Legaltech in Spain | Much to do

  • julio 20, 2016
  • Jorge Morell Ramos

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Last update: To check the most up to date version go to the Spanish edition of the article.

Legaltech in Spain? Let’s start by the beginning

According to Richard Susskind in «The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts» (he is one of the most important gurus about legal innovation in the world), when people have to face a problem, they try to avoid it or contain it before looking for a solution.

Historically, the legal sector has not been very innovative. If truth be told, it didn’t have to be because just a few had access to its pool of knowledge. That reduced competition and made things easier to control. In addition, the legal sector has always been very cautious, avoiding experimentation and waiting for change when almost everyone has already adopted it. Besides, we are talking about an area of expertise with a big focus on the past, the precedent. So, looking forward to the future has never been the usual way to go for the legal sector.

However, that stagnation has become a problem at the end of the day. Obviously, the world around the legal sector did not stop. First of all, the Internet opened up the access to the legal knowledge beyond the usual parties. Furthermore, half of the world is carrying daily a pocket computer known as smartphone. Something that has changed the requirements and requests from consumers.

The answer from the legal sector in the face of this problem has usually been lukewarm. Nevertheless, in the last 5 years something has definitively changed and a new attitude can be observed when talking about this issue. The general idea being that this is something that cannot be avoided or contained anymore.

Then you have those who see the problem as an opportunity to find a solution for the times we are living. And this is where we would say that Legaltech or Legal Technology has been born.

But, what is legaltech? Although there isn’t an official definition and the concept has been evolving the last 5 years, nowadays legatech refers to the use of technology to provide legal services. But not something along the lines of «I use email and send some WhatsAppss». No, today legaltech can be understood as the use of technology on legal services to provide:

  • Software or online services that reduce or remove the need to consult with a lawyer.
  • Software or online services that accelerate the tasks developed by a lawyer or a law firm, reducing the required manpower and/or man-hours.
  • Software or online services that simplify and modify the way lawyers and clients meet.

In other words, nowadays for a lot of people legaltech is synonymous with «Beware, the wolf is coming!». These people see legaltech as something that will introduce legal services that will lessen the need for lawyers, even for tasks such as drafting a contract, analyzing documentation or making a complaint. The idea behind legaltech is that the tasks developed by a lawyer can be split into segments and through technology some of those tasks will be automatic. This way, the need for human intervention is hugely reduced. And if the need for human intervention can be reduced, the same or more will happen with a lawyer.

In case it might help, here you can check a presentation that I did this year about this subject (in Spanish), where some ideas such as automation are explained more in depth:

El Derecho del Futuro: hasta el infinito y más allá from Jorge Morell Ramos («Law of the Future: to Infinity and Beyond»)

Are we talking about science fiction? Absolutely not. Although we could say that legaltech is just taking-off, there are already plenty of examples.

We have bots that solve, with a 64% success rate, more than 160.000 complaints for traffic fines. There are powerful systems of artificial intelligence that can analyze thousands of documents in a few hours (providing good insights). Or even tools that are able to offer legal strategies through the study of jurisprudence.

In light of this situation, there is a recurring question: are the lawyers going to disappear? Of course not (for starters, someone has to train the machine). Having said that, are the lawyers going to lose importance or even diminish in numbers? In my opinion, there is no doubt.

Now that we are up to speed, let’s get to the point, how many projects of legaltech are in Spain? Personally speaking, it is a subject that piqued my interest a few years ago, and since then I’ve been trying to find out. The thing is that although an overview of legaltech in some other countries has been available for quite some time, for example in Germany, I couldn’t find something similar for Spain. So, this post was born.

Although I’ve taken into account dozens of sources, I’m sure that I’ve missed more than a few projects. Therefore, my idea is to update the post, and specially the interactive content such as the chart and map, as soon as I find out about new legaltech projects in Spain.

Overview of legaltech in Spain

First of all, let’s start with the initiatives that are trying to promote legaltech in Spain.

