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Legal Tech StartUp Focus

Legal Tech StartUp Focus

Summize
April 7, 2021

Transcript

Charlie Uniman:

Hello, and welcome to the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast. I'm your podcast host Charlie Uniman. On this podcast, I'll be interviewing the people who build, invest in, comment on, and use the apps made by legal tech startups. My guests and I will be discussing many different startup-related topics covering among other things, startup management and startup life, startup investing, pricing and revenue models, and the factors that affect how users decide to purchase legal tech.

We're not going to focus on legal tech per se. Instead, we'll be focusing on the startups that develop, market and sell their tech. So whether you're a startup founder or investor, a lawyer or other legal professional, or a law professor, law student, or commentator who thinks about legal tech startups, sit back, listen, and learn from my guests about just what it takes for legal tech startups to succeed. And if you're interested in legal tech startups and enjoy this podcast, please become a member of the free Legal Tech StartUp Focus community by signing up at www.legaltechstartupfocus.com.

Hello, everyone. This is Charlie Uniman, your host of the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast. And let me introduce two of the leadership of Summize, a legal tech startup based in the UK in Manchester. I'm going to be talking to Tom Dunlop, who is the CEO and a co-founder of Summize, and Dave Smith, also a co-founder and the Chief Data Officer. I take it, I've gotten the expansion of CDO, Dave.

David Smith:

Chief Development Officer.

Charlie Uniman:

Oh, development. You know, I wondered about that. I went with data, but it's development officer. Okay. So my apologies, Dave. David, CDO.

David Smith:

That's all right.

Charlie Uniman:

Chief Development Officer. And as we've done with previous podcasts, I'm going to give first Tom and then Dave, a chance to describe briefly what their professional journey has been, that resulted in their co-founding Summize. So, Tom, why don't you start, please?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, of course. Thanks, Charlie. It's a pleasure to be on the podcast. Thanks for having us. So yeah, I mean, I guess in terms of my background, I guess it's becoming more and more common for legal tech companies. There's no surprise that I was formally a lawyer. So I was a lawyer that had trained in kind of private practice law firms and then moved as an in-house lawyer quite early on in my career. And I think the last three companies that I worked for, which are kind of the most relevant, were all technology or software businesses.

So I acted as GC Legal Director, usually with quite small teams in those kind of scaleup tech and software businesses, which was obviously a great environment to be around in terms of just seeing innovation, I guess, happen firsthand, but also from a legal perspective. The businesses themselves really challenge you as a lawyer to be more creative and kind of get a bit more into that creative mindset, which is essentially when I guess I would say I started to look at the things I was doing day to day, looking at the tools elsewhere and very much kind of how Summize as a concept was born. So yeah, very much background as a lawyer, mainly in-house and in tech prior to making the leap and setting up Summize.

Charlie Uniman:

Very good. Well, the lawyer to legal tech senior leader is, as you said, not an unusual one and it often enables the startup to get a head start with people who know what it's like to be on the front line, practising law and had some itches to scratch when it came to using technology to practice better. Dave, how about your background?

David Smith:

Yeah, I've been in software development for, well, I'm trying to think now, probably around about 30 years. So I've worked in a variety of technologies, a variety of companies, and it was just one of those chance meetings with Tom that got me into legal tech. He was asking me about how we could perhaps solve a problem about getting contracts into a state where we could review them automatically through some form of software process. And that's really how I ended up starting to develop the application. So I worked with Tom for quite a while getting the base program developed. And we've taken it on from there.

Charlie Uniman:

I have to ask since you had just said that you had been in the software development side of things for quite a while, is it different in some sense, designing software for lawyers, that lawyers are going to use? I often joke that lawyers have an incredible attention span when they're working on their work as lawyers, but when it comes to things like learning how to use a piece of software, they more often demonstrate the attention span of a banana. I say that of myself and as well as some of the lawyers that I've met. Any difference in dealing with software for lawyers?

David Smith:

I don't think there's too much of a difference, but I think like with any particular end-user of software, they want something that's going to be easy to use, flexible. And that's what we try to do with the Summize product.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. We'll get into onboarding a little bit later, but certainly one of the keys to onboarding a challenge that most legal tech startups face is grabbing the attention of lawyers and allied professionals who are very, very busy doing what they do as lawyers and those professionals and getting them to as intuitively as possible to get up the learning curve to use the software. But we'll talk about that a little bit later in the podcast.

So now I want to get to one of the two remaining main events. And again, as we've done in the past, I'd like to give the podcast guests a chance to puff out their chests and talk a little bit about the tools that they've designed and made available to practising lawyers. So you can decide how you want to handle it. Talk between yourselves, the two of you. But I'd like to get an idea for our audience of what Summize does, what its target market is. Is it private law firms, is it in-house legal departments, both, any other target markets? And very much what it is within the markets that you're addressing, distinguishes Summize and as I like to call it, makes for Summize's secret or special sauce. So let's talk about your product.

Tom Dunlop:

Yep. No, sounds good. So, I mean, I think the best way to introduce, I guess, what Summize is and the best way I can describe it is more about the problem that we're looking to solve because essentially what Summize is, it kind of helps solve the low-value manual tasks and frustrations just around contracts generally. So it's all centred very much around the fact that we create instant contract summaries. So that was the original use case, probably more driven on the project review. So if you had due diligence or you had to review a lot of contracts in one go, how could you get up and running very quickly and basically, not just extraction, but actually create a usable summary that you could then provide to other businesses or to clients? So that was the original use case.

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think what we're doing, and I think to kind of go hand in hand with that is everything that we've done had to be, I guess, associated with four things, really. One is that we've tried to make it, well, as easy to use as possible. That's always been a big mantra in the product. The second is time to value because coming back to where the actual product came from, I was a busy lawyer in a software company. We were actually going through an acquisition. I needed a product that could work that week. So to press a big kind of go button on the transaction, I had to then review 500 contracts. I just didn't have time to go and train a system or go through a lengthy procurement and change implementation plan. I just had to get going that day, really. So that had to kind of flow through to the product because that was my problem.

