A cool mil: Legaltech startups Josef and rfrnz raise seven figure seed financing

Melbourne-based legal tech start-up Josef has closed a $1m funding round. The seed investment was made by venture capital firm Jelix and angel investors including Kara Frederick, managing director of Tiger Financial Group and Ben Armstrong, previously a principal at Telstra Ventures.

“These funds will enable us to continue building up the power and sophistication of our legal automation platform,” said co-founder and chief executive Tom Dreyfus. “When it comes to ease-of-use, both for lawyers and for their clients, we’re relentless. We’re matching our mission to make legal services more accessible with a vision for the industry in which Josef is used by every lawyer everywhere, whether they are in Big Law, in-house or working at a public interest organisation.”

Launched by Dreyfus and Sam Flynn, former lawyers at Arnold Bloch Leibler and Kirill Kliavan, a machine learning expert, Josef is a platform that enables lawyers to build bots that can automate lawyer-client conversations, legal advice and the drafting of legal documents.

With the support of Australian tech accelerator Startmate, 600 bots have already been built, able to handle employment law, environmental law, start-up law, health law, commercial law, bankruptcy, consumer law and more. These bots have dealt with over 30,000 legal problems in just 12 months.

And while Josef was originally built to help community legal centres overcome capacity constraints, the company is now working with a number of in-house legal teams to help in-house lawyers interface more efficiently and seamlessly with other parts of the business, including FAQ bots and document automation bots.

Larger law firms, meanwhile, are also using Josef to build bots that handle frequent issues for particular clients or categories of client. These bots can be embedded in the client organisation to provide a smoother client experience, a new line of revenue and to create a stickier product. Josef’s law firm customers include Herbert Smith Freehills.

“I believe that Josef are onto something big,” said Herbert Smith partner Mike Gonski. “My view on the future of law is that lawyers need to work out how to turn what they do every day into processes. Josef is the first software I have seen where the lawyer is empowered to turn their process into a chatbot or an app rather than needing to pay a developer to do it for them.

“That is game changing as it has never been worth the cost of paying the developer when right now it is cheaper to just do it the old-fashioned way and keep the process on a piece of paper or an excel spreadsheet. Hopefully chatbots will take off so that they can deal with repetitive, cookie cutter work and lawyers can spend their time coming up with bespoke, commercial solutions for their clients.”

In the past six months, Josef’s top-line revenue has grown 510 per cent. Chief operating partner and co-founder Flynn believes that success is set to continue. “One of the key differences between Josef and other legal tech products is that we don’t just want to apply new tech to old processes. For example, we’ll soon be rolling Josef out across an entire global top-tier commercial firm,” he said.

“All lawyers will be given access to the platform so that they can start automating parts of what they do. Our belief is that the light-bulb must go off in the individual practice area. They’re the ones who know what the clients want and they’re the ones who have the relevant legal expertise. And, in order to achieve that, they have to be comfortable with the technology. This belief affects so much of what we do, from how we design the product to how we engage our clients.”

Meanwhile, German AI driven legaltech start-up rfrnz has also received a seven-figure funding round, with backers including High-Tech Gründerfonds and UnternehmerTUM Initiative for Industrial Innovators.

Founded in 2017 by chief executive Sven von Alemann, CTO Moritz Biersack and chief scientist Adriaan Schakel, rfrnz provides an artificial intelligence platform that uses machine learning and natural language processing algorithms to automate contract review.

The technology has already been implemented in DAX-30 corporations, medium-sized companies and law firms. The funds will be used to finance and advance the growth and further development of the product and team.

Amy Carroll