In the last year and a half there have been more than a few. Some of them to provide different legal services, others to help on specific areas, to promote the concept and stimulate debate.

Last year we had our first Legal Hackathon in Spain, in Bilbao. One of its results was something very related to legaltech, the project M3trify. The «sequel» to the Legal Hackathon would arrive a few months later in Barcelona. It again produced an interesting project such as Lawyer Survivor. Along the same lines, we also had the chance to enjoy the JustiApps event. At the end of the day, these initiatives want to show that it’s possible to bring together lawyers and programmers to work for 12 or more hours and build a new legal product or service in just a day.

Similar to the hackathons, but more focused on the debate about the subject, there are the events from Legal Hackers in Madrid, Barcelona or Sevilla.

In addition, this year the Legal Innovation Institute in Spain was born.

Even initiatives such as our Legal LAB, where for example we developed software such as the Tracker of Terms and Conditions, could fit in the idea of legaltech and its promotion.

On the other hand, in relation to legaltech business incubators and accelerators we can talk about Legálitas LAB and Cuatrecasas Acelera in Spain. Legálitas LAB is an incubator and accelerator of legal innovation projects. It was launched in 2015 and although it has been relatively quiet for the time being, it has a lot of potential. What’s more, very recently Cuatrecasas introduced itself into the world of legaltech with its initiative «Acelera». Jointly with Telefónica, they pretend to promote and drive the development of legaltech «Made in Spain».

Therefore, the business and social ecosystem of legaltech in Spain is starting to take form. Still baby steps, but it is moving.

Legaltech companies and services

Now it’s time to talk about the different companies that are developing legaltech in Spain, as well as the different market niches that are starting to appear.

Let’s start with the map of LegalTech in Spain

So far, we have gathered 123 legaltech projects in Spain. More than 50% of the projects come from the Mediterranean area, with Barcelona leading the pack. Having said that, Madrid is not falling behind.

You can check below the percentages by province.

What kind of services is the Spanish Legaltech ecosystem providing?

As far as we can see, we could talk about 5 big groups. Then we have a handful of diverse projects on different subjects:

1.- Let’s start with the most basic one, management software for lawyers and law firms. That means software to have the office on the go and to manage the clients, billing and cases. It isn’t very innovative, but it’s useful and plenty of lawyers are still using spreadsheets for something like this. So, it’s worth mentioning. Here we can talk about the most modern ones, on the cloud and everything, such as Quolaw (originally from Argentina), Kleos or Infolex. Then we have more classic ones but still operative, such as GEDEX, ABOGestMelkorLex, BaseNet, Suasor or MN Program. Obviously we can’t forget a classic such as, very interesting proposal from Seville with Legal Innovation, another one as Nubbius or LexTools.

2.- The second big market are the tools and services to auto-generate contracts or to buy templates without the intervention of a lawyer. We are talking about services that through a system of questions and answers allow the user to provide the required information to produce a contract tailored to her/his needs. Usually theses services also allow to buy contract templates cheaper than usual.

There are plenty of options on this group. First of all, a classic such as FormalDocs, newcomers like Bigle LegalLexTotal with its models for complaints, multiple options through Legaliboo, the Spanish version of Wonder LegalLegalbono from Malaga, Mil Contratos, Lexness or specific models for startups provided by Starting Legal, for rental agreements we have Okidoc, plugins for platforms like WordPress with Legal+ or a converter from Office text to interactive HTML such as Docxpresso. And let’s not forget the «father» of all of them Rocket Lawyer, now in Spain too.

Therefore, there is no doubt that there is a market for the auto-generation of legal texts.

3.- The third big group are the legal marketplaces. By that we mean those sites an apps where a lawyer can offer his/her legal knowledge, and at the same time the client can ask for multiple estimates and look for the best option according to price, reputation or location. Therefore we are talking about something like Booking, Tripadvisor or Habitissimo, but for the legal world.

