connections inside a firm. Product feedback could lead to significant changes – and those changes may be the difference between the startup succeeding or not.
For Della, the presentation was a very good opportunity to show where it sat in the market for AI doc review. They positioned themselves in the middle of a diagram with two parameters: volume of documents, and level of complexity. They are moving more towards high complexity and low volume. Plus, it’s worth mentioning that the software is now being used by Mishcon’s real estate team – another example of a fruitful engagement.
Version Story came next and provides what they say is the ‘best version control management’ capability in the world and which instantly shows conflicts between versions of a contract. They added that this is the ‘first tool [of this type] that actually works – which means that lawyers know how to use it’. Which is a serious point: intuitive adoption is key.
They also announced they’d just signed a software deal with Mishcon and were very happy about that. They added that together with the firm ‘we will redline the world!’.
Meanwhile Orbital Witness, which took part in the first MDR Lab back in 2017, told us that they had originally wanted to use satellite technology to help lawyers know more about the site of a real estate transaction, hence the name. That eventually – and no doubt with some feedback from the firm – was dropped as an aim, with the focus now primarily on sourcing all the information for a property deal via terrestrial means and then digitising it into their platform.
(And now we’re just going to skip through the rest as we are running out of space)……next is Least, a platform for commercial leases, and whose co-founder is actually a Mishcon partner, Nicholas Kirby – and you can’t get closer to a connection with a firm than that! Their aim is to make real estate deals simpler via a digital platform that brings all the parties and all the data together so nothing is lost and everyone can work easily together.
To conclude, and for this site the star of the show, was Amplifi (aka Amplified Global), created by Minesh Patel, which is championing the use of clear language – and is currently framed as a regulatory compliance tool, although the two go together hand in hand.
They are already working with Mishcon in relation to the gambling sector, a heavily regulated area where making the rules clear to all involved is essential.
This has much wider uses, as the company pointed out, as the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK now insists that ‘legibility’ is a key aspect for any documents…..and who writes these documents for the financial services sector…..? Lawyers.
There were many more, such as SettleIndex, FundRe, Law School 2.0, and Amicable for better divorces, but hopefully the above gives a sense of what part an incubator can play in the development of a company, and also how once a startup is up and running how what it provides can then in turn really help the law firm to work better and do more for their clients. It’s a massive win-win. And from this site’s perspective all larger law firms should have some type of incubator programme, even if it’s not as formalised as Mishcon’s.
(There was also a great discussion with Tom Wilson from Seedcamp, and we’ll look at that in the following story very shortly.)
Last thing to say, many thanks to Dan Sinclair, and especially Nick West who got the whole thing started and created the first legal tech incubator in the UK, and who together have made a real difference to many startup companies from around the world. It was a great showcase of what you have achieved.