The Summize logoThe close button
Part of the Summize S
Legal Tech Made Simple Podcast: Interview with Tom Dunlop

Legal Tech Made Simple Podcast: Interview with Tom Dunlop

Summize
September 1, 2020

Transcript

Dom Birch:

Okay. We are definitely recording now.

Welcome back to Legal Tech Made Simple with me, Dom Birch. I'm not a lawyer, and as Tom will account in a moment, I'm not very techie. This is take two of today's podcast, and I'm delighted to have with me, Tom Dunlop, who is the CEO of Summize. Now Summize is a contract review platform that can easily identify key extracts of information. Tom has a background not just in law, but also in badminton, which, hopefully, we'll get onto in this podcast. So Tom, welcome to the podcast and welcome to take two.

Tom Dunlop:

Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Dom Birch:

So tell us about your background then. So you've got a background in law and worked in-house, and then, of course, you've ended up becoming the CEO of this software company. So just give us a little bit of a potted history.

Tom Dunlop:

So my life very much kind of started out as a private practice lawyer trained in a firm and then quite soon, the switch to being an in-house lawyer. I was always attracted to the kind of tech scene and very much kind of fast growth software and tech businesses. So I moved in-house early on in the PQE and then grew to be, essentially, a legal director or GC of a few different software companies. Generally started out with post-investment, and then taking into some form of exit, and then kind of did that a couple of times. Through the day-to-day use case, and also with going through the transactional side of it, I actually looked for different products.

And it was, I guess, moments of pain that I found reviewing a lot of contracts for the transactions or just generally getting into signs, my contracts day-to-day that made me speak to one of my colleagues at the time. One of the software companies that he's a senior software engineer. And we just started to kind of trade some ideas around as to what we might be able to do to create a product that would solve, I guess, my use case at the time, which is very much the seeds of Summize that it is today.

So about two and a half years ago, stopped talking about it and actually created a product. And we've been very much the first 12 months, we're all about building that product, making sure it actually works and going through a lot of different prototypes. And then really in the last 12 months, in particular, we've been commercializing it and scaling the products and the company ever since. So that's a brief background for you.

Dom Birch:

And I guess it's increasingly hard, isn't it? In this legal tech sector to stand out from the crowd. And I guess that point that you made about being low cost and lightweight and easy to use. That ease of adoption of these kinds of products, because lawyers are smart people, but they're busy, aren't they? And I guess they're constrained by the fact that they have huge workload, huge time pressure. They know there's a better way, but they haven't necessarily got the time to find out what that better way is. All the time to configure it, once they found the solution.

Tom Dunlop:

A hundred percent. And I think that's one of the things that what I found was a lot of products we're obviously very technologically advanced, but they required a lot of, one implementation time, but secondly, cost is quite prohibitive for certainly for smaller in-house legal teams. And also it required me to change the way I was currently working. So if I was about to go through a transaction, I needed to provide a report right there and then. My work started that day. And so I needed something that I could just pick up and run with however I worked at that particular time, rather than spending a period of time to retrain, relearn how I do things. Because I just didn't have the time to do it. We were under too much time pressure.

So I think big parts of what Summize is, just the ethos as a product is that kind of lightweight, ease of use, just to try and get going from day one without... I know a lot of people say that, but we genuinely get that as a complement in the products. And it was obviously from my use case that we've made sure that we do that.

Dom Birch:

The next thing is it often these, particularly for founders and innovators that the real driver comes from the frustration that in your day job you can tell there's a better way, but nobody else is solving it for you. And that sometimes gives you the kick up the bum, I suppose, to go off and do it yourself. Was that partly what drove you to take in the leap. Because there's a leap of faith, isn't it? Leaving the relative security, shall we say of somebody else employment and starting out on your own?

Tom Dunlop:

Absolutely. And I think what I found as well, I was in essentially, I'm not going to call it the dream job as such, but I was working for kind of fast-growth software companies that essentially I've kind of left to create. So I was in an industry and was in a company that I really admired in any event, it definitely is a leap of faith. But I think one thing that you can definitely see, and this is obvious is that there is a use case for technology across the full range of legal services and there's a big client pressure. So there's a big need to innovate for start. So I think, as a risk to take against that backdrop, if it made sense.

