Version Story, a new legal tech startup that organises a document’s history and generates version comparisons, has signed a deal with Mishcon de Reya after taking part in its MDR Lab innovation programme. It’s another example of how the incubator is producing tangible outcomes for the firm and the vendors.
The US-based company spent 12 weeks in London, working side by side with fee earners and members of the strategy and tech teams to further develop their product and measure its impact, the law firm said.
To get real use of the product – and then the all-important feedback needed to assess it and also perhaps improve the software – the MDR Lab team onboarded over 70 fee earners as part of the initial engagement.
The firm said that this group of lawyers ‘made use of Version Stories’ core features thousands of times and generated 1500+ document versions. During the 12 weeks of the Lab, Version Story rapidly iterated [its software] and shipped over 10 product updates’.
And note the key point about iteration – that’s such a foundational aspect of any incubator/accelerator. Artificial Lawyer would add that if a product is not seeing any improvement at all stemming from an incubator, then the programme is not really delivering as much value as it could. Although it’s great to engage with the firm and hopefully win a contract with them, the longer-term goal has to be to make the product better through close contact and real engagement with lawyers.
One of the reasons why this is possible at MDR Lab is that the team there doesn’t just provide tech companies with a sandbox to play in and then observe what they do, but it also tries to give meaningful feedback from lawyers via legal technologists and data scientists. I.e. they bridge the legal and tech gap.
Dan Sinclair, Head of MDR Lab, commented: ‘Positive usage stats, amongst other metrics that we track through the Lab, are often a great signal for a company that it can demonstrate a problem-solution fit. The numbers spoke for themselves, and our users were clearly enjoying the product. The exciting thing is that we knew that this would compound further post iManage integration, which has now been successfully completed.’
Kerstin Morgan, Head of Practice Transformation at Mishcon de Reya, said: ‘We are excited to get this deal done so quickly. There has been a healthy amount of urgency due to how enthusiastic the lawyers were. They wanted to keep using Version Story and they were eager to further incorporate it into their work by having it integrate with iManage.’
The company was founded by Kevin O’Connell, a Stanford-trained lawyer turned software developer, and Jordan Bryan, a software engineer. Current investors include Y Combinator and Accel Ventures.
O’Connell said: ‘We were so excited to join the Lab this summer. It is clear for all to see that Legal collaboration has changed. Lawyers used to pass around and mark up a single typewritten draft. Now teams of lawyers collaborate and mark up drafts simultaneously in different formats, on different versions and in different time zones. This new workflow has new requirements that other current tools can’t solve for. But we believe Version Story can, and we had the chance to prove that through the MDR Lab programme.’
As to the product itself, it’s one of those tools that may not sound that glamorous, but really gets into the gnarly challenges lawyers face on a day-to-day level and provides directly applicable benefits. And as noted with the reference to iManage – there are strongly related KM improvements. After all, what use is a KM system if you don’t have the latest version of a contract on tap? And in terms of helping transactions, being able to easily compare earlier versions of the contract should help move things along. So, for example you can review changes from different drafts side-by-side. The system will also provide special alerts if you are about to override changes added by your colleagues in an earlier version – which will no doubt be popular given that no lawyer likes to have their version of a contract changed unnecessarily.
Any road, good luck to them and great to see product iteration stemming from a law firm incubator.