Again, here we have plenty of options. For starters, the vey advertised, new players such as LexGo App, a few classics such as Abogae or Abogados365, another newcomer like Abogalista or Unaes, some projects with maybe easier names to remember such as Recomendar Abogado (Recommend a Lawyer) or Contratar Abogados (Hire a Lawyer) or Entre Letrados. We also have, Easyoffer, AbogadeaTuAppAbogado or Quiero Abogado («I want a lawyer» in Spanish). Finally, we also have the old fashioned but still useful legal directories such as LexDir, a first local versions such as Abogados en Baleares or a lawyer comparison tool such as Emérita Legal o Vaxes, an insourcing legal platform for lawyers and projects.

Of course, all of that without underestimating Google. :p

Again, we are in front of a huge market. In fact, a metasearch engine to look on everything at the same time could be helpful for the user. For a lawyer, a system to manage more than one of these services could be helpful too.

4.- The last big group could be the one for online legal questions or queries. If truth be told, it’s not always easy to draw a line because plenty of law firms offer the option to make an inquiry through its websites. In any case, here we are talking about services very focused on the concept of online legal questions, for example using videoconference or alternative options.

In this case we are talking about services such as Simpley (that also offers the option to generate legal texts), more obvious ones (by the name) such as Consultas Derecho (Law Questions), the service provided by iAsesorateLegadoo, PosttigoEsto es Legal («Is this Legal?» in Spanish) or the new project Arzeus.

5.- Finally, there is an important group of services related to digital evidence and document digitalization, from delivering certificate emails to registering some work. For example, in relation to emails and its certification, services such as EevidenceEvicertia, Notificados or Logalty are interesting options. If we are talking about messages or even SMS, is a good candidate too. In any case, we can find similar services, with it unique characteristics, on services such as Zertifika, Signaturit, AddaliaConfirmSignTerminis from Valencia, Doyfe from Salamanca, the popular eGaranteCertifydoc from Barcelona or Validated ID. All of that without forgetting the services that try to help registering content the way an intellectual property register works, such as SafeCreative or Coloriuris.

From this point, the Spanish legaltech companies are harder to accommodate to a market niche and we can see more diverse options.

For example, we have some services related to the phenomenon of the legal crowdfunding. That would be the case of Defindt or Demandamos from Salamanca. There is also Seed Justice, a non profit platform, or Lawers. Even something like Soldier Lawyer could work here, where a user asks for legal help and the lawyers can bid for each case. By legal crowdfunding we mean those services where a user can ask for small contributions to fund its legal case. The scope of the cases can differ, something small or even a collective action. On the legal crowdfunding service a lawyer can also win by offering its services to the platform, for example.

On the other hand, there are a more than a few services to make a complaint online for delays while traveling or problems with a bank, for example. We are talking about services such as Reclamador, IndemnízameAirLex on mobile, Quarande for labor affairs, Winu from Valencia, Reclama por MíNo Win No Fee from Majorca, Legaline and Welegal.

On the subject of online wills and virtual notaries, there are some interesting projects, too. First of all, the popular Testamenta, then My Patrimony from Valencia and finally SaaS Legal and its project Mi Notaria Online (My Online Notary), Tellmebye from Barcelona or Mi Legado Digital. We have to point out that SaaS Legal also has a couple of projects that could be considered legaltech. One of them in relation to the legal compliance of small and medium enterprises, named Compass, and the other one about the storage of capital firms websites, called Argon.

In relation to remote enterprise communication and its verification, Council Box stands out, as well as Private Investments Network and even Nepcom, with a messaging app dedicated to the professional world (such as law firms).

Then there are providers of what we could call legal self-services, for registering a trademark, auditing a website or checking the legal obligations related to personal data protection for a business. Related to trademarks TM Click is a good example, while PymeLegal would be another good one in relation to other processes related to data protection, for example. On that subject, we also have Grupo CFI with «LOPD and LSSI Manager». Mediandocon provides an online alternative dispute resolution service, Iurisfy provides a service to process an online a divorce and Bodayaa one to get married. If you are a SME looking for help, Online Gestoría could also be an option. We can also find some services to reclaim due payments online, such as Somos Legales and Recuperar Deudas.

