Towards A More Accurate Listing of Legal Tech Startups

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A recent post of mine drew a lot of attention for stating that the number of legal startups had nearly tripled in two years. Relying on the Angel List roster of legal startups, I observed that the number had grown from 412 two years ago to 1,094 as of the date of my post, reflecting nearly threefold growth. (Just since my post, another nine companies were added to the list.)

Over at Associate’s Mind, Keith Lee did what I should have done. He took a closer look at the Angel List roster. He found that it includes some companies that no longer exist. Worse, it includes entities that clearly are not startups, such as law firms, private investigators and notaries.

Prompted by Keith’s post, I conducted my own review of the Angel List. It confirmed that the list contains many entities that shouldn’t be there. In fact, after I removed the junk from the list, I had whittled it down to just 375 actual startups.

At the same time, however, the Angel List omits companies that should be there. Just off the top of my head, I added some companies that I noticed were missing, bringing the list up to 408 companies.

Keith’s conclusion was that there is not an explosion in legal technology. The fact of the matter is, his conclusion is no more valid than its opposite. All we really know is that the Angel List is not a reliable data set on which to base any conclusion. It is not reliable today and it most likely was not two years ago when I took the baseline number.

In short, bad data tells us nothing, positive or negative, about the true extent of the growth in legal technology startups over the last two years.

A List of My Own

So, in the interest of having a more accurate list of legal technology startups, I decided to build my own. And I’m asking for your help.

I’ve added a page to this blog where I’ve embedded a spreadsheet listing the names of legal technology startups. I created this list by removing the junk from the Angel List list and then adding names I noticed missing from the list. I’m sure there are still many companies missing from the list and there’s probably also still some junk in there.

Please help me. If you know of a company that is missing from this list, please let me know and I will add it. Likewise, if you see a listing that shouldn’t be there, let me know and I’ll remove it.

Some notes about this:

  • What is a startup and when is a startup no longer a startup? I don’t know that there is a universal definition. I added Avvo and Clio to the list. Should either still be considered a startup? “A company five years old can still be a startup,” Y Combinator accelerator head Paul Graham told Forbes. “Ten [years old] would start to be a stretch.” That same Forbes article quotes Warby Parker co-CEO Neil Blumenthal: “A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.” I like that.
  • Keith’s post criticized the Angel List for including companies that are now closed. On my list, I’ve left the companies that have closed or been acquired, noting this in the Status column. The fact of the matter is that many startups fail. An accurate picture of legal startups should include those that come and those that go, in my opinion.
  • The list is a work in progress. I plan to add more descriptions and hyperlinks as time allows and to try to keep the list up to date.

Again, if you know of a company that should be on this list, please let me know. (Email me at ambrogi-at-gmail.com.)

Maybe this will give us a more accurate picture of what’s really happening with legal technology startups.

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  • Sarah

    Personally, I wouldn’t get so bogged down in the definition of “start-up”. I think an accurate listing of all legal tech companies/organizations working in the new law space (and monitoring change within) can be valuable. For example, Fastcase is far from being a start-up age wise, but they are doing innovative things with legal data visualizations that will push change in the legal research landscape.

    • Bob Ambrogi

      I agree with you. My intent is not to get bogged down by definitions. I raised the point only because I know there are many different ideas about what constitutes a startup. At the same time, however, “doing innovative things” isn’t a definition. Even old-line, well-established companies sometimes do innovative things.

  • Legalcomplex

    Dear Robert,

    I support your cause and like to add a few notes:

    – My friend over at Lawhackers.co is also working on a more accurate listing of legal tech startups since 2014, I recommend you go check it out

    – I have been aggregating the numbers from Angellist Legal and Legal Tech since last years to create charts and monitor growth. As you, I discovered early that Angel listing is a bad predictor but is the closest proxy we have. Example: in December 2015, there were about 20 startups but only 1 real legal tech startup. The rest were law firms, consultants or marketplaces. See more charts here: https://www.legalcomplex.com/blog/2015/12/29/legal-startups-charts/

    – Moreover, when registering at AngelList, you are allowed to add multiple tags per startup e.g. legal and legal tech which makes it difficult to count each.

    – Besides Angel.co, there are more sources for finding startups, I listed some here: https://www.legalcomplex.com/blog/2015/12/30/2015-year-in-review-the-cool-the-beautiful-and-the-intelligent/

    – About the definitions: I also uncovered that looking at legal startups, we may be too focus on “legal”. There are many startups out there solving ‘legal’ problems that we may not consider being legal startups e.g. Blockchain startups. Here you will find a list of about 110 alternative legal startups on Product Hunt: https://www.producthunt.com/@legalcomplex:disqus /collections/legal-tech-hunt

    In closing, as you, I felt the need to find more legal startups since there are more in the rest of the world compared to the just the US (see 2015 in review post). So we set up a global network of passionate legal pioneers to find the startups, stories and stars in legal tech and civic tech. We now cover UK, Netherlands, Germany, India, China, Middle East and South America.

    Check us out at: @Legalpioneer

    • Bob Ambrogi

      Very helpful information. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Shermin

    Thank you for sharing Robert. May I bring your attention to http://www.dragonlaw.com.hk – one of Asia’s legal tech pioneers (now in Singapore and Hong Kong).

  • Linda Levy

    Robert,

    Thank you so much for compiling this list of legal startups.

    We are looking for legal startups to partner with at Best Esq, http://bestesq.com/ , and this list will prove invaluable. If anyone is interested in partnering, please reach out to me via our website.

    Thanks Again,

    Linda Levy
    BestEsq.com

    • Jon Anders

      Linda, your “Contact Us” at bestesq.com appears to be malfunctioning at this time.

      QuaeroLex Desktop Organizer (QDO) is, by all accounts, a new and unique software solution designed exclusively to assist practitioners in efficient management and effective analysis of legal research and other case-specific supporting materials (e.g., expert reports, transcripts, etc).

      QDO is preparing for market entry, slated for July. Videos are available at our website (nearing completion and final checks). We would be interested in learning more about your suggestion of partnering with legal startups.

      website:
      http://www.QuaeroLex.net

  • I would also suggest that companies that still have a VERY significant amount of VC money still invested — are startups. This would include Avvo, Clio and Axiom.

  • Robert, great blog and we strongly support your idea about building a comprehensive list. We will send you an email to we can proudly feature on your list. If you would like to interview our founders or need comments on artificial intelligence, the role of technology in law, machine learning, trademark searching/watching etc…. we’d be more than happy to help

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