Legal Techie: Daniel Lewis
Combining Art and Science to Create Better Law
I caught up with inspirational Daniel Lewis, founder of Ravel, to talk about why he decided to start Ravel and looking into the future for b2b legal tech.
Daniel founding Ravel, along with co-founder Nik Reed, while he was still at Stanford Law School. He started it because he “wanted lawyers to be able to research and make strategic decisions with advanced data”, because lawyers were trailing other industries by a large margin in the sophistication of the tools they were using. For example, one of the main reasons WordPerfect is still in existence today is because the US court system still requires WordPerfect format in many jurisdictions.
Small history lesson: WordPerfect was released in 1982 and has not changed in substance. 1982! Ok back to Daniel.
Daniel’s vision was to combine the art of law with the science of prediction to create even better lawyers and legal advice. Daniel has achieved just that. Ravel was acquired by LexisNexis in 2017 and it is now integrated into Lexis’ product offering to Lexis’ millions of customers.
So, what does he see next for the b2b legal tech industry?
He sees two roads to innovation - organic incremental innovation that may or may not change the landscape or innovation because of “an external pressure that becomes so strong that [things] have to change” .
He sees the vast majority of legal tech business as delivering incremental innovation. Valuable innovation, with great b2b legal tech business built on those innovations, but not substantially changing the landscape of b2b legal services.
Ultimately the biggest roadblock for true disruptive innovations are the regulation restrictions and incentive structures of the b2b legal space. Daniel thinks that “if those rules change, the opportunities for legal tech are massive.” But, it may just take the strength of the big 4 gorillas to start competing on the American stage for law firms to change their tune and start begging the regulators to untether them, so they can compete.
Currently, America is trailing the world in allowing its law firms and legal tech start-ups to use non-partnership business models to deliver legal services. The UK and Australia have been very successful in legal tech since relaxing the regulations, allowing for non-lawyers to profit-share with lawyers. Both countries now have thriving legal tech scenes, which way outperform the US considering the size of their overall legal markets. The big 4 are also thriving in those new regulatory environments.
So where are the opportunities for b2b legal tech companies? If you are founder in the US, you have an opportunity to artfully skate the regulations and find ways to innovate the delivery of legal services before the firms do it themselves. If you are a founder outside the US, especially the UK and Australia, you have the time to grow and the opportunity to expand into the US the moment the regulations allow you to do it.
Do you think that success for b2b legal tech businesses is possible in this environment? I would love to hear what you think!
Who is Daniel most inspired by? Eddie Hartman - co-founder of LegalZoom and the OG of legal tech start-ups, who is pushing regulatory change with determination and logic, and Ed Walters - CEO of Fastcase, who is an incredible supporter of all new startups in the legal tech space.