Some other other projectsRed Points and Rights Guardian with very interesting online software solutions to detect intellectual and industrial property infringements; Social Content for law firms that need help on social media tasks; 14 Lawyers or the use of technology to defend lawyers in danger, a Belgian project with also presence in Spain such as DigaLaw (speech recognition for lawyers); Discentius with a platform for online academic training for the legal sector or; LexHow with a unique proposal about the online training for the exam that let’s you become a lawyer in Spain. We can also include Onna, one of the providers of Legal AI recommended by Gartner in 2017 and whose European headquarters are established in Barcelona. There even fintech projects that could be considered here, such as The Logic Value or Finboot Technologies. Another interesting project is Vinculatio, a search and contact tool for legal professionals that work on the Spanish Justice Administration.

On the other hand, the first legaltech projects working with natural language processing on Spanish case law have finally appeared. They are being developed by companies already working on legaltech projects or with some tradition in the legal sector as provider of legal knowleadge: Vlex with Vlex Analytics, Legal Innovation with Legal Data, Tirant lo Blanc with Tirant AnalyticsJurimetria from Wolters Kluwer and a new challenger appears in the form of Deepion.

Two bonus tracks: an online shop only for lawyers called Abogados Shop and a very useful service to manage and discover legal events called Eventos Jurídicos.

Finally, to end this overview nothing better than Lex Explorer or Todo Juristas, tools to compare legal products and services.

Search for a legaltech project

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LegalTech projects in Spain by province 

To sum it up

Some notes and ideas to end this overview of the Spanish legaltech:

  • It seems as if the Tech part is lacking in plenty of projects. There aren’t any projects related to data analytics, machine learning, data mining or e-discovery, for example. So, plenty of the more interesting aspects of legaltech are not present so far. In any case, 2017 has brought with us the first projects of this kind thanks to the efforts of Vlex and Legal Innovation. Obviously the majority of the projects have an important technological component. But it’s not outstanding, by any means (maybe Red Points could be one of the exceptions). In any case, Law is text, plenty of text. Its analysis and mining could suppose an important competitive advantage for a lawyer up to date and not afraid to take some risks. However, the technology used by almost all the projects is focused on the recycling of legal knowledge on a more efficient way (for example, the auto-generation of contracts or the management of legal marketplaces). Though there is nothing wrong about that, we are definitely missing on the most advanced use of legaltech.
  • The presence of so many legaltech projects in Barcelona is remarkable, specially with plenty of them around the same area. Is it just coincidence or there is a better ecosystem? Along the lines, the Mediterranean zone (Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Valencia and Murcia) represents more than 50% of the projects. Maybe it is a side-effect of the Sun? :p
  • The two big market niches in the Spanish legaltech are obvious: the auto-generation of legal documents (plus the sale of contract templates) and the legal marketplaces where a user can find a lawyer easily, in a short amount of time and with plenty of prices to choose from. They are not bad by any means, but a little bit simple, maybe? Besides, there is already a huge competition in those markets. In any case, and in relation to the legal marketplaces, do they work? What kind of lawyer is using them? Do the users know about them? Definitely a good subject to explore.
  • The lack of legaltech to mine and analyze legal texts in Spanish, and therefore European law, could cause some delay in relation to other English-speaking projects that are working on those areas. I mean, some of the most promising legaltech tools depend on the language and the laws studied and analyzed. If for the time being there aren’t any options to use them in Spanish texts and Law, we are going to depend on English. Something that can limit the access and use of these more advanced legaltech services on non-English-speaking countries.

In any case, this is just the beginning and there are already interesting initiatives and projects that want to promote the concept of legaltech in Spain. That’s positive and definitely something to take into account. So, although there is still plenty of room for improvement, the Spanish legaltech ecosystem is already up and running.

At least, it looks like finally some people are really interested in fixing the problem.

To be continued…