And I think what we were just trying to do definitely was, we saw a gap. We saw this not just for the large enterprise, big use cases for large DD, where they're looking at big data essentially, and trying to understand then make sense of that. But just a day-to-day tool that can be easily picked up and used. There didn't seem to be anything that was solving that problem, even though it was a big problem. So it felt like a sensible decision and yeah, we definitely haven't regretted ever since. We're very busy and we've got obviously a long way to go like everyone has, but we're making good progress.

Dom Birch:

And you actually offer free trials, don't you? It feels quite a unique place to be. So just talk through how that works. Because I guess for it to be a free trial, it has to be something that people can adapt to. Can you describe almost like what a day one implementation looks like for a team when they say, "Yeah, okay, we'll give this a go."

Tom Dunlop:

The backgrounds of the free trial is, I was thinking again, is that a modern software company. And if you look at the way the software has been adopted today, it's usually the more bottom-up approach, rather than being pushed from the top down. So you're getting people picking up these software applications, they use them day-to-day and then they're saying to their managers, "I really want to use it. This is a great tool. Please can we get this tool and kind of implement it to this team?" And then it kind of grows from there. We see that in the legal industry because there's so many different use cases. There is these kinds of point tools that are out there. But if you can't get people to just get up to speed and use the products quickly, and get them to start it up, then we think we're missing a trick.

So we came up with a free trial and the kind of processes. When you create your account, you get basically about 12 different documents types you can choose from. So we've got all the standard ones, things like employments' agreements, leases, NDAs, to SaaS supplier agreements. You select if you want to essentially have those documents types. So if you want to review those type of documents. As soon as you select them, it creates your accounts. It's pasted in this table, you can then upload contracts and you get instant summaries because these clauses have all been preselected for those types of contracts. And then from there, you can do a number of things where you can export shareable link in terms of your summary. And you're getting that instant feedback.

So within a few seconds, really, you've designed a few different templates. You've decided what's relevant, and then you're getting the documents in the system again, that immediate value. So it's a big thing for us to make sure that you can do that without having to essentially train the system or spend a long time configuring it. So that's kind of how the journey works.

Dom Birch:

And just bring us right up to speed then. So turn of the year, you guys had just brought in, I guess, the team to hit the ground running from a commercial perspective, start driving new business. We then get hit with a global pandemic, which none of us could have honestly predicted six, nine months ago. What's the impact been, not just on you as a company. And everyone's obviously still facing those extreme headwinds, but also just in terms of customers. Has it been a tipping point? Have people been more willing to adopt these sorts of tools on the basis that remote working, having to work differently, smarter, quicker?

Tom Dunlop:

There's definitely been a change in attitude. I think, there's no denying that the appetite for spend just generally across the board has just reduced naturally with the market, which is just a short term kind of effect of COVID. But I think the long-term effects of COVID, it's definitely been that kind of change in attitude of, well, actually a reluctance to change our behaviour, reluctance to change our process previously. We're now being forced to because you can't work the same way you did in the new world, whatever that looks like. I think short-term effects on cash, but I do think that is short-term. I think people will start spending again, but I think I've definitely noticed that long-term drive to actually be willing to change the process and behaviour. And for me, a product to a company, that is the enabler to change.

And I think that's the most important, but for real is that people are now seeing those as that product to support a wider kind of more behavioural change, which brings in obviously the likes of psych. If you've got people there who can essentially design a new process, look at your process and fit the products to make that change. I think there's definitely that appetite to do that now, whereas previously, and I was guilty of this myself if it didn't really break and I was under a lot of time pressure. I just didn't have the appetite to delegate the time, whereas now there is that appetite.

