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‘Community level’: Eversheds Sutherland launches ‘ES Disrupt’ new tech service for start-ups

Eversheds Sutherland is the latest firm to target the lucrative fast-growth, start-up industry with its launch of ‘Eversheds Disrupt’ – a product providing web-based bespoke legal advice to start-ups and fast-growth companies.

ES Disrupt, which is wholly funded and owned by Eversheds, will target start-ups before they have specific legal issues, selling individual documents providing legal advice on issues including funding and company formation, hiring, corporate compliance and trading contracts.

So far, Eversheds Sutherland has invested around £200,000 in the product, including lawyer time and a cash investment by the firm.

The idea for the offering came from Eversheds Sutherland trainee Jocey Nelson, who had worked at tech incubator Techtopia, before joining the firm and ES Disrupt was the winning entry in the firm’s “CEO Innovation Challenge” in 2016.

Speaking to Legal Business, Nelson said her admin role at the incubator business made her realise that start-up companies were putting their businesses at risk by failing to get adequate legal advice – either because of funding problems or fears that it could act as an impediment to the business.

‘It made me realise very early on that start-ups are almost on purpose putting themselves in a vulnerable position. And it seemed very unfair that they will have to let their business suffer to realise that legal is actually very important,’ Nelson said.

‘At the moment we are launching on a minimum viable product, so we are trying to live and breathe the start-up lifestyle and we have a skeleton plan instead of a flesh and bone one,’ she added.

‘The plan is to take client data and use live clients to pivot with how we are going to sell these documents. Social media will be our main point of advertising and we are trying to engage people on a start-up community level.’

Nelson currently sits in co-working space WeWork in Moorgate which she called ‘a fantastic way to meet start-up companies and investors.’

The content behind ES Disrupt will also be used to help provide legal advice to Eversheds’ existing fast-growth and scale-up clients.

Charlotte Walker-Osborn, Eversheds’ head of TMT, said ES Disrupt was the result of her team spending ‘many years’ supporting and mentoring start-ups.

ES Disrupt follows similar initiatives undertaken by other firms. In May 2016, Simmons & Simmons started a £100,000 fund to cover free legal advice for up to four fintech start-ups.

Later that year, Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May put forward £300,000 for a similar initiative, before Addleshaw Goddard announced that it would provide up to £500,000 worth of legal mentorship and advice for up to 16 start-ups over a 12 month period.

Mishcon de Reya has also been active in the start-up space, launching a legal tech incubator programme in January this year. Named MDR LAB, Mishcon’s chief strategy officer Nick West selected six legal tech start-ups to participate in the programme.