sydney-landscapes-1367529-639x427Looking for some excitement in the Lawtech startup market? Then look no further than Australia (no pun intended.)

The past month has seen Sydney-headquartered corporate advisory firm Eaton Capital Partners take a minority stake in online legal marketplace Crowd & Co, which enabled it to launch in London in July. Elsewhere, innovative Sydney-headquartered law firm Gilbert + Tobin in August increased its stake in online legal adviser LegalVision to nearly 20%, following the move in April by Norton Rose Fulbright Australia to form an alliance with business startup online advisory service LawPath.

Crowd & Co

Crowd & Co was founded at the end of 2015 by managing director Jarred Hardman, who started his professional life as a Freehills (now Herbert Smith Freehills) lawyer before moving into more commercial roles at industrial engineering companies UGL and Downer.

In July the company, which provides a platform for lawyers to offer and bid for work in return for a cut of the transaction value, sold a minority stake to Eaton Capital Partners, welcoming Eaton Capital’s CEO Stephen Moss and finance and strategy partner Peter Bergin onto the Crowd & Co board as chairman and CFO respectively.

It has used the funds to launch in London, taking space in the Huckletree Shoreditch shared office space in Finsbury Square.

Hardman told Legal IT Insider: “The UK is the clear choice for expansion, so we have set up an office in Finsbury Square, Shoreditch, and have a BD person working for us. Her role is solely focused on bringing Crowd & Co to the firms and corporates (being independent helps us work with all segments of the industry.)”

Moss has also leveraged his London contacts and Hardman is visiting the UK in September to meet potential clients. He added: “We’ll build a team over there to ensure we have the right client facing support on the ground.”

In June, Crowd & Co unveiled a partnership with legal outsourcing provider Exigent, to give its clients access to back end legal services.

It has plans to incorporate legal products such as document automation into its online marketplace. Hardman said: “Our vision is to create a ‘legal village centre’, connecting lawyers to more than just opportunities; to knowledge, products and services which support them in their endeavours.”

G+T invest in LegalVision

August, meanwhile, saw G+T increase its stake in lawtech startup LegalVision to nearly 20%, following a second round of financing in a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ approach to the competition.

LegalVision, founded in 2012 by CEO and former Barclays Capital associate Lachlan McKnight, gives fixed fee, high volume legal business advice that is kept at a lower cost because it and the business lawyers who work for it operate online.

G+T in November 2015 made an initial investment in LegalVision to help drive its expansion. According to G+T’s chief operating officer and LegalVision board member, Sam Nickless, the start-up is rapidly growing and successfully taking business from small and mid-sized law firms.

“Aligning the Gilbert + Tobin brand with LegalVision is a strategic move that allows us to service both ends of the market – from startup to premium corporate brands.

“From working with LegalVision, we can deepen our relationships by serving clients across a broad range of their needs – from the bespoke, complex issues that are our heartland, through to their regular business processes that are ideal for LegalVision,” Nickless said.

“G+T is also looking to learn from LegalVision’s approach to technology, marketing and process. We will be working on joint projects to develop legal applications for machine learning, artificial intelligence and blockchain in our respective markets.”

NRF LawPath

The investment follows the news earlier this year that the Australian arm of Norton Rose Fulbright has formed an alliance with LawPath, which helps companies with all the documents they need to set up, run and expand a business, including applying for patents and trademarks.

Visitors to the website are offered the chance to have a live chat with a consultant. At the time Legal IT Insider visited, a consultant called Sarah explained: “LawPath is an online legal service that makes it faster and easier for businesses to access legal services solely based on their preferences. LawPath is not a law firm, is not engaging in a legal practice and LawPath does not act as lawyers. LawPath does not provide legal advice.”

Don’t tell that to Norton Rose Fulbright, which as part of its alliance with LawPath will offer startups time with a senior lawyer to customise and sign off their documents.

This article first appeared in Legal IT Insider’s July/August newsletter