Summary List Placement
All signs seem to be pointing toward digitization in the legal industry — and venture capitalists are taking note.
The last few years has seen a growth in VC investment deal activity in legal tech. Last year, there were 124 deals valued at around $1 billion in the space globally, up from 84 deals valued at $500 million in 2018, according to data from PitchBook. This year, there have been 80 investments, with a total value of $490 million, to date.
This year’s deal activity from VCs lags behind 2019 for two probable reasons, said Scott Mozarsky, who focuses on legal and compliance markets as a managing director at the investment bank, JEGI. While Q3 and Q4 to date have been “extremely active,” Q2 this year was not due to the pandemic.
Mozarsky added that the last couple of years saw very large investments in a select few legal tech companies that pushed up the deal value figures. For example, cloud-based legal software provider Clio raised a blockbuster $250 million in its Series D round last year, while private equity firm Hg Capital acquired the end-to-end document management system, Litera, in 2019 as well. While it didn’t disclose the terms of the agreement, Hg did announce that it would invest $42 million in Litera.
As for investments this year, DISCO, an AI-fueled platform that helps lawyers gather evidence quickly without using third-party providers, raked in $60 million from top VCs like Georgian Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners in October. Another up-and-coming startup, DoNotPay raised $12 million in its June Series A, led by hedge fund Coatue Management, from Andreessen Horowitz and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.
Law firms seeking greater efficiency, clients wanting to cut costs, and in-house counsel needing to validate their work have all led to a drive for innovation in the legal industry, several VC investors previously told Business Insider.
The coronavirus pandemic, which has propelled most corporations toward remote work, has only accelerated the drive toward technology, from cloud data storage to contract management platforms.
The 2020 Legal Trends Report, released last month by Clio, one of the largest tech companies in the legal industry, found that there were measurable benefits to firms that more readily innovated during the pandemic: Law firms that employed certain types of technologies earned 40% more in revenue in August, and generated 27% more new casework from May to August, compared to firms that didn’t.
As investors are increasingly eyeing legal tech, Business Insider used data from PitchBook and Crunchbase to compile a list of the VC players that have made the most investments in the legal tech market. Some VCs invested in the same companies multiple times, and the deal counts below reflect this number.
Deal count: 13
Invested in: Ironclad, Lexoo, Atrium, LawTrades, Court Buddy, Clara, ClaimCompass, UpCounsel, Spotdraft, Lexyom
500 Startups, an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator with locations in 13 cities around the world, tops the list with the most legal tech investments among VCs. Its suite of startups range from UK-based Lexoo, which offers a legal outsourcing platform, to Clara, which provides legal assistance specifically for startups.
Deal count: 8
Invested in: Everlaw, Lex Machina, Time by Ping, Ravel Law, Hire an Esquire, Bridge US, Buzz Solutions
Given that its cofounder, Miriam Rivera, was Google’s former deputy general counsel, it’s no surprise that San Francisco-based Ulu Ventures has a host of legal tech startups in its portfolio. It led the 2012 seed round of Lex Machina, a legal analytics startup that was acquired by LexisNexis in 2015.
More recently, it participated in the $13.2 million Series A of Time by Ping, an automated timekeeping platform for lawyers.
Deal count: 7
Invested in: Everlaw, DoNotPay, Lawdingo, Atrium
Andreessen Horowitz, widely known as one of the most prominent VC gatekeepers of Silicon Valley, has invested in some of the hottest legal tech startups. It led e-discovery and litigation startup Everlaw‘s $8.1 million Series A funding in 2016, and also participated in its $25 million Series B in 2018 and $62 million Series C in March this year.
The VC was also prominently involved in Atrium, which was widely regarded as the legal-tech darling when it launched in 2018. Before the startup shuttered in March this year, it snapped up $65 million in its Series B funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Deal count: 6
Invested in: Apperio, Clause, Doxly, ROSS Intelligence, Libryo, ProFinda, Hire an Esquire, FileFacets, Qualmet
Nextlaw Ventures, launched by the global law firm Dentons, focuses exclusively on legal technology. The early-stage venture firm has invested in larger companies like ROSS Intelligence, which uses AI to power legal research, as well as more niche startups like Qualmet, which provides data to corporate legal departments to help them assess the value of their outside counsel.
Deal count: 6
Invested in: Ironclad, DocuSign, Bryter
VC titan, Accel, has invested in some of the biggest legal tech startups in the market. It led the Series A round for contract management software Ironclad, helping the startup raise a total of $11 million in funding, and also led both the 2019 seed and 2020 Series A rounds for Bryter, a Berlin-based startup that offers a no-code automation platform.
First Round Capital
Deal count: 6
Invested in: Steno, Atrium, Court Buddy, CrowdJustice, Ping
As its name suggests, First Round Capital focuses on seed-stage funding for startups. This August, it led the seed round of Steno, helping the remote deposition videoconferencing platform raise $3.5 million. It also participated in the early-stage funding rounds of heavy-hitters like Atrium and CrowdJustice.
Bessemer Venture Partners
Deal count: 5
Invested in: Clio, DISCO, DocuSign, CrowdJustice
VC heavyweight Bessemer Venture Partners has a roster of some of the buzziest legal tech startups. It participated in e-discovery startup DISCO‘s $60 million funding this October, and previously led both its Series B and D rounds in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
It also invested in e-signature company DocuSign’s $30 million Series C funding in 2010, and its massive $629 million IPO in April 2018.
Insight Venture Partners
Deal count: 5
Invested in: DocuSign, Kira Systems, ComplianceQuest, ContractPodAI, Anaqua, Paisley, Dolphin Search
New York-based Insight Venture Partners, which focuses exclusively on software companies, has a bevy of legal tech companies in its portfolio, ranging from contract lifecycle management startup ContractPodAI to intellectual property management software, Anaqua.
In 2018, it was also the lead investor in the $50 million Series A of document analysis startup, Kira Systems — the largest ever funding of an AI startup in the sector at the time, according to Artificial Lawyer.
Deal count: 5
Invested in: Akorda, Lawmatics, Trellis, Lawyaw
Revel Partners, an early-stage VC fund also based in New York City, has made investments in several legal tech startups, including the 2018 seed round of Lawyaw, which uses natural language processing to automate documents, as well as the October 2020 seed round of Lawmatics, a client relationship management software that helps attorneys maintain and develop client relations.
Deal count: 5
Invested in: Atrium, DoNotPay, Notarize
Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund has invested in some notable legal tech startups as well. In 2018, it participated in the $20 million Series B of Notarize, an online platform for digitized notarization of documents.
It also invested in both the 2019 seed and Series A funding rounds for DoNotPay, a “robot lawyer” that was the brainchild of Josh Browder, who dropped out of Stanford to become a Thiel fellow. The startup’s Series A, in August this year, raised $12 million with a $80 million valuation, as previously reported in Business Insider.