Accelerating change at Mishcon: MDR LAB announces tech startup lineup

Following a lengthy selection process culminating in a one-day pitch in late April, Mishcon de Reya has chosen the six early-stage to growth startups that will participate in its new technology incubator MDR LAB for the next ten weeks and in which the top 40 firm may ultimately invest.
Out of 19 companies that took part in the final pitch, Mishcon, in conjunction with innovation investors L Marks, has selected US litigation management software provider Everchron; satellite imagery startup Orbital Witness; US automated timekeeping provider Ping; mobile communication privacy scaleup SaltDNA; AI contract management platform Surukam; and cloud-based contract automation provider Synergist. MDR LAB has also entered into partnership with SeedLegals, which is an automated legal platform for startups, enabling them to create legal documents and shrink funding round timeframes.
The MDR LAB selection process, which was led by Mishcon’s chief strategy officer and director of MDR LAB, Nick West, saw Mishcon identify companies that range from concept stage to revenue generating with which it has synergies and there is a clear mutual benefit to working together. West said: “The companies we’ve selected play in the same spaces that we’re in. We’re not going to talk to a company focussed on derivatives because we don’t do that work.”
Pitch day saw 30 different judges from across the firm split across five categories: litigation; real estate; contracts; family; and the business of law. The six companies selected, two of which are based in the UK, with the other four coming from Germany, the US and India, will each have a partner and associate assigned to them as a mentor. Each has identified a goal to achieve in 10 weeks and will present their achievements at a demo day on 12 July.
What that goal is will depend on the stage of development the company is at, with Mishcon having deliberately selected companies that are at a variety of stages in their evolution, including one – Orbital Witness – which is at concept stage.
For early stage startups, the first step of the 10-week process will be to understand and find the best use case for its technology, followed by building a product and packaging it up for use in the legal industry. For more established companies, the next 10 weeks will be used to tailor, tweak, and trial the technology.
MDR LAB startups have also been assigned an external mentor, again tailored to what they are trying to achieve. Those mentors include Chris Fowler, general counsel TSO & UK commercial at BT; and Andrew Magowan, GC and company secretary at ASOS.
West said: “If it’s a late stage company or you have a product you want to sell to the in-house market the mentor might be in-house counsel who can give you a leg up. Or it might be someone who is more focussed on late stage fund raising and we’ve tried to match those needs.”
The tech incubator follows Mishcon’s 10-year strategy unveiled in July 2016, as part of which it plans to become more tech enabled. West said: “Part of the reason for doing this is to accelerate the cultural change at Mischon. If we’re going to become more tech-enabled and be more tech focussed, it’s not about me and [chief information officer] Simon [Kosminksy] doing it but about the business all believing that it’s important. Part of the reason for doing the Lab is about having dozens of people around Mishcon involved.”
He adds: “The inspiration comes from looking at the really big tech incubators and what makes them good and I’m trying to create a microcosm in legal. I’m sure we won’t get everything right and next time we might do things differently but if we get the right people and the right mentors and push them hard to achieve, by the end of this process we’ll hopefully really have something to show for it.”
In terms of financial incentives, Mishcon and L Marks have entered into private options with each of the startups and West said: “We may execute on some or none and how much we would invest is a private matter.”
He adds: “You couldn’t join the Lab unless you reached that agreement. Some people said we don’t need or want your money and that is absolutely fine.”
It is hoped that the benefits of running the Lab will be far reaching and West said: “Having launched MDR LAB I’ve had dozens of conversations with people that I would not have otherwise known about.”
He adds: “We do strongly believe the world is changing and tech adoption is increasing. We want to be seen as a firm on the front foot of that change. If these startups smash it and we invest in them, that would be great, but that’s not the sole reason for running MDR LAB.”
MDR LAB companies in full:
Everchron is a US-based company founded by former litigators. The company’s collaborative litigation management software puts case critical information and analysis at lawyers’ fingertips. With its intuitive search interface, dynamic key document chronologies, and automatically generated witness files, lawyers can quickly find relevant information and communicate it to team members wherever and whenever they need it. Secure, intuitive, and intelligent, Everchron is built to handle cases of all sizes, including the most complex and large scale litigations
Orbital Witness
An exciting start-up at concept stage, Orbital Witness was founded this year to deliver actionable insights from satellite imagery for use by real estate lawyers. Its product provides customers with historical images of a site, a vast improvement on old image sources such as Google Earth. Orbital Witness can automatically scour cloud-based imagery from commercial satellite operators and space agencies, and use machine learning techniques to analyse the imagery in conjunction with existing real estate datasets to solve clients’ queries and innovate in real estate practice
Founded in 2016, Ping is based in the US. Its product, which automates timekeeping for lawyers and provides data analysis for law firms, is at user stage. Lawyers lose up to 20% in billable time, and law firms lose critical data, as a result of lawyers manually timekeeping. Ping’s solution eliminates the need for lawyers to keep track of time. This ensures that firms capture more billable hours and can capitalise on the accurate data that it collects
Founded in 2013, SaltDNA is based in Belfast with 17 staff. Its product is at user stage, and revenue generating. SaltDNA provides a fully enterprise-managed software solution that enables absolute privacy in mobile communications. It is easy to deploy and uses multi-layered encryption techniques to meet the highest of security standards. The SaltDNA Desktop and Mobile apps are intuitive and easy to install and use. The SaltDNA Communication Manager provides a console for tight management of users and can be configured for the management of regulatory (i.e. FINRA, HIPAA and MiFID) compliance
Founded in 2015 and based in India with 12 staff, Surukam’s product is at user stage and the company is revenue-generating. It provides artificial intelligence powered solutions for the automation of contract management, with minimal human intervention. Designed and developed by its AI and contract experts, Surukam’s platform, CruxIQ, is based on the principle of predictive analysis, and can assist in automation of contract extraction, redlining contracts and deviation analysis.
Founded in 2015 and based in Berlin, provides a secure cloud service to automate the negotiation of contract terms, allowing customers to draft, negotiate and sign contracts without redlines or email. shortens deal cycles by automating contract workflow, and intelligently guides users through contract negotiations. The team are preparing to launch the first enterprise version of their contract automation platform.