Dom Birch:

And I guess having come from a legal background and we find this ourselves apart from myself and my colleague, John. We're the only non-lawyers in the entire psych team of plus 70, I think we are now. And being a lawyer yourself, I guess you can look somebody in the eye, can't you? And empathize with the challenges they're trying to overcome, the pressure they're under. But also you can, I guess, help them win hearts and minds internally, and almost write the business case for them. Typically we're helping in-house, legal teams, not just understand the power of a product or how to implement it, but how to get early wins. But also how to unlock other people in the organization to find out, what are the triggers that are going to get the CFO of actually holding the purse strings. What's going to get them to move and shift their position? Do you find that when you, you know you have that ability, don't you? You have been there and done it to empathize with people on the other side.

Tom Dunlop:

You can definitely contribute to the kind of business case. You can understand the reason, you understand the pressures that they're under as well, both time, and also justifying, I guess, the cost. I think that's one of the big things and how they prove their value. And we've definitely taken that to the product as well. So we can kind of do that in terms of our literature, in terms of education, but the product itself, we built a lot of functionality almost aimed at enabling that. So we have these kind of shareable links where you can share an interactive version of our summary, rather than just going into Word or Excel. You can also do things like insights, which is almost like what we call the Alexa for contracts, where you can ask questions of your contracts. CFOs and senior execs in businesses find that really useful, even though that the actual content or how to create that, isn't difficult, but the value are to them is huge.

So there's a lot of things in the product that we've taken on board because we just completely understand, hopefully, the use cases and the challenges that both in-house and private practice have as well and showing that value.

Dom Birch:

And looking ahead, I guess, over the next 6 to 12 months, how do you see the industry changing both from your position as a software provider in legal tech, but also from a customer's perspective? What do you think the outlook is for the next few months ahead?

Tom Dunlop:

I think following on from the COVID, I guess, discussion in that part are made. I do think that the behaviours and the appetite to change will be there, whereas there was still this reluctance to change. And I think products will start to become, I guess, combined with a service offering. We're very much seeing ourselves as being the equivalent of like a zero in the accounting world. The important thing there is that you still need either that professional advice or that service element to wrap around the product to make it work. And I think that that will be a new thing rather than just putting trust completely in a product alone and trying to think that, that's going to solve everything in terms of the client needs.

I think there'll be this quite nice combination between the service and product element, which comes together to kind of create that solution. And naturally, that will mean consolidation. It's already happened. Everyone kind of talks about it, but I do think it will potentially be more where law firms align with products or products align with some kind of service offering. For me, that's where I see the next stage of the law tech or legal services market.

Dom Birch:

And being a small player versus some of the big guys out in the market. And when I talk about big guys, I'm thinking Microsoft level, is there always this slight danger that at some point they just go, "Oh, you can do all of this in Word now." Or do you think there's always going to be a place for this kind of specialist pushing the needle further than generic products will ever take you?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, I think it depends on the product. I think that there's a lot of discussions around workflows at the minute and kind of essentially automating workflows and automating processes alone and products that can enable that. I think that that isn't new or original to the legal services industry as such. So I think there's certain elements where the likes of the Microsoft or the Amazons, those type of companies will naturally see a fit for them to do those type of products because they're applicable wider than just legal. However, I do think that because of the nature of legal services, it's not a binary sector. It is quite a subjective area where it is advisory. So there's always going to be an element of specialist tools that there'll be a compliment. Those are the tools in terms of workflow.

And you mentioned Word, one of the decisions we made early on and we've got Live, it's a Word plugin. So you can have the benefit of our intelligence but within Word, as well as a separate web application. So I think that kind of combination of some of the good workflow tools, project management tools, along with some of the more specialist tools will. The integrations between them will be quite important as we go forward. But I don't think you're going to see, for example, a Microsoft contract review products, anytime soon. I think that's too specialist for them to really kind of focus on.

Dom Birch:

Well, Tom, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for putting up with my inept ability using technology to this podcast. I endeavour to get better at it. Thanks for taking the time. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Tom Dunlop:

Dom. Thank you.

