Fieldfisher has invested in a digital platform offering an automated way to generate and update documents required during funding rounds, allowing start-ups and investors to negotiate and close deals remotely and more quickly, which could also offer the firm new clients.
European firm Fieldfisher was part of a £1m investment round in SeedLegals, launched three months ago, along with another law firm, investment fund Seedcamp and several other companies. Fieldfisher has a particular technology, finance and energy focus and is growing its network of European offices.
SeedLegals founder and CEO Anthony Rose told Legal Business the platform ‘transforms the way documents are created’. ‘Normally, particularly when it comes to funding rounds, every document is an island: it is not linked to any other document and every time you need to change it you send it to a lawyer and they have to update it and send you a new one. Our platform transforms all that.’
Users will be able to insert information about their team and company on the platform and shareholders will be able to access the information, review and sign their documents online and get a notification on their device when any of these change.
‘The system makes sure start-ups are investment-ready,’ Rose said. ‘We ask a set of questions and as users answer them the system fills in the documents. Every time you change something, the system changes the documents [automatically].’
When the time for the funding round comes, the platform will be able to fill in the documents automatically, calculate shares and generate all the paperwork required for the deal.
The system, which according to Rose could reduce the time required for paperwork for a law firm ‘from 20 to seven hours’ and the time of doing a funding round from the three-month current average to a few days.
Fieldfisher corporate partner Tim Bird described as ‘a game-changer for the corporate legal world’. ‘We know the [start-up] sector is changing, and we need to adapt.’
Bird told Legal Business that a number of companies in their early stages would come to the firm for support in their initial funding rounds, ‘but we cannot always give it at the price they would like us to’. ‘Hopefully, now we will.’
He explained that the reason behind the firm’s investment in SeedLegals was twofold: ‘We expect a return on our investment, but we also hope that by being an investor we will have greater access to the companies using it and hopefully build relationships with them. I will be introducing companies to it – not necessarily clients, but those who could become clients – where I think that could be an interesting solution for them.’
He denied that this investment would mean a reduction in the number of junior associates, those normally more involved in drafting documents for clients, but rather a change in their roles: ‘The role of junior lawyers and trainees is changing: it has become less about ”manual labour” and more about using research tools, data analysis, they need to be more tech savvy, but this does not mean a reduction in headcount.’
Bird added that SeedLegals was an efficient and cost-effective way for start-ups to manage their legal documentation. ‘When I saw the product in action, I knew it was something that would be of great value to clients and it made sense for us to invest in the platform,’ Bird said, as the firm looks to offer corporate services to the start-up market.
Since its launch, Rose claims SeedLegals has since been used for an average of two funding rounds per day.
‘We have been surprised that only a small fraction of people got a lawyer involved to look at the documents the system generates: they read them themselves,’ said Rose. He added, however, that he did not think the system will replace lawyers in the future but rather meant they would no longer spend their time reviewing and fixing documents but could ‘use it to give high-level advice.’
Fieldfisher has a network across 16 offices spanning the UK, the Netherlands, China, Brussels, Germany, Italy, and Silicon Valley. Its client includes social media sites, life sciences and medical devices companies, energy suppliers, banks and government departments.