And then the other side of it, which I think kind of come into that unique part of the product is we've tried to make it very modular because we understand that not everyone has the same use case. So what we've now got as a product and as a platform, all stemming back from that ability to upload a contract, create an instant summary and export is now we work across that contract life cycle. And then the best way to think about it is anything pre signature is done in our Microsoft Word add-in. So we've gone for that approach because our view is that lawyers are in Microsoft Word.

And I think the last 12 months in terms of the increase in adoption of Office 365, of the kind of Teams suites, as well as only cemented the position that Microsoft and Office is here to stay. So we very much tried to augment, I guess, the Word experience in the creation of contracts, in the review of contracts, incorporating playbooks, precedent clauses, and kind of understanding definitions all in one very easy to use tool that you can get up and run it very quickly. So there's that side of it from a kind of pre signature tool.

And then from the post signature perspective, we don't think of ourselves as being a contract management system. We think of ourselves as being kind of an overlay or a an enhancement to existing document management or contract management because we can extract and summarize contracts and extract that information, but we can then do quite clever things where we plug that into existing communication tools, for example, Teams and Slack.

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

And we have integrations into those so that you can actually ask a question of your contracts, for example, how do I get paid or when can I end my contract with this person through Slack or Teams, and then we can serve up the answer because we can basically extract that information. And then we can kind of turn that into an answer to a question basically. So there's that kind of post signature quite, I guess, intelligent part of the product all stemming from our instant summaries, but then we really try and push that information out to where the end-user already lives. That might be Teams, that might be Slack, might be Google Chrome, might be a mobile phone, but we're not trying to create this kind of concept of this end to end platform where we're trying to get users to come and adopt our platform, opposed to, I guess, the more standard business tools that they use.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. I was going to say, go where the lawyers are.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah.

Charlie Uniman:

And where they are is in Office 365. I can't disagree with that. Anything else before I pepper you with a few questions?

Tom Dunlop:

No, I mean, I think we’ll get into the questions. I think we'll get into some of the detail. I think the key call-outs really, the key question, and I know this comes up places. I mean, there's a lot of contract review tools-

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

... a lot of contract-based tools and it is all about how are we different or how do we differentiate ourselves? And that's where I come back to those four points, really. The fact that we can essentially set like parts of the product, which just says your use case if you want project reviews, we've got a tool that allows you to manage dashboards of a project review and obviously summarize the contracts for instruction. But if you need us in the pre signature basis, then you can just have our Microsoft Word add-in and you can pick and choose almost a bit like a pick and mix. And the regular feedback we get is all about that ease of use and time to value. Our usual implementation times, I know we'll get into this into more detail, but we can usually, well, we have got customers up in a day prior to their due diligence or a project review. So that time to value is another huge part of the product.

Charlie Uniman:

No, if you can distinguish yourself that way, that is a great way to be distinguishable. So the technology that you're using, I trust it's some sort of machine learning NLP type tech. Is that correct?

Tom Dunlop:

So it's... I mean, I've just come in to answer this question. I think Dave will provide a much more eloquent answer. But what we kind of start off with and the reason we didn't... We do have NLP and machine learning in the product, but that's not the way that you can get going on day one. So we have more of an algorithm-based technology. The best way to describe it, it's about ranking how relevant particular words, sentences, paragraphs are for each clause. And what we essentially do is almost build a Google Search, where what we do is we provide the best run paragraph. We can extract information from that, but then we also give you that subset of relevant other paragraphs that we think you should look at and they're all marked by priority order.

So the benefit of that, and you have complete control over doing that yourself and designing that yourself, is that you can design a clause in a couple of minutes. You can get going, and then the machine learning, and then the kind of learning parts of the product kicks in, but as you're using, getting creating summaries. So that'll be from implementation, training time of an NLP engine. Basically, it doesn't happen. It's a bit more subtle in the background and it just means we can get up to speed quicker. But Dave may provide a more eloquent answer than I will now.

David Smith:

I think Tom's covered it quite well there. We don't really focus on machine learning and NLP right from the very off. The moment you set up a brand new tenant, we've got everything there that you need to be able to start working right from the word go. And as you start uploading documents, as you start interacting with the application, that's how it actually pulls the information out and starts feeding information into our data algorithm, which then helps make the results more accurate.

Charlie Uniman:

And does the application run... Well, where does it run it? Is it cloud-based and how do the users expose their documents through the application? Do they upload documents to the cloud? How does that aspect of it work?

David Smith:

There's actually two aspects to it. It is a cloud-based piece of software, and we have the web application, which you can access by logging on through our website, or there's a Word add-in. So the Word add-in does not require you to upload a document. You can use the Word add-in in situ and no data's actively transferred and stored on the application at that point. But if you want to do a document review, sort of like the red flag review kind of activities, then you'd upload the document through the web application of some other means, for example, where we're looking at Teams, Microsoft Teams to upload documents.

Charlie Uniman:

Oh, yeah. Sure. Yep. Well, I could probably spend half a dozen podcasts just talking about the warhorse that people have gone into battle with. And that's the cloud versus on-premises, but we're not going to dwell on that. But if anything has for good or ill come out of the pandemic, I think, I'd be curious to know if you agree that law firms traditionally sceptical of the cloud have grown and in-house legal departments have grown a little less sceptical. Do you agree with that?

Tom Dunlop:

I would definitely agree with that. I think there's been a huge change in behaviour and attitudes towards, I guess, just what I kind of term the virtual office. I think before everything was set up for an in-person office and you just communicated by walking over to someone and speaking to them or using tools over there to facilitate internal chat. But it was probably more to do with, I guess, being physically in the office. I think people would be surprised actually at how well set up the technology is. I mean, I talk about Teams a lot because I feel like it's probably the first real player that has... it feels like it's kind of cracked that virtual office where you've literally got calendar, to-do-list, video conferencing, chats, file storage, the whole office suite all in one tool that you can access anywhere remotely. And it's all secure and you've got everything in one place.