You can keep up to date with all things ‘Summize’ by following us on our social media channels:

LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Legal Tech Made Simple Podcast: Interview with Tom Dunlop

By
Summize
September 1, 2020

Transcript

Dom Birch:

Okay. We are definitely recording now.

Welcome back to Legal Tech Made Simple with me, Dom Birch. I'm not a lawyer, and as Tom will account in a moment, I'm not very techie. This is take two of today's podcast, and I'm delighted to have with me, Tom Dunlop, who is the CEO of Summize. Now Summize is a contract review platform that can easily identify key extracts of information. Tom has a background not just in law, but also in badminton, which, hopefully, we'll get onto in this podcast. So Tom, welcome to the podcast and welcome to take two.

Tom Dunlop:

Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Dom Birch:

So tell us about your background then. So you've got a background in law and worked in-house, and then, of course, you've ended up becoming the CEO of this software company. So just give us a little bit of a potted history.

Tom Dunlop:

So my life very much kind of started out as a private practice lawyer trained in a firm and then quite soon, the switch to being an in-house lawyer. I was always attracted to the kind of tech scene and very much kind of fast growth software and tech businesses. So I moved in-house early on in the PQE and then grew to be, essentially, a legal director or GC of a few different software companies. Generally started out with post-investment, and then taking into some form of exit, and then kind of did that a couple of times. Through the day-to-day use case, and also with going through the transactional side of it, I actually looked for different products.

And it was, I guess, moments of pain that I found reviewing a lot of contracts for the transactions or just generally getting into signs, my contracts day-to-day that made me speak to one of my colleagues at the time. One of the software companies that he's a senior software engineer. And we just started to kind of trade some ideas around as to what we might be able to do to create a product that would solve, I guess, my use case at the time, which is very much the seeds of Summize that it is today.

So about two and a half years ago, stopped talking about it and actually created a product. And we've been very much the first 12 months, we're all about building that product, making sure it actually works and going through a lot of different prototypes. And then really in the last 12 months, in particular, we've been commercializing it and scaling the products and the company ever since. So that's a brief background for you.

Dom Birch:

And I guess it's increasingly hard, isn't it? In this legal tech sector to stand out from the crowd. And I guess that point that you made about being low cost and lightweight and easy to use. That ease of adoption of these kinds of products, because lawyers are smart people, but they're busy, aren't they? And I guess they're constrained by the fact that they have huge workload, huge time pressure. They know there's a better way, but they haven't necessarily got the time to find out what that better way is. All the time to configure it, once they found the solution.

Tom Dunlop:

A hundred percent. And I think that's one of the things that what I found was a lot of products we're obviously very technologically advanced, but they required a lot of, one implementation time, but secondly, cost is quite prohibitive for certainly for smaller in-house legal teams. And also it required me to change the way I was currently working. So if I was about to go through a transaction, I needed to provide a report right there and then. My work started that day. And so I needed something that I could just pick up and run with however I worked at that particular time, rather than spending a period of time to retrain, relearn how I do things. Because I just didn't have the time to do it. We were under too much time pressure.

So I think big parts of what Summize is, just the ethos as a product is that kind of lightweight, ease of use, just to try and get going from day one without... I know a lot of people say that, but we genuinely get that as a complement in the products. And it was obviously from my use case that we've made sure that we do that.

Dom Birch:

The next thing is it often these, particularly for founders and innovators that the real driver comes from the frustration that in your day job you can tell there's a better way, but nobody else is solving it for you. And that sometimes gives you the kick up the bum, I suppose, to go off and do it yourself. Was that partly what drove you to take in the leap. Because there's a leap of faith, isn't it? Leaving the relative security, shall we say of somebody else employment and starting out on your own?

Tom Dunlop:

Absolutely. And I think what I found as well, I was in essentially, I'm not going to call it the dream job as such, but I was working for kind of fast-growth software companies that essentially I've kind of left to create. So I was in an industry and was in a company that I really admired in any event, it definitely is a leap of faith. But I think one thing that you can definitely see, and this is obvious is that there is a use case for technology across the full range of legal services and there's a big client pressure. So there's a big need to innovate for start. So I think, as a risk to take against that backdrop, if it made sense.

