Dentons and Nextlaw labs: what’s next?

Europe is a hotbed for legal innovation, which is why we set out on our road trip to get the latest on how startups are changing this industry for the better. Berlin is one of the key centres for LawTech in Europe, and it’s also where you’ll find some of the key minds behind Nextlaw Labs.

Dentons launched Nextlaw Labs back in 2015 as the world’s first business accelerator dedicated to the legal vertical. It’s been partnering with exciting startups in Silicon Valley, Europe and beyond ever since. We caught up with Julien Lassala, European Innovation Assistant at Dentons, to find out the latest.


LG: Hi! Can you tell us a bit about the innovation department and your collaboration with Nextlaw labs?

Julien: Sure. Nextlaw labs is fully owned by Dentons, but it operates autonomously around the world and is based in Silicon Valley. Lately it has been focused on the US, Canada and the UK, but our remit here is to bring innovation in any way we can to Europe. Our mission is to help Dentons as well – we aim to serve all the global regions, not just the ones that are already so advanced. One of our goals is to bring these worlds together.


LG: How are the US and European startup cultures different?

Julien: Some of the European startups don’t have the culture of the pitch in the same way US startups do. There are some biases in this, which we try to find out and look at more closely – the language around pitching for starters, without even getting to the technology yet. It’s not always obvious to startups how to approach pitches, so communication is a big part of it.


LG: On the other hand, are there advantages that the European startups have?

One of the main advantages of Europe is the diversity of the countries – startups in Europe understand they have to address the domestic market and then expand later on. Whereas in the US they try to start out as global and scaleable. It can be easier to work with European startups, in that they understand local specifics and increase incrementally. But that’s a double-edged sword – sometimes you want something immediately scaleable.


LG: How are Nextlaw’s investments going?

Julien: We have 11 investments so far. The first one was Ross, which is a big tech partnership with IBM, and great strategy and position for Nextlaw labs. Generally we try to work towards the pain points of the clients. That’s how we came to Libryo. Libryo’s our second UK investment – after Apperio, which helps general counsels to provide more fee transparency to their clients. Libryo became part of our portfolio as a result of the first global callout for legal tech startup we did in collaboration with Seedcamp, a London based accelerator. Libryo is half UK, half South African and the product provides regulatory updates on every kind of legal environment a user might face. We know this is a service that our clients lack – they’d like more updates on a real-time basis.


LG: What exciting tech is coming to the fore in Europe at the moment?

Julien: The different hubs bring their different solutions, visions and approaches, such as France, the Netherlands or Russia for example who have a strong legal tech scene.In Ukraine there’s also a blooming scene with a lot of ideas around complex statistical and analytical tools.The UK and Germany are doing great around AI, with interesting analytics tools which can be applied to automated due diligence for example. And legal product management is a growth area too.


LG: What’s it like when startups and large law firms come together?

Julien: We try to keep it as autonomous as possible, copying the US, with a think-fast-move-fast kind of model that’s very responsive. When we bring that to law firms of this size, obviously it’s very different. From the corporate side we have a more complex environment than startups – as opposed to startups where you’re dealing with two people or five people. The mindset is very different – big law firms want to be sure that every step is safe and secure before making any decision, and startups take more risks. But we’re finding law firms are happy to have this new mindset.


LG: How are you guys, and the startups you work with, getting the message across to in-house lawyers – that you’re here to help?

Julien: Often people don’t understand what we are about, so we start with educating them, and how to sell this to your clients – what we can do and how we collaborate, so our lawyers are constantly talking to them. Because the clients want to know, and they are asking – what are the innovative solutions? That’s what we’re here to help with.


Catch all our LawTech startup friends at our conference in October.