Legal tech procurement does not exactly have a reputation for being expeditious. Lawyers, being famously detail-oriented, are thorough in the diligence of new software. Law firms take seriously the questions of, “does this solve a real problem?”, “will our lawyers actually use this?”, and “does it meet our security requirements?”
Given lawyers’ predilection for careful diligence, it is exciting when new precedents are set that enable innovative software to pass through a thorough diligence process in a rapid manner.
It appears that Mishcon de Reya and Version Story, a rapidly growing legal tech company that helps lawyers track, compare, and merge multiple document versions, have just set such a precedent. Last week, Mishcon announced that they signed a commercial license with Version Story only a month after Version Story’s completion of the MDR Lab program.
For those of us who follow and are rooting for legal tech, this comes as welcome news. We hear time and again that one of the biggest challenges facing legal tech is the long sales cycle with big law firms, the largest buyers in the space. Does this 30-day sale suggest that things might be changing, and can it provide a lesson for other law firms and legal tech start-ups?
With the dust of the contract now settling, here are our thoughts on what helped speed this deal up: Solve a real problem in a way that does not require widespread behaviour change
Dan Sinclair, Head of MdR Lab, shared his analysis. “At MdR Lab, we think about sales cycles within the context of a simple formulae: Time to sale is a function of product market fit. If you build a product that Lawyers love and want, and your users become your salespeople and champions, deals get done faster.”
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Once the lawyers at Mishcon saw Version Story and had the chance to try it out, many were eager to incorporate it into their daily workflow.
Lucinda Brendan, Managing Associate in the Corporate department commented: “Version Story provides an interactive canvas. You can drag and drop document versions on the canvas, arrange them in order, and draw lines between them to create redlines. To merge multiple versions of the same document, you just select a few versions and click merge. It’s incredibly easy to use and is an effective way to take away the inevitable manual reconciliation exercise that takes place throughout the deal, making my life and my team’s life a lot easier.”
Version Story requires minimal behaviour change, which helped de-risk adoption from Mishcon’s perspective. Oliver Neasham, Managing Associate in the real estate department explained, “Because you can just drag and drop Word and PDF documents on the canvas, my colleague or counterparty does not need to use Version Story for me, individually, to find it useful. As a result, you don’t need everyone to change their behaviour all at once for it to work.”
Use hard data to describe your value
Version Story came equipped with data to validate the software’s value. During their pilot in the MdR Lab, they conducted controlled trials to measure the impact of Version Story. The results were exciting: Version Story made both running batch comparisons, a cost-center for the firm, and also merging documents eight times faster. For merging drafts, the software eliminated an average of three errors per document.
Version Story further supported the business case for adoption with detailed –– and impressive –– usage statistics. They provided Mishcon with application logs showing that 70 Mishcon lawyers had tried Version Story during the pilot. 75% had returned to use the application after onboarding, and almost 20 lawyers had subsequently become weekly active users of the platform. Mishcon lawyers had created nearly 200 version stories, and further had mapped the version relationships between around 1,500 documents.
Kerstin Morgan, Mishcon’s Head of Practice Transformation, explained “”. “We review a lot of tech. And we often find ourselves in discussions afterwards saying, ‘That looked interesting, but what would be the impact?’ These numbers really made an impression.”
Integrate with existing systems, and have an organization that supports new tech
Sales to law firms often draw out because there are additional requirements, aside from the lawyers’ needs, that must be addressed. Both Mishcon and Version Story navigated this process with poise.
During the pilot, it had become apparent that integrating Version Story with iManage would speed adoption for many more lawyers at Mishcon. Mishcon invited Version Story to speak with its lawyers to scope out the requirements for an integration. After confirming requirements, Mishcon and Version Story worked together to quickly get an iManage integration up and running.
Kevin O’Connell, co-founder of Version Story and an M&A lawyer turned software engineer, said, “It bears emphasis that Mishcon had done everything they possibly could to make it simple for us –– and other legal tech companies –– to integrate with their systems.” Mishcon has built a dedicated team of integration experts who know the process from top-to-bottom. They have mapped everything out in advance, from a QA testing process to dashboard tools for staggered deployment among lawyers.
In other words, this sale moved quickly because Mishcon has built a well-oiled machine for bringing on new tech, and Version Story had the engineering chops to take advantage of that opportunity.
Can the 30-day sale become a new precedent?
Every sales process is unique. Mishcon has positioned itself at the forefront of legal tech in a truly extraordinary way. And it would seem that Version Story has assembled a highly skilled team. Nonetheless, this 30-day sales-cycle appears to offer up a few generalizable lessons that other law firms and legal tech companies would do well to heed:
- solve a real problem for lawyers, and solve it well;
- substantiate the value of your software with hard data; and
- integrate with law firms’ existing systems and have a process for onboarding new tech.
As legal tech matures, we hope to see more of this: more law firms eager to put themselves on the cutting edge like Mishcon, more legal tech companies with first-rate execution ability, and more 30-day sales cycles.
As for Version Story and Mishcon, we asked them what comes next.
The answer: more of the same, please.
“At Version Story, we’re eager to connect with every law firm that shares Mishcon’s commitment to improving their lawyers’ work and quality of life with better software.” Kevin shared. “I see more and more firms investing in building the type of organization that can support this, which is exciting.”
Dan Sinclair said:, “We have built an incredible machine to review, procure, and onboard new tech. I would like to see more companies with the capabilities to take advantage of the process we have created.”