And I think what we were just trying to do definitely was, we saw a gap. We saw this not just for the large enterprise, big use cases for large DD, where they're looking at big data essentially, and trying to understand then make sense of that. But just a day-to-day tool that can be easily picked up and used. There didn't seem to be anything that was solving that problem, even though it was a big problem. So it felt like a sensible decision and yeah, we definitely haven't regretted ever since. We're very busy and we've got obviously a long way to go like everyone has, but we're making good progress.

Dom Birch:

And you actually offer free trials, don't you? It feels quite a unique place to be. So just talk through how that works. Because I guess for it to be a free trial, it has to be something that people can adapt to. Can you describe almost like what a day one implementation looks like for a team when they say, "Yeah, okay, we'll give this a go."

Tom Dunlop:

The backgrounds of the free trial is, I was thinking again, is that a modern software company. And if you look at the way the software has been adopted today, it's usually the more bottom-up approach, rather than being pushed from the top down. So you're getting people picking up these software applications, they use them day-to-day and then they're saying to their managers, "I really want to use it. This is a great tool. Please can we get this tool and kind of implement it to this team?" And then it kind of grows from there. We see that in the legal industry because there's so many different use cases. There is these kinds of point tools that are out there. But if you can't get people to just get up to speed and use the products quickly, and get them to start it up, then we think we're missing a trick.

So we came up with a free trial and the kind of processes. When you create your account, you get basically about 12 different documents types you can choose from. So we've got all the standard ones, things like employments' agreements, leases, NDAs, to SaaS supplier agreements. You select if you want to essentially have those documents types. So if you want to review those type of documents. As soon as you select them, it creates your accounts. It's pasted in this table, you can then upload contracts and you get instant summaries because these clauses have all been preselected for those types of contracts. And then from there, you can do a number of things where you can export shareable link in terms of your summary. And you're getting that instant feedback.

So within a few seconds, really, you've designed a few different templates. You've decided what's relevant, and then you're getting the documents in the system again, that immediate value. So it's a big thing for us to make sure that you can do that without having to essentially train the system or spend a long time configuring it. So that's kind of how the journey works.

Dom Birch:

And just bring us right up to speed then. So turn of the year, you guys had just brought in, I guess, the team to hit the ground running from a commercial perspective, start driving new business. We then get hit with a global pandemic, which none of us could have honestly predicted six, nine months ago. What's the impact been, not just on you as a company. And everyone's obviously still facing those extreme headwinds, but also just in terms of customers. Has it been a tipping point? Have people been more willing to adopt these sorts of tools on the basis that remote working, having to work differently, smarter, quicker?

Tom Dunlop:

There's definitely been a change in attitude. I think, there's no denying that the appetite for spend just generally across the board has just reduced naturally with the market, which is just a short term kind of effect of COVID. But I think the long-term effects of COVID, it's definitely been that kind of change in attitude of, well, actually a reluctance to change our behaviour, reluctance to change our process previously. We're now being forced to because you can't work the same way you did in the new world, whatever that looks like. I think short-term effects on cash, but I do think that is short-term. I think people will start spending again, but I think I've definitely noticed that long-term drive to actually be willing to change the process and behaviour. And for me, a product to a company, that is the enabler to change.

And I think that's the most important, but for real is that people are now seeing those as that product to support a wider kind of more behavioural change, which brings in obviously the likes of psych. If you've got people there who can essentially design a new process, look at your process and fit the products to make that change. I think there's definitely that appetite to do that now, whereas previously, and I was guilty of this myself if it didn't really break and I was under a lot of time pressure. I just didn't have the appetite to delegate the time, whereas now there is that appetite.