And I think you've got the other players, like obviously Google and Google Drive and Hangouts and everything that's kind of coming together. You can kind of see how this virtual office is genuinely a thing. So yeah, it's really... I think, just to elaborate a bit further on that as to how that's influenced our thinking. Last year, we were going to create this kind of red line experience or this track change experience in products. So take people away from Microsoft Word, probably try and drive them into our experience. But then you start to see the adoption numbers of Office 365 and Teams and kind of that whole suite. And you think, well, actually this is becoming almost too big to ignore and to try and fight against in some ways. So very much kind of augment what people are already doing rather than kind of, I guess, contradict it or try and go up against it.

So yeah, there's definitely been a big change in attitude and adoption. And I think if the law firms aren't doing that, I think it won't be long before clients demand that they do that. And we're already seeing that with our in-house clients that they now say to the law firms, "Listen, we use either Teams or we use Slack," or whatever communication method they want. And they kind of say, "You have to come and use our system, otherwise we're going to find a provider that does."

Charlie Uniman:

Not to say that legal tech vendors and the legal tech community haven't done so, I think they have begun to do so, but it's so important to continuously educate end-users about the cloud versus on-prem discussion or debate. And I can understand lawyers' reluctance, traditionally, a bit more conservative and the wheels of justice have to turn sometimes more slowly to make sure things get done right and securely, but there's growing evidence that the cloud is where things are headed with efforts made to increase security and privacy. So, good. Before we turn to some of the words of wisdom aspects of the podcast, your target market, as I adverted to earlier, is where? I think I gather from the website, private law firms, but also in-house departments.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, it's very much a combination of both. And I think the way that that works is for the larger law firms or larger corporate legal departments, I would say that we have a much better fit with our Microsoft Word add-in just because they already have, let's say the larger tools, certainly on the contract review side, or they've procured very specialist tools for their big projects, which means that our advantage of being a very flexible tool that can adapt to different use cases isn't as relevant in the very, very large firms or large corporate legal departments, but our Word add-in definitely is. Whereas our, I guess you could call it the sweet spot for the full suite of our products is very much, I mean, you could describe as the mid-market-

Charlie Uniman:

Sure.

Tom Dunlop:

... but that kind of law firm that maybe sits outside of the top 20 or top 50. They might want something that's a bit more flexible, so that's quick reports as well as a project review, as well as that assistance in Microsoft Word. And they don't want to necessarily procure a number of products to do each one. So the mid-market and maybe one to 50 person in-house legal team is definitely a sweet spot for us.

Charlie Uniman:

How long has Summize been in existence and actively marketing its product?

Tom Dunlop:

So in existence about three years. And I think since we've, I guess, more commercialized it, there is more about 18 months of that. I mean, I'd say it got kind of the more, you could call it scalable, the more kind of sales team, marketing team in the company was more on mid last year where we really pushed on the commercial front. And that's resulted in quite a big surge, I guess, in the customer numbers and how we are now scaling up, I guess, you can say both in the UK, but also what's been very, very positive to see is in the US and Australia as well. It seems to be really resonating with both in-house and private practice firms.

Charlie Uniman:

Well, it's quite okay that you took my thunder away a bit there because my next question was where geographically are you targeting? And it sounds from what you just said, that you're looking across the pond to the US. We have a few law firms and in-house departments here that I'm sure could benefit from using your product. And did you say Australia and New Zealand as well, or...

Tom Dunlop:

Yes. It's been kind of an interesting market for us, really. We were on the Allens Linklaters Accelerator. It's their kind of inaugural one, I believe. So one of a few companies on that, and that's been really useful. And I think the Australian market's an interesting one. It's obviously not as big as the US market, but I do think that again, in terms of our products as to how we fit with the certain use cases that we're driving, it seems to have a really good sweet spot with the size of legal departments that you find in Australia, as well as certainly more boutique regional law firms that seem to have a real use case for the product.

So Australia has been a good market. The US is definitely, I would say the big focus area for us. Probably from towards the end of this year, going in to next. I think we're going to really up the ante in terms of our US presence and of marketing activities. But yeah, English-speaking countries right now. We don't have the intention in the short term to really go after multi-language contract reviews. We're sticking to the English language, just to really focus on that for now.

Charlie Uniman:

Well, with hopefully the pandemic lifting, some of the restrictions lifting, if you decide to establish a physical beachhead here in the US, let me recommend my old hometown of New York City, both because there's a lot of talent there and a lot of law firms and corporate departments, obviously, but also because we can then have a drink or two once we-

Tom Dunlop:

I was going to say, I'll reach out. Definitely, I will. Show us the sites, but no, it is definitely going to be East Coast US for that, yeah.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. Wonderful.

Tom Dunlop:

We'll send you an email.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah, please do. Please do. I'm eager to get out. So let's turn to a few questions about legal tech startup management. Any pointers that you believe you can give to our listenership, many of whom are men and women who lead legal tech startups when it comes to two topics that are near and dear to me, marketing and onboarding? Any particular things you've found by way of best practices there in your work?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, I think, I mean, both definitely, I guess, focus areas that we try and really pay attention about what we want to do rather than necessarily look at what's out there because I agree, I think they're two difficult topics that are not done particularly well by just software companies, particularly on the onboarding and adoption side of it.

So, I mean, starting with marketing, I guess the biggest success we've had, I think has actually been when we almost take off our marketing hat and we just really think about what content people want to read or listen to. We think about... We did a series on, for example, creativity in law. I talk a lot about how you could adopt almost like an entrepreneurial mindset within law. I think lawyers are very well set up to be vocal problem-solvers, but obviously, it's very much a risk-based approach first.

I always give an example to answer that question about creatives in law, how can you do it with something I did in a previous company in-house where I noticed that the negotiations of contracts were always taken about... The first three weeks would be the back and forth on red lines by the same five clauses. And you'd kind of waste that time. So I actually recorded a video that I sent with my standard precedent documents to the other side. There was before you do your markups, just understand why I've done what I've done. These are the clauses that are put in. The reason is because the product is X. It does Y. This is why I've done what I've done. And that kind of reduced the procurement time by about three or four weeks in the contract lifecycle. And that was actually free in terms of obviously recording those videos. I think I did it on  Vidyard or something similar.

