A Legal Startup Review
Everlaw has been making electronic discovery (ediscovery) look easy for 5 years. To get the basics on ediscovery, check out my ediscovery primer here. When I attended LegalTech West Coast 2015, I ran into the founders who gave me a demo. I was impressed! But what sets them apart from all the other options out there? I asked Jon Kerry, the VP of Business Development. His response: “I’d say it’s both their obsession with delivering an amazing end-to-end user experience, and their method of delivering that experience.” He listed three specific things that make Everlaw stand out:
- Everlaw can move more quickly. They release major updates to the platform every month or two (33 since they first released the platform in 2011, and 6 so far this year). Every major release includes an entirely new functionality, enhancements to existing functionality as they iterate on past releases, and back-end improvements to pay down their architectural debt. Keeping the platform cutting-edge and free of bloat is core to the user experience; it’s why they’re able to deliver search results in 350ms (faster than the blink of a human eye) and document-to-document transitions in 150ms.
- They can integrate more tightly. Everlaw has taken many technologies that are typically licensed separately and bolted them together—from processing to email threading to dupe-detection to predictive coding to case outlining—and coded them from scratch into one seamless environment. They can then leverage the technologies in every conceivable way to improve the user experience. Their predictive coding technology, for instance, takes advantage of their email threading and dupe-detection technology to intelligently create training sets for review. It automates as much as possible, continually making predictions as you review documents, advising you on how to improve those predictions, and updating those predictions over time. And it makes these insights available everywhere they could be useful, from the search interface to the results table to the analytics interface. This level of integration and automation is seldom possible when you’re working with someone else’s code.
- Lastly, they can offer Everlaw with a business model that is much simpler and much more fair. There is one fee for Everlaw, and they purposefully do not charge for many of the things that traditionally make planning and paying for ediscovery such a nightmare. For example, they don’t require long-term contracts and they don’t charge to get data into or out of the system, because they don’t want to lock anyone into their service; the only reason anyone should use Everlaw is because they love Everlaw, not because it’s too expensive to switch. They also don’t charge for training or support, because they want to align their incentives with their users; if someone is having difficulty with Everlaw, that should come out of Everlaw’s pocket, not the user’s. They also don’t charge for user licenses or any separate features, because they want their customers to enjoy the full force of Everlaw’s peers’ brainpower and horsepower to get their job done.
How much does Everlaw cost?
Everlaw charges a monthly fee based on the amount of data that is hosted in Everlaw, and they don’t require long-term contracts. The fee begins at $22/month and goes down based on volume. This single fee covers every aspect of the service; there is no additional fee for unlimited users, unlimited processing and production, unlimited training and support, and unlimited features (e.g., analytics).
- Blink-Speed Search
- Prediction Engine
- Documents in Context
- Actionable Analytics
- Team Management
- Native Viewer
- Story Builder
- Language Translation
- Intuitive Homepage
- Review Accuracy
So who is behind Everlaw? The founder of the company is AJ Shankar, who is a technology entrepreneur with a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and an A.B. in Applied Mathematics/Computer Science from Harvard University. Prior to Everlaw, AJ co-founded Modista, a website that uses computer vision algorithms and a novel user interface to enable consumers to browse for apparel intuitively. The company won First Place in the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition and was later acquired. AJ has also worked at IBM Research and as part of IBM’s Advanced Internet Technologies Group.
How the company came to existence
AJ was a technical expert consultant for a law firm in the 2000s. It was then that he saw the massive volumes of evidence in large cases, and the fear and anxiety attorneys experienced wrestling with the stereotypically buggy, slow, hard-to-use, and expensive enterprise software they had purchased to deal with it. Meanwhile, he was pursuing his Ph.D. in Computer Science, so he knew firsthand what was possible with good software. So that got him thinking that there had to be a better way. AJ was drawn to ediscovery because it’s an area that’s full of significant technical challenges that, when solved, will address a growing hunger among legal professionals for a better solution. His and Everlaw’s 20 employees’ goal is to create enterprise-grade legal software with consumer-grade ease of use. Their mantra internally is: As fast as Google, as easy to use as an iPad.
