Startup Corner: Open source matter management platform Panache Legal says ‘help us build a community’

Panache Legal is an open source matter management platform founded by former Dentons technology lawyer Neill Pemberton (COO) and software engineer Peter Davis (CEO). They describe Panache as a legal tech Swiss army knife and they are looking for forward thinking law firms and in-house teams to partner with them and form a collective. To succeed they must grow their support and would love to hear from anyone that wants to get involved.

How would you describe your company to a friend?

Panache Legal is a Legal Tech Swiss Army Knife.  We provide a multitude core tech services that law firms need but seldom deploy across all their teams because other services are just too expensive.  Who can buy every tool.  Our approach is to give everyone enough to get started in a number of key areas like task management, project planning, CRM, document automation.  If you use Excel for only shopping lists or basic arithmetic, and not for all it can do, you know what we are getting at!  But, unlike a regular Swiss Army Knife, because of the way we have built the platform, each service we provide is entirely customisable and suitable for enterprise-grade requirements.  So, no you don’t need to cut down an oak tree with one-inch saw!

And if you had to describe it to a techy?

Panache Legal is an open source, data first, matter management platform, built from customisable microservices.

As we are open source we are leveraging other tried and tested tech and we can scale quickly.  We encourage collaboration and are seeking to build a community around the platform.  With collaboration we envisage a world in which the tech teams at firms can customise our platform that best suits them, or even search for upgrades that other firms make to the code.  They can really take ownership of their software and not be dictated to by vendors.

The data side is really exciting.  Everything in the platform is about utilising data, from the client details, to the terms of documents, to time recorded.  We’re going to raise the bar on business intelligence and analytics, and we think that there is really exciting potential for machine learning and smart contracts that are easily achieved with the right support.  We have uses cases in mind!

Though we can offer a hosted cloud solution, the platform can be deployed on premise – perfect for those with security concerns or in jurisdictions where cloud is verboten.  The techies out there can genuinely demonstrate value to their firms by using our code and ensuring that no software vendor is going to hike the price up on them.   Some of them could even build their own software solutions based on our architecture!  Why not?

When were you founded?

We incorporated Panache Software in November 2015.  We’ve been talking about legal tech a lot longer.

By who?

The co-founders are Peter Davis and Neill Pemberton.

Peter (a software engineer with 20+ years’ experience) and Neill (a lawyer with 15+ years’ experience) have known each other for over 30 years.  We started Panache Software after Neill, having worked too many nights and weekends, came to Peter with a simple question: how could you save me time in my job?

Who are your key managers/senior execs?

Peter and Neill are the key managers and senior executives.  Between us we have the business knowledge and development expertise to build new features for Panache Legal in-house.  We have advisors who work with us on an informal basis (i.e. they don’t charge us!) and they’re happy to contribute to our mission to grow the community.  But to succeed we must grow the support further and we would love to hear from anyone that wants to get involved.

What is your growth strategy?

Much like the supermarkets, we’re taking an organic approach.  We have the development and legal knowledge to take the platform a long way.  It will get there faster with support from a community.

We’re seeking development partnerships with law firms that think differently.  A lot of firms talk about collaboration, but few act on it.  We’re looking for law firm partners that can see that following the crowd is not a way to get ahead and differentiate.  We want input from developers at law firms.  We want to hear from lawyers with the problems they face.  And most of all we want 5-6 firms, preferably in the UK and/or US, to agree to work together, share the pain of investment into something they can then take and use licence free, forever, across their entire firm, without fear of escalating costs.

Have you received investment?

No, but we are seeking investment from a collective of firms that are interested in building on the foundations of a platform in a way that suits them.

Who are your target clients?

SME law firms and/or in-house teams, that recognise the need for tech to keep pace, but who cannot afford in-house development or to run their own accelerators and incubators.  Those firms that do not want to follow the crowd and who think that they might have a better way of doing things.

Separately, we really want to work with universities with legal tech courses, or those with law and computer science departments.  We hope that the computer science students can take what we have built and use it for real world problems.  Docassemble is being used for good in that way and we hope Panache Legal can follow suit.

Have there been any key changes in direction since you were founded?

The biggest change is that we have opened our source code.  We found that most legal tech fell into two categories: traditional BigTech and a wave of start-ups finding a problem, building their MVP and scaling in isolation.  Those two work well for a lot of firms, but not all.

We felt there was room for a third category.  One that brings people together as part of a community, allowing lawyers to have the best of all worlds instead of tackling problems in silos.  We’re developing something special, and it will be better still with others involved.

What are the key challenges you face in your market? [these can be generic/political/economic etc.]?

Probably the biggest issue for us is a misunderstanding of what open source is and just what a game-changer it could be for law firms.  Think about it: no more licence fees, complete control over costs, upgrades, integrations, and so on.

When we say we’re open source most people have two comments: how are we going to make any money with that, or is that safe?  We think there is a misunderstanding about what being open source is.  We’re grateful people are concerned for our welfare, but we can offer a hosted solution for those without tech expertise and we’ll cope with that!  For us, the most important thing is to build a community around the platform.

What are the most exciting developments you’ve seen in your market in the past year to 18 months? 

We’re really excited about blockchain and especially smart contracts.  A lot of people are talking about those but we aren’t seeing a big uptake on them, probably because they’re not the easiest thing to follow.  But we think we have a pretty interesting use case for them which comes off the back of some work Neill did in private practice not long ago.  Watch this space!

Tell us something that people don’t already know about the company?

Panache Ponies!  We have NFTs that people can buy.  We don’t suppose they will sell for millions in the near future, but who knows.  And we have been known to give them away to people willing to help us spread the word about Panache Legal.  So, if anyone wants a Panache Pony, get in touch.