Well, the reason why I use that as an example is that kind of mindset of being more creative within the role and talking to our customers or prospective customers about that, really resonated with them to the point where we got really engaged with them. And then obviously we can kind of bring in the products, but more in the context of how that might be able to help them in that more creative mindset as a in-house lawyer. So that's been really good for us, just if nothing else, in terms of relationship-building as well, not just from a sales perspective, but just from a getting to know your customers and getting honest feedback about what exactly do they want the product to do, rather than trying to just market product features and just keep throwing them at lawyers, saying, "Look at this great feature, feature, feature," without really understanding what were their specific use cases.

So that's worked well for us from a marketing perspective and that kind of links into our onboarding. We definitely learned a few months back that we started off with a very traditional onboarding model where we just kind of go, look, this is what this feature does. This is what this button does. This is what this button does. And I think we soon realized that to get the best engagement because we answer a few different use cases we needed to pivot. So everything now basically is all use case driven. The products can do a lot of things, but we just say, "If you could solve one problem today, one thing with this product, and it might be something quite small, what would it be? What would provide the most value in the next seven days?" And we just do everything we can to get that setup.

And then we'll move on to the next use case and the next one and the next one. But we never really do that standard, you'll get a three-hour onboarding session and then another two hour one, and we'll just take you through the products because we found that it's hard to keep engagement when they don't really have a use case right there and then that they can use it for.

Charlie Uniman:

Indeed. Right. Yeah. I came across a while ago, the idea of progressive onboarding, that is to say, don't throw a bunch of features at lawyers where those features are not usable and relevant right then, but instead, whether it's tooltips or some other mechanism, reveal the features and make the software smart enough to detect what the user wants to do, and then pop up something that explains the feature as they're looking to use it. So I agree with that. I can't resist saying that the words, creative lawyer, it's not an oxymoron. At least I've seen many creative lawyers practice law creatively, but actually be more creative even outside of the practice of law and happily have seen them reach out to use software creatively in their practice. Although I have to say that in my second year of law school, many, many decades ago, I chuckled when someone said that the law sharpens your mind by narrowing it. So I think we, selling legal tech software have to be aware of that and have to help broaden the lawyer's mind when it comes to receptivity to software use.

Yeah. I think those are excellent pieces of advice as far as marketing and onboarding go. In a little write-up we did ahead of time and if you haven't had a chance to address this, that's fine, is there something about running the business that you, Tom, or you, Dave have been most particularly proud of that you can share with our listeners?

Tom Dunlop:

I think from... I'm sorry and, Dave, sorry, for my just coming in first and all, but-

David Smith:

Go for it.

Tom Dunlop:

Probably the biggest thing that I'm, and this is almost a bit backwards. It's not a business achievement as such, but the culture that we've managed to, I guess, cultivate in the company. I mean, bear in mind that when this started, this was... And Dave will probably have scarred memories of my walk over to him in the office to say, "Dave, I've got an idea."

Charlie Uniman:

Oh, yeah. Dangerous words. Right.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, exactly. He says he still has nightmares about that day. But from then, I mean, me and Dave were very passionate about this problem we were solving and the technology we were developing to do it. And we were like, "This is going to be amazing. This can be the biggest thing," particularly because I was the client. So it was a very high hurdle in many ways because I was designing a product that I was kind of like, "No, I wouldn't use that. Not good enough."

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

Dave had probably gone crying his beer again and just be like, "When will it ever be good enough?" But then from there, we managed to cultivate this kind of culture where we've adopted that continuous improvement, Kaizen culture-

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

... stemming back from a bit of my sporting days in some ways and about how that's kind of crept into the culture. But the passion that our company and our staff have to really drive this concept that we, I guess, came up with a few years ago in a chance conversation and how we've got this team of people who are driving that vision and really, really passionate about it, it's definitely, probably for me the biggest thing I'm proud of just because it's amazing when you don't have to drive the energy. We've got this Australian Accelerator where we've got calls from 11:00 PM, midnight to 03:00, 4:00 AM doing masterclasses. And Dave has been, our CTO, our revenue director. We've had all of them involved and it's just because they're really passionate about the product. So yeah, definitely, from my point of view, that's the biggest thing.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. That's an achievement that will pay enormous dividends and of which you should be rightfully proud. Well, before we sign off, let me ask you to tell our listenership what the best way is if they want to learn more about Summize to either reach one or both of you or get in touch with the company and how to find out more about it online.

Tom Dunlop:

Definitely. So, I mean, our website is always a good place for information, obviously summize.com. We're quite active on LinkedIn. So we obviously have a page there on LinkedIn. I'm on there and obviously, Dave's on there. And our emails are also really easy to remember them. We always have some conversations about legal tech and really discuss the industry. So it's basically [email protected] or [email protected]

Charlie Uniman:

Very simple.

Tom Dunlop:

So quite easy to remember. So yeah, that's the best way to contact us.

Charlie Uniman:

Well, and thank you. Have a wonderful bit of information from you. For our listenership on startup management, of course, I'm delighted to offer the opportunity to talk about Summize as we did and learn about your backgrounds. As I've said so many times in the last year, soon, I hope we can meet in real life. Have drinks either over in England or here in the States. I look forward to that. And of course, I want to conclude by thanking you both very much for being guests on the podcast and imparting the information and wisdom.

Tom Dunlop:

Thanks a lot. Thanks for having us.

David Smith:

Yeah, thanks for having us.

Charlie Uniman:

Okay. Again, pleasure was all mine.

Thank you for listening to the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast. And remember, if you're interested in legal tech startups and enjoyed this podcast, please become a member of the free Legal Tech StartUp Focus community by signing up at www.legaltechstartupfocus.com.