Who is Everlaw’s customer? (Get ready for some big names!)
Their primary users are litigators and the professionals who support them, wherever they are (firms, corporations, government entities). The size of the organization is less relevant than the litigation load and related discovery demands. Their current customers are primarily mid-size and large law firms, as well as government entities (they are used by over 65% of the state Attorneys General). Everlaw is particularly popular with entities involved in complex litigation: they have been used by 8 of the top 10 class action law firms and have hosted high-profile, complex matters like the Apple eBooks case and GM ignition switch litigation.
What is their marketing strategy?
Two words: happy customers! Their marketing strategy is word of mouth, focusing on delighting their customers. It has been effective so far, and they have yet to lose a single customer in nearly five years of business.
Their future plans including focusing on the product, and expanding and refining its capabilities so it continues to deliver on the promise of legal software that’s powerful, yet simple. They will continue to bring this to market both through their direct sales channel and through their growing community of partners.
Are there any challenges?
Generally speaking, their biggest challenges are complacency and low expectations. Decades of poor user experiences have ingrained in legal professionals the assumption that powerful software just has to be difficult and expensive to use (and, conversely, that simple software necessarily can’t be powerful enough to get the job done well). That’s simply not true, and Everlaw is here to raise those expectations, but they don’t expect to change them overnight. It takes a tremendous amount of engineering talent to pull that off, and the technical challenges are endless, but they’re in this for the long haul and believe that Everlaw is already a shining example of what’s possible when you blend modern design principles with the most modern big data technology.
What about security?
Simply put, Everlaw is secure. They use Amazon’s unparalleled AWS cloud infrastructure, including all of the security mechanisms they’ve made available (e.g., encryption in transit and at rest, a VPC environment that keeps their data securely segregated from everything else, two-factor authentication, etc.). They also make sure that their own security is up to these high standards; they recently successfully completed a SOC 2 Type 1 audit, and they’re committed to regularly reviewing and refining their security practices and procedures.
So who are their biggest competitors?
Everlaw generally consider the companies listed in the “Leaders” area of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Ediscovery Software (on which they were listed this year as a “Vendor to Watch”) as their main competition, but as mentioned above, they definitely stand out. The flat fee and ease of use is what stood out to me, personally.
So what about my rating scale?
UX – Ease of Use
5 – So easy to use, a 5-year-old can use it
4 – Good with minor improvements needed – If you read my primer on ediscovery, you’ll understand why this is a 4. Lawyers should use experts and work with Everlaw’s team before doing any ediscovery themselves. With Everlaw’s help, this is probably a 5.
3 – Needs some work
2 – Needs a lot of work
1 – I can’t use it
UI – Appearance
5 – This looks amazing. Clean lines. Legible. Organized.
4 – Looks great. Minor corrections needed
3 – Needs some work, but functions well
2 – Needs a makeover
1 – Too messy. Makes it difficult to use and understand.
Frequency of Use by Intended Users
5 – I need this every day
4 – I use it most days
3 – I use it as I need it. Unless you’re doing ediscovery every day, which you very well may be, this is not a daily tool like your email.
2 – I’ll use it a few times this year
1 – I’ll never use it
5 – Love it, can’t put it down. Tons of features. – FIrst, a disclaimer. I didn’t use Everlaw personally. I just got the awesome demo at LegalTech. But.. I would LOVE to use it to test out my system, to see what I can dig up, and use the amazing features to sort through all my documents.
4 – Keeps me interested most of the time. Has some good features.
3 – Not a whole lot to explore or keep me interested.
2 – I don’t hate it
1 – Yup, I hate it
5 – So disruptive, a lawsuit or angry publication is in your future
4 – You solved a problem and made someone angry. I think that the ediscovery area is pretty crowded, but Everlaw definitely has some key features that makes them stand out and their target audience is looking for: ease of use, transparency in pricing, and speed!
3 – Solves a problem, but not groundbreaking
2 – There may be something to it, but not quite sure
1 – Doesn’t really stand out or solve any problems
The site: www.everlaw.com
Follow them: @everlaw