Dom Birch:

And I guess having come from a legal background and we find this ourselves apart from myself and my colleague, John. We're the only non-lawyers in the entire psych team of plus 70, I think we are now. And being a lawyer yourself, I guess you can look somebody in the eye, can't you? And empathize with the challenges they're trying to overcome, the pressure they're under. But also you can, I guess, help them win hearts and minds internally, and almost write the business case for them. Typically we're helping in-house, legal teams, not just understand the power of a product or how to implement it, but how to get early wins. But also how to unlock other people in the organization to find out, what are the triggers that are going to get the CFO of actually holding the purse strings. What's going to get them to move and shift their position? Do you find that when you, you know you have that ability, don't you? You have been there and done it to empathize with people on the other side.

Tom Dunlop:

You can definitely contribute to the kind of business case. You can understand the reason, you understand the pressures that they're under as well, both time, and also justifying, I guess, the cost. I think that's one of the big things and how they prove their value. And we've definitely taken that to the product as well. So we can kind of do that in terms of our literature, in terms of education, but the product itself, we built a lot of functionality almost aimed at enabling that. So we have these kind of shareable links where you can share an interactive version of our summary, rather than just going into Word or Excel. You can also do things like insights, which is almost like what we call the Alexa for contracts, where you can ask questions of your contracts. CFOs and senior execs in businesses find that really useful, even though that the actual content or how to create that, isn't difficult, but the value are to them is huge.

So there's a lot of things in the product that we've taken on board because we just completely understand, hopefully, the use cases and the challenges that both in-house and private practice have as well and showing that value.

Dom Birch:

And looking ahead, I guess, over the next 6 to 12 months, how do you see the industry changing both from your position as a software provider in legal tech, but also from a customer's perspective? What do you think the outlook is for the next few months ahead?

Tom Dunlop:

I think following on from the COVID, I guess, discussion in that part are made. I do think that the behaviours and the appetite to change will be there, whereas there was still this reluctance to change. And I think products will start to become, I guess, combined with a service offering. We're very much seeing ourselves as being the equivalent of like a zero in the accounting world. The important thing there is that you still need either that professional advice or that service element to wrap around the product to make it work. And I think that that will be a new thing rather than just putting trust completely in a product alone and trying to think that, that's going to solve everything in terms of the client needs.

I think there'll be this quite nice combination between the service and product element, which comes together to kind of create that solution. And naturally, that will mean consolidation. It's already happened. Everyone kind of talks about it, but I do think it will potentially be more where law firms align with products or products align with some kind of service offering. For me, that's where I see the next stage of the law tech or legal services market.

Dom Birch:

And being a small player versus some of the big guys out in the market. And when I talk about big guys, I'm thinking Microsoft level, is there always this slight danger that at some point they just go, "Oh, you can do all of this in Word now." Or do you think there's always going to be a place for this kind of specialist pushing the needle further than generic products will ever take you?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, I think it depends on the product. I think that there's a lot of discussions around workflows at the minute and kind of essentially automating workflows and automating processes alone and products that can enable that. I think that that isn't new or original to the legal services industry as such. So I think there's certain elements where the likes of the Microsoft or the Amazons, those type of companies will naturally see a fit for them to do those type of products because they're applicable wider than just legal. However, I do think that because of the nature of legal services, it's not a binary sector. It is quite a subjective area where it is advisory. So there's always going to be an element of specialist tools that there'll be a compliment. Those are the tools in terms of workflow.

And you mentioned Word, one of the decisions we made early on and we've got Live, it's a Word plugin. So you can have the benefit of our intelligence but within Word, as well as a separate web application. So I think that kind of combination of some of the good workflow tools, project management tools, along with some of the more specialist tools will. The integrations between them will be quite important as we go forward. But I don't think you're going to see, for example, a Microsoft contract review products, anytime soon. I think that's too specialist for them to really kind of focus on.

Dom Birch:

Well, Tom, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for putting up with my inept ability using technology to this podcast. I endeavour to get better at it. Thanks for taking the time. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Tom Dunlop:

Dom. Thank you.

You can keep up to date with all things ‘Summize’ by following us on our social media channels:

LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Keep up to date with Summize's latest resources

Sign up for emails from Summize and stay on top of the latest articles, features, and news.
Part of the Summize S