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Legal Tech StartUp Focus

By
Summize
April 7, 2021

Transcript

Charlie Uniman:

Hello, and welcome to the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast. I'm your podcast host Charlie Uniman. On this podcast, I'll be interviewing the people who build, invest in, comment on, and use the apps made by legal tech startups. My guests and I will be discussing many different startup-related topics covering among other things, startup management and startup life, startup investing, pricing and revenue models, and the factors that affect how users decide to purchase legal tech.

We're not going to focus on legal tech per se. Instead, we'll be focusing on the startups that develop, market and sell their tech. So whether you're a startup founder or investor, a lawyer or other legal professional, or a law professor, law student, or commentator who thinks about legal tech startups, sit back, listen, and learn from my guests about just what it takes for legal tech startups to succeed. And if you're interested in legal tech startups and enjoy this podcast, please become a member of the free Legal Tech StartUp Focus community by signing up at www.legaltechstartupfocus.com.

Hello, everyone. This is Charlie Uniman, your host of the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast. And let me introduce two of the leadership of Summize, a legal tech startup based in the UK in Manchester. I'm going to be talking to Tom Dunlop, who is the CEO and a co-founder of Summize, and Dave Smith, also a co-founder and the Chief Data Officer. I take it, I've gotten the expansion of CDO, Dave.

David Smith:

Chief Development Officer.

Charlie Uniman:

Oh, development. You know, I wondered about that. I went with data, but it's development officer. Okay. So my apologies, Dave. David, CDO.

David Smith:

That's all right.

Charlie Uniman:

Chief Development Officer. And as we've done with previous podcasts, I'm going to give first Tom and then Dave, a chance to describe briefly what their professional journey has been, that resulted in their co-founding Summize. So, Tom, why don't you start, please?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, of course. Thanks, Charlie. It's a pleasure to be on the podcast. Thanks for having us. So yeah, I mean, I guess in terms of my background, I guess it's becoming more and more common for legal tech companies. There's no surprise that I was formally a lawyer. So I was a lawyer that had trained in kind of private practice law firms and then moved as an in-house lawyer quite early on in my career. And I think the last three companies that I worked for, which are kind of the most relevant, were all technology or software businesses.

So I acted as GC Legal Director, usually with quite small teams in those kind of scaleup tech and software businesses, which was obviously a great environment to be around in terms of just seeing innovation, I guess, happen firsthand, but also from a legal perspective. The businesses themselves really challenge you as a lawyer to be more creative and kind of get a bit more into that creative mindset, which is essentially when I guess I would say I started to look at the things I was doing day to day, looking at the tools elsewhere and very much kind of how Summize as a concept was born. So yeah, very much background as a lawyer, mainly in-house and in tech prior to making the leap and setting up Summize.

Charlie Uniman:

Very good. Well, the lawyer to legal tech senior leader is, as you said, not an unusual one and it often enables the startup to get a head start with people who know what it's like to be on the front line, practising law and had some itches to scratch when it came to using technology to practice better. Dave, how about your background?

David Smith:

Yeah, I've been in software development for, well, I'm trying to think now, probably around about 30 years. So I've worked in a variety of technologies, a variety of companies, and it was just one of those chance meetings with Tom that got me into legal tech. He was asking me about how we could perhaps solve a problem about getting contracts into a state where we could review them automatically through some form of software process. And that's really how I ended up starting to develop the application. So I worked with Tom for quite a while getting the base program developed. And we've taken it on from there.

Charlie Uniman:

I have to ask since you had just said that you had been in the software development side of things for quite a while, is it different in some sense, designing software for lawyers, that lawyers are going to use? I often joke that lawyers have an incredible attention span when they're working on their work as lawyers, but when it comes to things like learning how to use a piece of software, they more often demonstrate the attention span of a banana. I say that of myself and as well as some of the lawyers that I've met. Any difference in dealing with software for lawyers?

David Smith:

I don't think there's too much of a difference, but I think like with any particular end-user of software, they want something that's going to be easy to use, flexible. And that's what we try to do with the Summize product.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. We'll get into onboarding a little bit later, but certainly one of the keys to onboarding a challenge that most legal tech startups face is grabbing the attention of lawyers and allied professionals who are very, very busy doing what they do as lawyers and those professionals and getting them to as intuitively as possible to get up the learning curve to use the software. But we'll talk about that a little bit later in the podcast.

So now I want to get to one of the two remaining main events. And again, as we've done in the past, I'd like to give the podcast guests a chance to puff out their chests and talk a little bit about the tools that they've designed and made available to practising lawyers. So you can decide how you want to handle it. Talk between yourselves, the two of you. But I'd like to get an idea for our audience of what Summize does, what its target market is. Is it private law firms, is it in-house legal departments, both, any other target markets? And very much what it is within the markets that you're addressing, distinguishes Summize and as I like to call it, makes for Summize's secret or special sauce. So let's talk about your product.

Tom Dunlop:

Yep. No, sounds good. So, I mean, I think the best way to introduce, I guess, what Summize is and the best way I can describe it is more about the problem that we're looking to solve because essentially what Summize is, it kind of helps solve the low-value manual tasks and frustrations just around contracts generally. So it's all centred very much around the fact that we create instant contract summaries. So that was the original use case, probably more driven on the project review. So if you had due diligence or you had to review a lot of contracts in one go, how could you get up and running very quickly and basically, not just extraction, but actually create a usable summary that you could then provide to other businesses or to clients? So that was the original use case.

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

And I think what we're doing, and I think to kind of go hand in hand with that is everything that we've done had to be, I guess, associated with four things, really. One is that we've tried to make it, well, as easy to use as possible. That's always been a big mantra in the product. The second is time to value because coming back to where the actual product came from, I was a busy lawyer in a software company. We were actually going through an acquisition. I needed a product that could work that week. So to press a big kind of go button on the transaction, I had to then review 500 contracts. I just didn't have time to go and train a system or go through a lengthy procurement and change implementation plan. I just had to get going that day, really. So that had to kind of flow through to the product because that was my problem.

