Legal firms on the hunt for startups - Start Up Gazzete
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Legal firms on the hunt for startups


The latest edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Spain 2021 report, recently presented, reveals that the entrepreneurial activity rate in Spain is 5.2%, nine tenths below that of 2019 and almost three points below the average European (8.1%), which has suffered a more pronounced decline than the Spanish: 1.5 points.

As the study points out, this decrease in the workforce that has just started a project or has an organization with less than three and a half years of life is a direct consequence of the crisis and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, which have delayed the decision to undertake. Despite this, the GEM Spain report also predicts that 2021 will be a challenge for entrepreneurial activity.

Precisely to pave the way for new entrepreneurship initiatives, specifically in the legal sector, the firms develop different acceleration programs that help to give that push they need to technological projects that are just starting. This does not mean that they are disinterested actions, since in these relationships between law firms and startups both parties collaborate and take advantage of it.

Positioning oneself in the innovative ecosystem in which startups are the center, or being at the forefront of technological advances at a time when the legal sector is in full digital transformation are some of the main reasons why firms work with startups. Also, adds Francesc Muñoz, CIO of Cuatrecasas and promoter of Cuatrecasas Acelera, these relationships are a “lever for the attraction and retention of talent”.

Something in which José Luis Ortín, partner of the commercial department of Garrigues and coordinator of the Startups & Open Innovation industry, agrees, who considers it a motivation for the professionals of the firm “of a naturally curious and innovative nature”.

For his part, Jaime García López, NewLaw partner at PwC Tax & Legal, highlights that collaborating with startups also allows them to help their clients identify the best technological solutions to respond to their needs.

Beyond advice
In return, as Javier Badiola, managing partner of Dentons in Spain points out, “startups benefit from accelerated product development, from the comments and opinions of the firm’s lawyers and clients, and from greater visibility”. And, as Badiola acknowledges, startups, by definition, are not capable of offering large-scale services on the first day, “so clarifying expectations is of vital importance to ensure that both parties can meet their common objectives.”


In fact, Dentons was a pioneer in launching two collaboration programs with startups in 2015: Nextlaw Labs, as a catalyst for innovation for the firm, and Nextlaw Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on early-stage legal technology projects, through through which they invest in a portfolio of 10 startups around the world. “Our teams work with these firms to help them with the launch of products to the market and with their growth plans,” explains the managing partner of Dentons in Spain.

Another initiative to engage with entrepreneurs launched by an office, and now in its sixth edition, is Cuatrecasas Acelera. It is an acceleration program for startups legaltech or with a high legal complexity, in which the six that are selected in each edition enjoy four months of business mentoring services, to promote their business project, and 20 hours of free legal advice. “After five editions, it is a very mature program that has managed to evolve and pivot, and that entrepreneurs value very positively”, appreciates the CIO of Cuatrecasas. Likewise, Muñoz maintains that this year there is a great maturity in the applications that are arriving, and although he recognizes that perhaps the number of registrations is somewhat lower than in other editions, he trusts that it will increase since the deadline for submitting applications is still open. (ends July 12).

Project feasibility test

Tax Legal Springboard is the startup accelerator launched for the first time this year by PwC Tax & Legal, with the support of Microsoft, and which concluded last June with the selection of five innovative initiatives to apply new emerging technologies in the provision of legal and tax services. Among the winning projects are advice through augmented reality, knowledge management systems based on artificial intelligence and machine learning or platforms for the management of massive claims.

NewLaw’s partner at PwC Tax & Legal explains that the acceleration is based on two possible models. The first consists of helping the startup to validate a proof of concept, for those solutions created with the vocation of being used in the environment legal or fiscal, but they need to verify their suitability in a real management environment. In the second modality, PwC professionals work with startups with mature technology and a functional prototype, but not currently operating in the legal or tax sector, to find a valid and scalable solution in that field. In both cases, says García, in addition to business mentoring and access to the resources of the Microsoft Startups program, the chosen entrepreneurs will be able to learn about and access financing alternatives, through PwC agreements with different venture capital firms .

Specialization and experience

At Garrigues, four years ago they created the Startups & Open Innovation area, with the aim, says the partner of the Garrigues commercial department, of giving greater visibility to the multidisciplinary team that develops this activity within the firm, although he points out that it is not something new since in the firm “they have been advising projects that today would enter the startup category since its foundation”.

Ortín recognizes that thanks to this new department they have achieved very fruitful collaborations. “Our participation in acceleration programs, such as Lanzadera or TrenLab, and the recommendation by funds and investment entities with which we work regularly continue to be the main channel for initiating relationships with startups,” he affirms. With them, they work on projects providing services in those areas of practice in which they consider that they can really add value.

Author avatar
Joshua Smith

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