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Good lawyers have nothing to fear from technology

Juro CEO and cofounder Richard Mabey has expressed his view that the legal services industry has a bright future ahead of it.

In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes’ Philip Salter, following the recent $750k investment in Juro by Point Nine Capital, Seedcamp and the founders of Gumtree and Indeed.com, Richard told Forbes readers of his positive vision for the future of legal.

Philip Salter: What inspired you to start Juro?

Richard Mabey: As a former corporate lawyer, I used to work every day with in-house lawyers who had the unenviable job of managing often tens of thousands of legal contracts. These lawyers generally struggled, using a combination of pdfs, emails, hand-signing, scanners and spreadsheets to try to keep control. In fast-growing businesses, it was a nightmare and many of these lawyers seemed that they would rather be doing something else. I decided that with technologies like artificial intelligence on the horizon we could do a much better job of managing contracts, freeing up their time and even making them a little bit happier.

Salter: What is unique about Juro?

Mabey: Unlike e-signing tools, we automate the end-to-end process of contract management. This means our customers can generate contracts in a matter of seconds through integrations with their existing business systems, negotiate them in their browser, sign them with their finger on their iPhone and then have everything neatly stored and tracked. We send customer renewal reminders when their contracts are due to expire and on other key dates so they never miss a deadline again. Juro even learns from user behaviour using machine learning algorithms to help customers see patterns in negotiations and understand at a glance the lifecycle of their contracts. We think this saves customers around 75 per cent of time currently spent on contracts.

Salter: What are your ambitions for your start-up?

Mabey: We believe that one day all contracts will be written in code and signed electronically. We have so far seen a huge demand for Juro with our workflow tool, and our customers include many of the leading ‘on demand’ businesses who manage tens of thousands of contracts with us. From this base, we want to take automation to the next level and are working on several AI projects to make contracts even smarter than before. The key to this is the rich data that contracts contain, which is most often ignored by businesses.

Salter: What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Mabey: I think fundraising for startups in Europe is still much harder than in the US. We were very selective about who we took money from but it certainly took us many rejection meetings to find angels and VCs who believed in our vision. Ultimately success in funding comes down to the belief of a few individuals. We got in some industry names like Ned Staple of Zoopla, which validated for others the demand for our product. Tom Wilson of Seedcamp, Christoph Janz of Point Nine, Michael Pennington and Paul Forster all had real conviction in our mission, which enabled us to close the round quickly in a tough fundraising climate. I often hear from fellow founders that funding was more difficult than expected, which can be tough when you are trying at the same time to build a great product and attract customers.

Salter: What do you think about the future of the legal industry?

Mabey: Technology will not replace lawyers, it will help them work smarter. We see a future where grunt work will be automated through artificial intelligence, and human judgement deployed where needed. Good lawyers have nothing to fear from technology. For established firms this may even lead to increased fees, as they will be able to focus their time on higher value work. On top of this their employee churn should decrease as junior lawyers spend less of their time proof-reading and more time on the work that they studied for years to do. The players that will struggle are those charging hundreds of pounds per hour to do work that a computer can do. High street firms, notaries and the like will struggle I suspect, but they can save themselves through early adoption of technology and their own innovation. It’s a bright future and we are proud to be playing our part.

You can read the full interview in Forbes here.

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