Legal Geek of the Week: Laura Van Wyngaarden
As featured in Legal Geek.
The likes of Kira Systems and ROSS Intelligence may be the box office names on the Canadian LegalTech scene but there is new strata of start-ups vying for market share.
Whilst Kira Systems – founded well before the word ‘LegalTech’ even existed in 2011 – now counts plenty of Big Law clients, and is boldly moving into new territories, such as India; at home in Ontario, competition is growing with start-ups such as Diligen, Beagle.ai, and Blue J Legal, all thriving.
Legal Geek caught up with Diligen’s COO and co-founder Laura Van Wyngaarden to hear the story behind Diligen – a contract assistant powered by AI that cuts contract review time in half – and its rapid rise.
“The majority of the legal industry is still conducting contract review the old way,” Van Wyngaarden explains to Legal Geek. “It differs per practice area, jurisdiction and law firm of course but right now, tonight, associates will be doing contract review manually, perhaps using digital files rather than stacks of boxes in the basement, but still with a highlighter in hand.”
“But this is changing fast which is exciting. For the people doing the work that process gets less painful and for the client they are getting better quality due diligence, much faster and possibly at a lower price point. Law firms can take on much larger contract review projects and turn that work around far faster for the client than they could without the technology.”
Diligen’s own trajectory of growth supports this notion.
Founded in 2015 by Van Wyngaarden and CEO Konrad Pola, Diligen can point to a 600% revenue growth rate over the past year.
As Van Wyngaarden says: “it’s been phenomenal. The legal community is embracing technology and understanding the need for it whether you are a small law firm, reviewing a few contracts a month, or a big firm reviewing thousands. If you are reviewing contracts full stop, this is something that can help regardless of your size.”
#TBT Laura’s presentation about leveraging human effort through AI from 2016
Catering for companies with varied contract analysis requirements is part of Diligen’s appeal: they offer subscription packages on a month-to-month basis which can be tailored to the volume of contracts you actually review. Yet Van Wyngaarden believes their strongest selling points are “our software’s exceptional speed and accuracy, and it’s intuitiveness – this is something we hear time and time again.”
Whilst possessing competitive advantages over rivals is obviously important, the changing attitude towards technology and AI amongst individual attorneys, law firms, in-house legal teams and beyond is helping to propel Diligen’s rapid growth.
It’s case of being in the right game, at the right time.
And anecdotal evidence suggests as much. Van Wyngaarden told us that “some lawyers we have spoken to see our software and say ‘I spent 9 months of my life in a basement reading contracts in boxes, I wish this had existed and I could get my time back.’ Whilst another client going through a due diligence process said he was able to do what would have equated to a week’s worth of due diligence in an evening. And that just blew his mind.”
Laura Van Wyngaarden is the COO and co-founder of Diligen. She is the former managing director of a Toronto marketing firm, and has an MA from Oxford University.