A Melbourne-founded legal tech startup is making its first big break into global markets with the opening of a new office in London and investment from global consulting group Janders Dean.
LawAdvisor, which has raised more than $1 million to date and is planning to close another round later this year, will launch its platform in the UK in September.
LawAdvisor founder and chief executive Brennan Ong says the startup, which has offices across Australia and a team of 20, including remote staff from around the world, will then grow its operations even further.
“Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong will be in our sights at the end of the year,” Ong tells StartupSmart.
Janders Dean’s involvement in LawAdvisor at this stage is a strategic move for the globally ambitious startup. Ong declined to reveal how much Janders Dean has invested but says it brings the startup’s total funding raised to “well over $1 million”.
“We accepted investment from them because they help law firms and also in-house departments to achieve operational excellence,” he says.
“They said that our technology can easily solve a lot of their problems [and] they give us a lot of knowledge and feedback when it comes to the development of the product.”
To startups planning for world domination, Ong says it’s important to consider resources and sustainable growth.
“The only challenge we’re facing now [with expanding overseas] is we can actually go all out now but we don’t have the right resources to make a full-blown attack yet,” he says.
As a result, he says, the startup has had to make strategic choices in terms of which revenue pathways to pursue and how to launch sustainably without burning cash, while also proving market viability and product demand to attract funding support.
With these considerations, Ong says the UK was the most “common sense launch pad” for the startup’s journey international expansion.
According to Ong, the UK’s legal market is “very similar” to Australia and LawAdvisor works closely with local law firms that have strong connections there.
This provided Ong and his team a vital gateway into the new market by enabling him “to step in the door of major law offices and access their decision makers”.
“Always have confidence and back yourself,” he says.
“Everyone’s going to be telling you different things, everyone will give you their two cents.
“But if it makes sense to you, you’re the closest to the problem and you’re the closest to the company, you know what it can achieve.
“You’re going to learn once you step a foot in the door so just go for it.”
Demand sprouts new vertical
Founded in 2014, LawAdvisor was established as a platform for individuals and businesses to connect with verified legal practitioners.
When the startup officially launched in mid-2015, 50 lawyers signed up in the first month and around 50 questions were answered through the platform. Today, it has 1500 lawyers signed on to the platform, who facilitate around 200 consultations each week.
Ong and his team are now building LawAdvisor Corporate, an extension of the platform to serve multinational firms and big companies.
After testing this on multinational firms in the financial, telecommunications and defence sector in Australia and the UK, Ong says LawAdvisor is actively working to onboard more corporate clients.
“I’ve been speaking with a lot of law firms and partners, [and found they can] easily adapt our current technology and offer it to a lot of their [in-house] clients and procurement teams,” he says.
Ong says it will work in the same way to how individuals use LawAdvisor to find the “right legal information and the most appropriate lawyer” in a time- and cost-effective way.
Janders Dean founder Justin North believes LawAdvisor Corporate will provide a critical solution for legal practitioners who work within large organisations.
“In-house counsel are growing up faster than their private practice siblings in many cases and the arc of maturity requires the support of new tools, techniques, and technology,” North said in a statement.
“There is strong demand from in-house legal teams to approach problems in an inventive and experimental manner and LawAdvisor has proven to be the necessary enabler.”