And then the other side of it, which I think kind of come into that unique part of the product is we've tried to make it very modular because we understand that not everyone has the same use case. So what we've now got as a product and as a platform, all stemming back from that ability to upload a contract, create an instant summary and export is now we work across that contract life cycle. And then the best way to think about it is anything pre signature is done in our Microsoft Word add-in. So we've gone for that approach because our view is that lawyers are in Microsoft Word.

And I think the last 12 months in terms of the increase in adoption of Office 365, of the kind of Teams suites, as well as only cemented the position that Microsoft and Office is here to stay. So we very much tried to augment, I guess, the Word experience in the creation of contracts, in the review of contracts, incorporating playbooks, precedent clauses, and kind of understanding definitions all in one very easy to use tool that you can get up and run it very quickly. So there's that side of it from a kind of pre signature tool.

And then from the post signature perspective, we don't think of ourselves as being a contract management system. We think of ourselves as being kind of an overlay or a an enhancement to existing document management or contract management because we can extract and summarize contracts and extract that information, but we can then do quite clever things where we plug that into existing communication tools, for example, Teams and Slack.

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

And we have integrations into those so that you can actually ask a question of your contracts, for example, how do I get paid or when can I end my contract with this person through Slack or Teams, and then we can serve up the answer because we can basically extract that information. And then we can kind of turn that into an answer to a question basically. So there's that kind of post signature quite, I guess, intelligent part of the product all stemming from our instant summaries, but then we really try and push that information out to where the end-user already lives. That might be Teams, that might be Slack, might be Google Chrome, might be a mobile phone, but we're not trying to create this kind of concept of this end to end platform where we're trying to get users to come and adopt our platform, opposed to, I guess, the more standard business tools that they use.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. I was going to say, go where the lawyers are.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah.

Charlie Uniman:

And where they are is in Office 365. I can't disagree with that. Anything else before I pepper you with a few questions?

Tom Dunlop:

No, I mean, I think we’ll get into the questions. I think we'll get into some of the detail. I think the key call-outs really, the key question, and I know this comes up places. I mean, there's a lot of contract review tools-

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

... a lot of contract-based tools and it is all about how are we different or how do we differentiate ourselves? And that's where I come back to those four points, really. The fact that we can essentially set like parts of the product, which just says your use case if you want project reviews, we've got a tool that allows you to manage dashboards of a project review and obviously summarize the contracts for instruction. But if you need us in the pre signature basis, then you can just have our Microsoft Word add-in and you can pick and choose almost a bit like a pick and mix. And the regular feedback we get is all about that ease of use and time to value. Our usual implementation times, I know we'll get into this into more detail, but we can usually, well, we have got customers up in a day prior to their due diligence or a project review. So that time to value is another huge part of the product.

Charlie Uniman:

No, if you can distinguish yourself that way, that is a great way to be distinguishable. So the technology that you're using, I trust it's some sort of machine learning NLP type tech. Is that correct?

Tom Dunlop:

So it's... I mean, I've just come in to answer this question. I think Dave will provide a much more eloquent answer. But what we kind of start off with and the reason we didn't... We do have NLP and machine learning in the product, but that's not the way that you can get going on day one. So we have more of an algorithm-based technology. The best way to describe it, it's about ranking how relevant particular words, sentences, paragraphs are for each clause. And what we essentially do is almost build a Google Search, where what we do is we provide the best run paragraph. We can extract information from that, but then we also give you that subset of relevant other paragraphs that we think you should look at and they're all marked by priority order.

So the benefit of that, and you have complete control over doing that yourself and designing that yourself, is that you can design a clause in a couple of minutes. You can get going, and then the machine learning, and then the kind of learning parts of the product kicks in, but as you're using, getting creating summaries. So that'll be from implementation, training time of an NLP engine. Basically, it doesn't happen. It's a bit more subtle in the background and it just means we can get up to speed quicker. But Dave may provide a more eloquent answer than I will now.

David Smith:

I think Tom's covered it quite well there. We don't really focus on machine learning and NLP right from the very off. The moment you set up a brand new tenant, we've got everything there that you need to be able to start working right from the word go. And as you start uploading documents, as you start interacting with the application, that's how it actually pulls the information out and starts feeding information into our data algorithm, which then helps make the results more accurate.

Charlie Uniman:

And does the application run... Well, where does it run it? Is it cloud-based and how do the users expose their documents through the application? Do they upload documents to the cloud? How does that aspect of it work?

David Smith:

There's actually two aspects to it. It is a cloud-based piece of software, and we have the web application, which you can access by logging on through our website, or there's a Word add-in. So the Word add-in does not require you to upload a document. You can use the Word add-in in situ and no data's actively transferred and stored on the application at that point. But if you want to do a document review, sort of like the red flag review kind of activities, then you'd upload the document through the web application of some other means, for example, where we're looking at Teams, Microsoft Teams to upload documents.

Charlie Uniman:

Oh, yeah. Sure. Yep. Well, I could probably spend half a dozen podcasts just talking about the warhorse that people have gone into battle with. And that's the cloud versus on-premises, but we're not going to dwell on that. But if anything has for good or ill come out of the pandemic, I think, I'd be curious to know if you agree that law firms traditionally sceptical of the cloud have grown and in-house legal departments have grown a little less sceptical. Do you agree with that?

Tom Dunlop:

I would definitely agree with that. I think there's been a huge change in behaviour and attitudes towards, I guess, just what I kind of term the virtual office. I think before everything was set up for an in-person office and you just communicated by walking over to someone and speaking to them or using tools over there to facilitate internal chat. But it was probably more to do with, I guess, being physically in the office. I think people would be surprised actually at how well set up the technology is. I mean, I talk about Teams a lot because I feel like it's probably the first real player that has... it feels like it's kind of cracked that virtual office where you've literally got calendar, to-do-list, video conferencing, chats, file storage, the whole office suite all in one tool that you can access anywhere remotely. And it's all secure and you've got everything in one place.

