Today it is exactly ten years since we started our journey with VQ with a mission to digitalise the legal sector. After heading the Knowledge Management department at Swedish law firm Vinge for eight years, we had gained a lot of experience in how to develop IT tools to really support and change the legal work. Seeing the potential in making digitalisation the core of our business, instead of continuing being a part of a support organisation trying to change it from the inside, we took the bold decision to set up our own venture.
At that very first day, 17 March 2010, we met with reporter Helene Rothstein and talked about our ideas and what we hoped for the future in a hotel lobby (or in our “virtual office” as it was referred to in the article in Realtid. We predicted that law firms would be interested in working more efficient with modern IT support and focusing less on the hourly billing. In hindsight, we can see that a lot has happened during these ten years in the legal sector – there is much more focus on digitalization, business development and use of new tools – but unfortunately the business model of law firms is still based on the hourly billing.
The daily business newspaper Dagens Industri seemed to be inspired by our ideas about the need for changes and published an article about us in October 2010 with the headline that our advice was “golden for law firms” (Sw. “Deras råd guld värda för advokatbyråerna”).
We initiated the event VQ Forum right from the beginning, to highlight legal innovation and business development and to create a new kind of platform where people involved in or interested in the more strategic parts of the legal marketplace could connect and discuss the developments from all aspects.
When we celebrated the tenth anniversary in October last year, we were proud to see how it had evolved to become Scandinavia´s leading legal innovation event.
Another way for us to bring attention to the new developments was by writing about it; we have written a lot of articles in various magazines and anthologies, and on our own blog, Legal Innovation Blog. We started this blog to create awareness about market trends in the legal sector and share interesting examples of new tools and systems, and are proud to have been awarded the Canadian Law Blog Award for our efforts.
Already from the start, our mission was not only to talk about change, but to be a part of it by creating our own innovative solutions as well. This part of our business was initiated with the development of the document assembly tool VQ Legal led by our system developer and CTO Magnus Erixzon, who is the third partner in our VQ Group. Already in 2010, we initiated our collaboration with Bolagsrätt Sundsvall to be able to build corporate law content into the tool and use it to create a “digital associate”, providing readymade standard documents in a new intelligent way.
Our next partners were the law firm Elmzell, specialised in employment and HR-law, and TransLegal, the world leader in Legal English. Later we initiated our VQ Legal Expert Group of highly experienced legal professionals (Professor Christina Ramberg, Christian Hybbinette, Hanna Larsson, Ulf Sallnäs, Magnus Wittbom and Sigrid Wittbom) to create content for M&A matters. We now also collaborate with law firm Wikström & Partners for content in IT law, intellectual property law and data protection regulation matters, as well as Familjens Jurist for private and family law.
We are so happy and proud to be working together with all these amazing experts!
From the first initial release 2010 with a couple of document packages to demonstrate the potential of the tool, we now have a content with document packages covering most areas of business law. In 2013 we still experienced difficulties in selling the service only about 2,200 documents were produced each month. Therefore, we worked hard with the selling process, repackaged the service, changed the business model and investigated the best ways to sell such a service. In 2014 we started our sales collaboration with Jamec Group AB. Since then, we have experienced a steady growth. In two years, the usage was increased by 120%. This “digital associate” is now a well-established solution within the legal sector and is used by nine of the ten largest law firms, as well as by legal counsels and auditing firms. We notice a total increase since 2013 by 627%. And now this “digital associate” produces 16,000 documents every month!
Last year, we also launched a campaign aiming to challenge more legal professionals to change their working methods by using VQ Legal. Here’s one of the commercials from the campaign that shows how VQ Legal makes legal work faster, more efficient and quality-assured:
You can find all commercials on our YouTube Channel.
The business has been very successful with increasing turnover and revenue every. For 2019, we have now a turnover of MSEK 14,6, which is an increase with 23% only from the previous year.
In addition to VQ Legal, we have been working with several other interesting projects and developed usable tools, such as our knowledge sharing tool VQ Lex. With this tool legal departments and law firms can easily share their internal knowledge to truly support a knowledge sharing culture, without the hassle of handling a complicated IT project. The lawyers will be able to focus on their legal knowledge.
In 2017 we gained interest in the possibilities with AI and entered into a partner agreement with IBM regarding the AI solution Watson. Together with the law firms Lindahl and MAQS we developed the prototype TrueAgreement with the aim to analyse Swedish shareholder agreements, to find key clauses and then provide advice on aspects of those clauses. In 2018 we received MSEK 2 in funding from Vinnova to be able to further develop a platform adapted for our needs, with a capacity to analyse several agreements in parallel and on the same time separate each agreement into clauses for a more efficient analysis of the separate parts of each agreement, which we have been working with since. Our idea is to build our next generation online solutions on this platform.
During these ten years we have been invited to speak at different seminars, conferences and internal business meetings, both in Sweden and abroad, on topics concerning the future of legal service, how to work smarter and innovation in practice for inhouse counsels and law firms. To mention a few of the speaking assignments we have lectured at Stockholm University and the Tech Academy Lund on future trends and law students’ role in the new legal landscape, participated in the SCC World Tour to discuss automation and AI in arbitration, and been mentors for the New York Global Legal Hackathon. We have also participated in panels without the legal scope, such as the Fintech panel on how “software is eating the world”. Furthermore, we have had the privilege to participate in the panel for “Law as an app” at Stockholm University.
We have been lucky to receive a lot of media coverage during these years. In 2017 we were appointed Legal Innovators of the Year, and we were also on the front page of the Business Magazine “Veckans Affärer”.
It has been ten very exciting and inspiring years with VQ and we are still only in the beginning of the change of the legal sector. We truly look forward to what will happen during the next ten years. VQ also recently, through Helena, become Ambassador of Sweden for European Legal Tech Associaiton (ELTA) and chairman of the Swedish Association of IT and Law (Sw. Svenska föreningen för IT och juridik (SIJU)). Even though we will not continue with VQ Forum, we will make sure to find other ways to highlight the discussions regarding innovation and digitalisation, and we will of course continue our developments of tools for the legal sector and to be a part of the innovation community.
We look forward to writing a summary of our business in 2030 about how we have supported the changes in the legal sector with new innovative legal services and new exciting tools.
The change has just begun and we are proud to be a part of it.