B2B SaaS startup Legl has bagged $7M in Series A funding led by Octopus Ventures for its platform for law firms which offers tools to streamline core business processes such as customer onboarding, due diligence and payments.
Existing investors Backed, Samaipata and First Round Capital, and angels including Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas (ex CPO and COO GoCardless), Al Giles (ex CRO of legal business Axiom) and Hayden Brown (CEO of Upwork), also participated in the round.
The UK startup was founded just over a year ago by Julia Salasky, a lawyer by background, who previously founded the public interest legal crowdsourcing campaign platform, CrowdJustice.
Legl says it’s now working with around 100 UK-based law firms, including around a dozen of the top 200. The Series A will be used to expand Legl’s team and grow its UK user base as well as for further development of the product.
Salasky tells TechCrunch she spotted the opportunity to build a platform to help law firms digitize their business processes through the experience of working with law firms at CrowdJustice.
“There have been a few big shifts toward digital [in the legal sector], which we were able to first spot through our work with hundreds of law firms at CrowdJustice. One is the growing expectation of clients, both individuals and businesses, that they should have a good, digital experience as they do with the other service providers they interact with,” she says, discussing the opportunity she saw to help law firms digitise business processes.
“The second is risk. Law firms are rightly risk averse, and doing client-facing processes in a manual, fragmented way – like doing compliance checks via email or taking payments over the phone (yes this is a real thing) – actually increases risk.
“And the third is Covid. A lot of manual or face-to-face operational processes simply don’t work when remote-first is the norm.”
While law firms can have a bit of a reputation for being ‘disinterested’ in making efficiency gains, given the business model of billing clients by the hour, Salasky emphasizes that Legl doesn’t intrude on the billable hour — crediting that as one of the reasons the SaaS has seen such “huge uptake” in short order.
“We’re removing the time-consuming, admin-heavy work that lawyers can’t bill for,” she says. “The outcome is that lawyers can focus on what they’re best at — doing legal work.”
Another driver for law firms to improve their back office processes is customer expectations, she says. “We do also see that there’s a big move in the industry toward better client experience, which from my perspective is a big change that’s emerged over the last year and a half or so, I think as a result of digital client experiences becoming the norm in other industries.”
Asked about the flagship features of Legl, Salasky highlights “no-code workflows” — aka configurable workflows that let non-techie users replicate what they do now “for any client, in any practice area” but without the manual faff.
“For example what might have taken multiple people a lot of emails and tooling to do, like a complex onboarding process, we replace with DIY workflows,” she explains. “We’re also using the trends from those interactions to surface really key client insights so that firms can start to understand their client base better.”
The upside for Legl’s law firm clients is efficiency and revenue, per Salasky.
“We see that there are both efficiency gains — firms are citing transaction times speeding up by 1-2 weeks — but also revenue gains, as firms can onboard more clients faster, reduce drop-off in their onboarding funnel, and improve cash flow,” she adds.
Asked about training/retraining requirements for firms that opt to move workflows to Legl’s SaaS, Salasky says they have focused on making the tools super simple to use to avoid an arduous learning curve.
“I’ve always been conscious that it’s hard to retrain law firms and we didn’t want to create friction in using our product – that would be ironic and counterproductive for a productivity focused platform,” she says. “So instead we have focused hard on consumerizing our tech so that it’s both super easy to use, and also that it replicates the workflows that law firms have now.”
“I don’t think this necessarily replaces back office roles — it just makes it easier for firms to allocate higher value work to people doing manual, bitty operational tasks. Which is often done by back office staff, and often done by lawyers themselves, by the way,” she adds.
As regards competitive landscape, Salasky acknowledges a “few point solutions” – name checking the likes of ThirdFort and SmartSearch in the compliance space as an example – but says that Legl goes “way beyond a point solution into business operations more generally”.
“Our view is that firms don’t want to plug a tool into a manual, fragmented process – they want the tool to replace that process. And to be able to do that and deliver a great client experience and surface great client insights, is unique in the market,” she adds.
While the SaaS is UK-only for now Legl is already getting enquiries from markets further afield and planning to start international expansion. Salasky says interest is coming from English speaking markets where some of its UK clients have international offices, noting: “That’s where we’re planning to start.”
Commenting on the Series A in a statement, Zoe Chambers, early stage investor at Octopus Ventures, added: “It’s rare to find a founder and team with such insider knowledge to tackle a big industry that has started to adopt technology quickly. Covid has accelerated the move to digital in the legal industry, and Julia and team, with deep expertise across legal, SaaS and fintech, are in prime position to win the market.”