And I think you've got the other players, like obviously Google and Google Drive and Hangouts and everything that's kind of coming together. You can kind of see how this virtual office is genuinely a thing. So yeah, it's really... I think, just to elaborate a bit further on that as to how that's influenced our thinking. Last year, we were going to create this kind of red line experience or this track change experience in products. So take people away from Microsoft Word, probably try and drive them into our experience. But then you start to see the adoption numbers of Office 365 and Teams and kind of that whole suite. And you think, well, actually this is becoming almost too big to ignore and to try and fight against in some ways. So very much kind of augment what people are already doing rather than kind of, I guess, contradict it or try and go up against it.

So yeah, there's definitely been a big change in attitude and adoption. And I think if the law firms aren't doing that, I think it won't be long before clients demand that they do that. And we're already seeing that with our in-house clients that they now say to the law firms, "Listen, we use either Teams or we use Slack," or whatever communication method they want. And they kind of say, "You have to come and use our system, otherwise we're going to find a provider that does."

Charlie Uniman:

Not to say that legal tech vendors and the legal tech community haven't done so, I think they have begun to do so, but it's so important to continuously educate end-users about the cloud versus on-prem discussion or debate. And I can understand lawyers' reluctance, traditionally, a bit more conservative and the wheels of justice have to turn sometimes more slowly to make sure things get done right and securely, but there's growing evidence that the cloud is where things are headed with efforts made to increase security and privacy. So, good. Before we turn to some of the words of wisdom aspects of the podcast, your target market, as I adverted to earlier, is where? I think I gather from the website, private law firms, but also in-house departments.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, it's very much a combination of both. And I think the way that that works is for the larger law firms or larger corporate legal departments, I would say that we have a much better fit with our Microsoft Word add-in just because they already have, let's say the larger tools, certainly on the contract review side, or they've procured very specialist tools for their big projects, which means that our advantage of being a very flexible tool that can adapt to different use cases isn't as relevant in the very, very large firms or large corporate legal departments, but our Word add-in definitely is. Whereas our, I guess you could call it the sweet spot for the full suite of our products is very much, I mean, you could describe as the mid-market-

Charlie Uniman:

Sure.

Tom Dunlop:

... but that kind of law firm that maybe sits outside of the top 20 or top 50. They might want something that's a bit more flexible, so that's quick reports as well as a project review, as well as that assistance in Microsoft Word. And they don't want to necessarily procure a number of products to do each one. So the mid-market and maybe one to 50 person in-house legal team is definitely a sweet spot for us.

Charlie Uniman:

How long has Summize been in existence and actively marketing its product?

Tom Dunlop:

So in existence about three years. And I think since we've, I guess, more commercialized it, there is more about 18 months of that. I mean, I'd say it got kind of the more, you could call it scalable, the more kind of sales team, marketing team in the company was more on mid last year where we really pushed on the commercial front. And that's resulted in quite a big surge, I guess, in the customer numbers and how we are now scaling up, I guess, you can say both in the UK, but also what's been very, very positive to see is in the US and Australia as well. It seems to be really resonating with both in-house and private practice firms.

Charlie Uniman:

Well, it's quite okay that you took my thunder away a bit there because my next question was where geographically are you targeting? And it sounds from what you just said, that you're looking across the pond to the US. We have a few law firms and in-house departments here that I'm sure could benefit from using your product. And did you say Australia and New Zealand as well, or...

Tom Dunlop:

Yes. It's been kind of an interesting market for us, really. We were on the Allens Linklaters Accelerator. It's their kind of inaugural one, I believe. So one of a few companies on that, and that's been really useful. And I think the Australian market's an interesting one. It's obviously not as big as the US market, but I do think that again, in terms of our products as to how we fit with the certain use cases that we're driving, it seems to have a really good sweet spot with the size of legal departments that you find in Australia, as well as certainly more boutique regional law firms that seem to have a real use case for the product.

So Australia has been a good market. The US is definitely, I would say the big focus area for us. Probably from towards the end of this year, going in to next. I think we're going to really up the ante in terms of our US presence and of marketing activities. But yeah, English-speaking countries right now. We don't have the intention in the short term to really go after multi-language contract reviews. We're sticking to the English language, just to really focus on that for now.

Charlie Uniman:

Well, with hopefully the pandemic lifting, some of the restrictions lifting, if you decide to establish a physical beachhead here in the US, let me recommend my old hometown of New York City, both because there's a lot of talent there and a lot of law firms and corporate departments, obviously, but also because we can then have a drink or two once we-

Tom Dunlop:

I was going to say, I'll reach out. Definitely, I will. Show us the sites, but no, it is definitely going to be East Coast US for that, yeah.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. Wonderful.

Tom Dunlop:

We'll send you an email.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah, please do. Please do. I'm eager to get out. So let's turn to a few questions about legal tech startup management. Any pointers that you believe you can give to our listenership, many of whom are men and women who lead legal tech startups when it comes to two topics that are near and dear to me, marketing and onboarding? Any particular things you've found by way of best practices there in your work?

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, I think, I mean, both definitely, I guess, focus areas that we try and really pay attention about what we want to do rather than necessarily look at what's out there because I agree, I think they're two difficult topics that are not done particularly well by just software companies, particularly on the onboarding and adoption side of it.

So, I mean, starting with marketing, I guess the biggest success we've had, I think has actually been when we almost take off our marketing hat and we just really think about what content people want to read or listen to. We think about... We did a series on, for example, creativity in law. I talk a lot about how you could adopt almost like an entrepreneurial mindset within law. I think lawyers are very well set up to be vocal problem-solvers, but obviously, it's very much a risk-based approach first.

I always give an example to answer that question about creatives in law, how can you do it with something I did in a previous company in-house where I noticed that the negotiations of contracts were always taken about... The first three weeks would be the back and forth on red lines by the same five clauses. And you'd kind of waste that time. So I actually recorded a video that I sent with my standard precedent documents to the other side. There was before you do your markups, just understand why I've done what I've done. These are the clauses that are put in. The reason is because the product is X. It does Y. This is why I've done what I've done. And that kind of reduced the procurement time by about three or four weeks in the contract lifecycle. And that was actually free in terms of obviously recording those videos. I think I did it on  Vidyard or something similar.

