On mission to make legal more human – Juro

  • 2020-02-01
  • Linas Jegelevicius

Juro means ‘I swear’ or ‘I promise’ in Latin. “A contract, at its core, is really just a promise: an expression of the relationship between parties, and what they promise to do for each other,” says Richard Mabey, CEO & Co-founder at Juro. “It seemed like an appropriate name to guide our mission to make legal more human,” adds Pavel Kovalevich, CPO & Co-founder at Juro. The Baltic Times Magazine sat down with them to learn more about the company.

What was the prehistory and the start of Juro?

Richard Mabey: I was a corporate/M&A lawyer in London with a fantastic law firm called Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. I enjoyed the work, but as time went on, I was increasingly amazed at the amount of time that lawyers spend dealing with the process around contracts. The actual legal content, clause drafting, positions and so forth in contract is one thing - that’s what we go to law school for, and it’s where we can add value to clients - but most of the time lawyers spend on contracts isn’t spent doing that work. It’s spent on process.

In fact, research from the IACCM shows that 92% of the time spent on contracts goes on process work, rather than legal work. Manual processes plague contract management, with people bouncing around in Word and email, blocked from collaborating effectively. This creates a huge cost - in time and money. I hoped we could change that.

I studied for an MBA at Insead, where I met my co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Pavel Kovalevich. Pavel already had incredible expertise in product and entrepreneurship, and we were confident we could build a world-class engineering team with the superb talent available in Riga. We secured our initial funding from Seedcamp, and we were ready to build Juro. Since then we’ve grown the team to 20, split across Riga and London, and secured venture capital funding from Point Nine Capital, as well as angel investors Taavet Hinrikus (Transferwise), Paul Forster (Indeed) and Michael Pennington (Gumtree).

Pavel Kovalevich: I have historical connections to Latvia - this is where I’m from, but I’ve also started and successfully exited a business here. Personally, I believe that Latvia and the Baltics in general are a unique place to build a thriving business, and we’ve already seen successful ‘unicorns’ emerge. Estonia is probably leading on this, with businesses like TransferWise, co-founded by our investor Taavet Hinrikus.

Beyond this, Latvia has a high calibre of engineering talent and skillsets, and it’s easy to find new colleagues with a global outlook. It would be hard to build a hypergrowth company here based on local business alone - you need to be thinking globally from day one. You also have a great balance between the cost of living and the quality of life, and airline access to pretty much anywhere in Europe. Riga is a great place to build our product.

What services do you provide?

Richard Mabey: Juro is a contract collaboration and management platform, powered by machine learning. Juro lets you create, edit and collaborate on contracts in-browser. You can sign on any device with Juro’s native, mobile-responsive e-signature solution. Post-signature you can set up automated reminders for renewal and termination dates; and you can use Juro’s in-depth analytics stack to find the bottlenecks in your contract workflow too.

Juro primarily works with legal, HR and sales teams - because they process the highest volumes of contracts - but the solution requires no legal expertise, very little training, and we usually get users to value within days, rather than months. The company’s mission is to make legal more human - one contract at a time.

What do you do that your rivals usually don’t?

Richard Mabey: Juro has two main differentiators. The first is ease of use. There are dozens of contract management providers - this is by no means a new category - but legal technology typically suffers from low adoption. Lawyers buy software, and then it’s too difficult, complex or clunky for people to actually use. Juro is a design-first product that was built to make it absurdly easy for anyone to create, collaborate on and sign contracts - and that ease of use is borne out in our customer surveys and usage patterns.

The second is our contract editor, which (uniquely) is machine-readable. Instead of working in Word, or scanned PDFs, and then needing to run some kind of character recognition to work out what’s in your documents, Juro contracts are built on a JSON data layer. This means that they are machine-readable from day one, with all the attendant advantages, like advanced search functionality, data analytics, meta-tagging of fields, and so on. Over the long term, this data will be invaluable to our customers.

What makes you better in the competitive market you’re in?

Richard Mabey: Contract management is a crowded space, and we’re full of admiration for many of the other solutions out there. Where our customers tend to see the most success is when they work with contracts that are scaling out of control - for example, at a high-growth tech company. With that kind of pressure on legal operations, there is simply no time for a clunky solution that will require a lot of training, or switching in and out of Word and emails. If a customer prizes speed of contract generation and collaboration through to signature above everything else, together with the need for a frictionless, intuitive solution that anyone can use, that’s where we believe Juro is hard to beat. We were pleased to have that confirmed this year by FT Intelligent Business - their panel named Juro in the global top ten for innovative contracting.

How can Al technologies you’re employing help anyone through a legal process?

Richard Mabey: Lots of the problems that people encounter with legal processes arise because they’re not designed for collaboration. For example, it’s hard to collaborate on a static file, like a locked PDF. By making legal documents in Juro machine-readable, made of structured data, we remove that problem before it arises: contracts can be collaborative and dynamic from the outset. Businesses won’t have to pay law firms to find out what’s in their contracts, because they’ll be searchable. If our couple of homebuyers don’t understand the changes in their conveyancing documents, they can scroll back through the version history and make comments for their lawyers to answer.

Even better, machine learning models can begin to understand the parts of contracts that baffle readers, and flag them during drafting, suggesting alternatives that are easier to read. Businesses can also learn from the data their contracts generate - which stakeholders cause bottlenecks, and why? That can only help to make legal more human, and legal processes better for everyone.

Are your services affordable to anyone?

Richard Mabey: Our pricing is publicly available on our website; the basic package costs $125 per user per month, for a minimum of 5 users. In comparison to legacy providers in our space, that makes us very cost-competitive; supporting that is the fact that we have customers all over the world, from Estonia and Helsinki to Cape Town, Paris, New York, San Francisco and of course London.

In 2020 we’ll be opening up Juro to everyone, making it self-serve - one of the advantages of having a design-first product is that people don’t need massive amounts of training to start creating and managing contracts. That will be a huge learning opportunity for us - it’ll be incredibly useful to see how people work with contracts without any direction from us, and how we can make that easier for them. Remember, it’s businesses that become Juro customers, but businesses are made up of people - it’s these people that we’re here to help.

Who is your client base?

Richard Mabey: Juro’s customers are, for the most part, high-growth tech companies. This is because they are quite likely to be generating and managing high volumes of contracts, and looking to get a robust process in place before it gets out of control. Customers like Wolt, Deliveroo, Skyscanner, Envoy and Unbabel would fit into that group. We mainly work with in-house legal teams - for now, we don’t sell to law firms, as their contract needs are very different.

However, we do have customers in other industries - generally where the legal department is innovative, and there’s a clear contract pain point we can solve. Some customers in that group are Estée Lauder, Eton Shirts and Reach plc (the UK’s largest newspaper group). The contract process is something that affects pretty much every business on the planet, so there are lots of areas where we can add value.

Where and how your services can be booked?

Richard Mabey: If anyone would like to find out more about contract management, they can visit juro.com to request a demonstration of the product. We also share lots of insight and updates on our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, as well as our blog. You can contact us at hello@juro.com too.

What are you looking for in 2020?

Richard Mabey: In the new year we’ll be looking to continue our rapid growth, which will mean significantly expanding the business from 20 employees to something more like 60, with many of those hires being on the software engineering side in Pavel’s team in Riga. We also have some major updates coming to the product, and we’re really excited to share what we’ve been building with our customers.