We could attract more talent to help build better technology than in the last decade. And we hope these pioneers start on Legalpioneer.org.
TLDR: Despite a decade with thousands of companies and billions in capital, we failed to bring meaningful change to the process of law. No matter the reasons, we should do better by providing an encyclopedia on the different ideas and businesses created globally in support of the law.
We do data, so we’re very careful making claims like ‘most complete collection of companies ever assembled in the legal tech space’. Why? While it makes sense from a marketing perspective, it practically doesn’t. Any collection can only be measured if we agree on a definition of ‘legal tech’. And by the time we agree on a standard, the demands from society have changed. Therefore, we humbly bring you the numbers with Legalcomplex.com, and now, the names with Legalpioneer.org.
The birth of the Legalpioneer dataset started in 2015 with a question: “Who will beat Law Firms? The analysis contained our first chart on new legal tech companies created every month. The goal then and now remains the same: “track the evolution of the law through the creation of technology”. In 2016, we first signaled a surge of new companies coming into the legal space. That trend topped off in 2017 and continues dropping to this day. Closing out the last decade we had returned to levels pre-2014 with less than 50 new companies registered per month globally.
Legal tech companies have captured more venture capital between 2018 and 2019 combined than at any previous period in history. Yet, this hasn’t spurred the growth of new ventures. The Legalpioneer dashboard is a constant reminder of this reality. We aren’t the only one tracking this decline. Major directories like Angellist, CB Insights, and Crunchbase haven’t covered our niche for quite some time. The last time one of these major repositories reported growth in legal tech was by Crunchbase in February 2018.
A 2010-2020 snapshot found 6500+ companies with $57 billion invested. None managed to disrupt and beat law firms. The Fall of LegalTech, breaks down why disrupting lawyers is legally impossible. Shortly after the release of The Fall, the shutdown of Atrium LTS was announced. On paper, the most well-capitalized startup to attempt disrupting the status quo. The mini-movie “AI: the Struggle” encapsulates the problem we face with a look at the numbers and news. Slide 6 shows $1.7 billion invested in ‘AI’ technologies dedicated to helping legal professionals make the right decision. Even so, there is almost $60 billion invested in ‘AI’ to influence the decision-making abilities of legal professionals.
Meanwhile, we kept collecting the numbers, calculating the impact, and reporting the outcomes on Legalcomplex.com every month for the past five years. One thing became obvious over time: the numbers only tell part of the story, the names are what really drives home the point. Fact: our Maps page consistently beats out most of the other pages in terms of traffic.
While other pages were crafted with a purpose, the maps started on a whim. Designing the Dutch Legal Tech landscape, we sought inspiration from other maps. Most countries want an overview of companies operating around the law. So we collaborated on an Italian landscape since it was one of the few main EU countries without one. Locating businesses across the globe also reveals that innovation isn’t limited to a certain geography but can happen anywhere. Case in point: Japan houses two pioneers with a billionaire and highest-seeded in the legal space. Click the Google explore link under ‘Detail’ on the profile page and follow the Google News tab. There you can explore their journey, albeit using Google Translate.
Japan and Russia are part of an Asian growth spurt first observed in the second half of the last decade. Singapore measured a jump in new ventures (video) and Beijing experience a rise in value (video). Therefore, we not only need a more diverse but also more modern look at the legal sector. The top 20 of 2020 reports showed that traditional players collectively raised $1,29 billion. But including the new entrants, we see this number jump to $7.16 billion. Companies like DocuSign weren’t considered legal tech until they became the only company to first successfully IPO and subsequently replace United Airlines in the Nasdaq 100. OneTrust, 3rd in the top 20 Modern list, is on a similar trajectory.
A sector breakdown with business models is presented in “Starting in Legal Tech“. On slide 4 you’ll find samples of the Legal, Law, Risk, Tax, and Civic Tech market. In hindsight, we probably should have included the most important one: Smart Tech. Recently more large firms are closing deals with smart tech companies instead of looking at legal tech. We tipped robotic process automation (RPA) in our ‘Rebound‘ analysis as one of the top growth areas post-Covid. We now also feature an ‘AI’ and ML map on the maps page. So it’s a safe bet you’ll be seeing more smart tech as pioneers in law.
Looking at the path forward, the FAQ on Legalpioneer states the basic principles: the platform is free. It’s designed with a goal to be sustainable over time. And we’ll be liberal in our submission policy. To remain sustainable and cover the hosting and domain costs, we’ve opened a shop via Spreadshirt.com. There is the most beautiful gender-neutral collectible to dress the part as an original Legalpioneer. So go ahead and place your order and support us in keeping the platform free.
In the Stats & Parameters section on the FAQ page, we list some trade-offs we had to make due to our scale. The very first request we received was to add an address to a profile. The platform technically supports any Google map feature available, yet we decided to not support individual profile addresses yet. Reason: now we maintain 770+ locations across 4900+ profiles. With support for addresses, we have to monitor as many locations in as many profiles. To support this feature, we need more bots to store multiple unique addresses for each profile and keep them in sync across datasets.
Notwithstanding privacy concerns for home offices, addresses also add complexity to the search experience. Improving the search along with building some unique features are now the focus for the future. Along with these new features are the tutorials on how to get the most out of the Legalpioneer platform. For instance, it is the best place to name-check your new idea. Or find fellow pioneers near you to partner or hire. A keyword search instantly reveals the global concentration on a topic. Is the map search overwhelming, use the mobile search box at the bottom instead.
After each crisis, the world starts to rebuild. The 2008-09 crisis gave birth to unicorns like Docusign and OneTrust. The decacorns of this decade are being created now, and they probably won’t look like anything we expect. Like GPT-3, we probably won’t even feel the impact until we lift the monopoly on the law. Therefore, there is a need for a data-driven and diverse view on the true pioneers…and where to locate them.