Well, the reason why I use that as an example is that kind of mindset of being more creative within the role and talking to our customers or prospective customers about that, really resonated with them to the point where we got really engaged with them. And then obviously we can kind of bring in the products, but more in the context of how that might be able to help them in that more creative mindset as a in-house lawyer. So that's been really good for us, just if nothing else, in terms of relationship-building as well, not just from a sales perspective, but just from a getting to know your customers and getting honest feedback about what exactly do they want the product to do, rather than trying to just market product features and just keep throwing them at lawyers, saying, "Look at this great feature, feature, feature," without really understanding what were their specific use cases.

So that's worked well for us from a marketing perspective and that kind of links into our onboarding. We definitely learned a few months back that we started off with a very traditional onboarding model where we just kind of go, look, this is what this feature does. This is what this button does. This is what this button does. And I think we soon realized that to get the best engagement because we answer a few different use cases we needed to pivot. So everything now basically is all use case driven. The products can do a lot of things, but we just say, "If you could solve one problem today, one thing with this product, and it might be something quite small, what would it be? What would provide the most value in the next seven days?" And we just do everything we can to get that setup.

And then we'll move on to the next use case and the next one and the next one. But we never really do that standard, you'll get a three-hour onboarding session and then another two hour one, and we'll just take you through the products because we found that it's hard to keep engagement when they don't really have a use case right there and then that they can use it for.

Charlie Uniman:

Indeed. Right. Yeah. I came across a while ago, the idea of progressive onboarding, that is to say, don't throw a bunch of features at lawyers where those features are not usable and relevant right then, but instead, whether it's tooltips or some other mechanism, reveal the features and make the software smart enough to detect what the user wants to do, and then pop up something that explains the feature as they're looking to use it. So I agree with that. I can't resist saying that the words, creative lawyer, it's not an oxymoron. At least I've seen many creative lawyers practice law creatively, but actually be more creative even outside of the practice of law and happily have seen them reach out to use software creatively in their practice. Although I have to say that in my second year of law school, many, many decades ago, I chuckled when someone said that the law sharpens your mind by narrowing it. So I think we, selling legal tech software have to be aware of that and have to help broaden the lawyer's mind when it comes to receptivity to software use.

Yeah. I think those are excellent pieces of advice as far as marketing and onboarding go. In a little write-up we did ahead of time and if you haven't had a chance to address this, that's fine, is there something about running the business that you, Tom, or you, Dave have been most particularly proud of that you can share with our listeners?

Tom Dunlop:

I think from... I'm sorry and, Dave, sorry, for my just coming in first and all, but-

David Smith:

Go for it.

Tom Dunlop:

Probably the biggest thing that I'm, and this is almost a bit backwards. It's not a business achievement as such, but the culture that we've managed to, I guess, cultivate in the company. I mean, bear in mind that when this started, this was... And Dave will probably have scarred memories of my walk over to him in the office to say, "Dave, I've got an idea."

Charlie Uniman:

Oh, yeah. Dangerous words. Right.

Tom Dunlop:

Yeah, exactly. He says he still has nightmares about that day. But from then, I mean, me and Dave were very passionate about this problem we were solving and the technology we were developing to do it. And we were like, "This is going to be amazing. This can be the biggest thing," particularly because I was the client. So it was a very high hurdle in many ways because I was designing a product that I was kind of like, "No, I wouldn't use that. Not good enough."

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

Dave had probably gone crying his beer again and just be like, "When will it ever be good enough?" But then from there, we managed to cultivate this kind of culture where we've adopted that continuous improvement, Kaizen culture-

Charlie Uniman:

Right.

Tom Dunlop:

... stemming back from a bit of my sporting days in some ways and about how that's kind of crept into the culture. But the passion that our company and our staff have to really drive this concept that we, I guess, came up with a few years ago in a chance conversation and how we've got this team of people who are driving that vision and really, really passionate about it, it's definitely, probably for me the biggest thing I'm proud of just because it's amazing when you don't have to drive the energy. We've got this Australian Accelerator where we've got calls from 11:00 PM, midnight to 03:00, 4:00 AM doing masterclasses. And Dave has been, our CTO, our revenue director. We've had all of them involved and it's just because they're really passionate about the product. So yeah, definitely, from my point of view, that's the biggest thing.

Charlie Uniman:

Yeah. That's an achievement that will pay enormous dividends and of which you should be rightfully proud. Well, before we sign off, let me ask you to tell our listenership what the best way is if they want to learn more about Summize to either reach one or both of you or get in touch with the company and how to find out more about it online.

Tom Dunlop:

Definitely. So, I mean, our website is always a good place for information, obviously summize.com. We're quite active on LinkedIn. So we obviously have a page there on LinkedIn. I'm on there and obviously, Dave's on there. And our emails are also really easy to remember them. We always have some conversations about legal tech and really discuss the industry. So it's basically [email protected] or [email protected]

Charlie Uniman:

Very simple.

Tom Dunlop:

So quite easy to remember. So yeah, that's the best way to contact us.

Charlie Uniman:

Well, and thank you. Have a wonderful bit of information from you. For our listenership on startup management, of course, I'm delighted to offer the opportunity to talk about Summize as we did and learn about your backgrounds. As I've said so many times in the last year, soon, I hope we can meet in real life. Have drinks either over in England or here in the States. I look forward to that. And of course, I want to conclude by thanking you both very much for being guests on the podcast and imparting the information and wisdom.

Tom Dunlop:

Thanks a lot. Thanks for having us.

David Smith:

Yeah, thanks for having us.

Charlie Uniman:

Okay. Again, pleasure was all mine.

Thank you for listening to the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast. And remember, if you're interested in legal tech startups and enjoyed this podcast, please become a member of the free Legal Tech StartUp Focus community by signing up at www.legaltechstartupfocus.com.

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