I recently spoke with Richard Mabey. Richard is a co-founder and the CEO of Juro. Juro is “an award-winning end-to-end contract management platform, which transforms contracts from the end of something painful into the start of something great.” I asked him about his beginnings within the legal tech world and his current thoughts on legal tech and Juro.
How did you get your start within the legal tech world?
For the most part, I had the traditional ‘founder sees problem; builds solution’ story. As a corporate lawyer with Freshfields, I had worked with contracts a lot and experienced many of the pain points we tackle today.
But I started my career in legal tech a different way. When I left Freshfields, I went to business school at INSEAD and was able to use my time there to experiment with various concepts. By the time I left INSEAD, my reckoning was that I needed to see the start-up/scale-up world first before doing my own thing. So I started working with LegalZoom, helping them build out their European products.
This experience was transformative, not only from the perspective of learning about legal tech but just learning about how tech businesses operate - it was a world away from corporate law and I started getting really excited about building an organisation that would shake up an industry that is filled with smart people and archaic process.
Tell me a little about the impetus behind starting Juro.
Everyone knows that contracts are inefficient. Whether creating, negotiating or tracking contracts - we all agree that something needs to be done to speed up the process.
That wasn’t the interesting point for us. As a lawyer, I always felt there was something more fundamentally broken about contracts. You have these documents that are agreed with a business’ most important stakeholders but they are baffling to almost all people who rely on them. For the most part, contracts are designed by lawyers for lawyers, not the end users of contracts. And in a world where businesses are trying to build better user experiences all the time, this seemed odd.
So we set out to redesign contract management and workflow to make contracts not only faster but also smarter and more human. We achieve this by using human-centric design principles in our interface as well as getting a helping hand from machine learning.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the legal tech world?
I’m optimistic about process change, because we know there are lots of problems with the way the legal services industry operates today. Whether that’s through tech or disciplines like legal operations or legal design doesn’t matter so much to me. It’s the outcomes for customers that are important.
I think around tech there’s a certain amount of disillusionment happening as we navigate the hype cycle. But in my view we’re only just scraping the surface of demand. Juro is seeing rapid organic growth and we don’t see that slowing anytime soon. We’re seeing real applications (especially, narrow applications) of AI in production that are delivering value for customers - so it’s not just talk.
I think also we have a misplaced tendency to think that legal tech is something new. People have been using technology in legal services for at least 30 years. And there are a lot of unsung heroes in law firm IT teams and elsewhere who made a difference before legal tech kool aid was available for consumption and before law firms started saying “innovation” a lot.
What is your opinion about legal tech companies having or not having a lawyer on their leadership team?
I think what is important is having someone on the team who has deep experience of the pain points the business is going after. If this is a lawyer, so be it. This really helps build empathy with customers from the get-go.
There are some other advantages. Among them, having credibility with customers and authority over thought leadership in the community. But these are not critical. Having no experience of what you are solving begs the question of what the motivation of starting the business was.
The vast majority of the team at Juro doesn't have a legal background. Having a diversity of backgrounds and skills (design, tech, ops, sales, marketing) was a big point for us at Juro from the get-go to nail down the core disciplines we would need to go to market.
5) From your perspective, what are legal tech companies getting right and getting wrong when it comes to getting buy-in from legal leaders?
I don’t have any experience of what other companies are doing but here are a few things we find important when selling to legal leaders in in-house legs functions:
(1) Don’t just sell to them. Instead, become trusted partners that consult throughout a sales process to deliver unexpectedly good outcomes. Lawyers are rarely sold to and generally don’t like it.
(2) Get buy-in from other stakeholders early. For us, it is incredibly important that we can solve problems for our clients’ clients. For example, solving sales contract workflow needs serious buy-in from sales leaders. We often hold workshops for these stakeholders, as well as with the end users who will be dealing with the platform every day. This helps us really understand the landscape internally as well as deliver a better ultimate solution.
(3) Keep an uncomfortably narrow customer focus. I get the impression that legal startups don’t have enough discipline in who they are selling to. If you are small, you need to tackle a very narrow segment of customers and throw all your resources at it. Selling to a start-up legal team with three lawyers in it is fundamentally different to selling to Coca Cola’s legal team.
(4) Qualify your leads. We have a criteria that our decision-maker must be a visionary who is open to working with a challenger vendor. Start-ups have lots to do and very little time. Focus that time on the right kind of partners.