Startup Corner: Della for contract review and data extraction

Augmented intelligence contract review and data extraction tool Della formally launched in 2020 and already has a partnership with Wolters Kluwer and is being used by many of the top law firms in Europe and the UK. We found out why.

How would you describe Della to a friend?

Simple to set up and easy to use, Della offers lawyers an intuitive way to review contracts faster. Using AI, Della allows lawyers to ask questions about their contracts, in plain English (and other languages), and get clear answers. Della learns every time you use it and recognises that lawyers don’t think about contracts in terms of ‘clause X or Y’, they just want to find the answer to their query. Quickly. 

And to a techy?

Traditional contract review focuses on clause detection and data extraction, Della focuses on the questions we want to ask of our contracts. Allowing users to focus on legal work, not paperwork or tech. It takes 10 mins for a new user to start using Della. Our models learn directly from any interactions, allowing users to review docs faster every time. Powered by massive language models*, Della reduces time-to-value, while ensuring the use of a sophisticated tool is achievable for smaller firms.

Contracts are the foundation of any business relationship, but they are increasingly complex and vary between industry, jurisdiction and language. While traditional contract review focuses on clause detection and data extraction, Della focuses on the questions businesses really want to ask of their contracts. Della aims to get users to the point where they can make the decision that sent them looking at their contracts in the first instance. Quickly and simply. 

* What do we mean by a ‘massive language model’? Della’s AI is built on a ‘massively pre-trained language neural network’, which understands how real people speak, taking into account how syntax and grammar of a query interact. Instead of many small models trained to detect specific clauses or data points, Della uses a single model, which has been trained on hundreds of thousands of questions and answers in over 100 languages, to date. 

When were you founded? 

Della was founded in 2018, and the contract review platform launched in 2020.

By who?

Christophe Frerebeau, CEO, and Nicolas Chauville, CTO  

Who are your key managers/senior execs?

Hugo Seymour, COO – https://www.linkedin.com/in/hugo-seymour/ 

Who are your target clients?

Our target clients include law firms, both big and small as well as legal, compliance and data privacy departments. Our mission is to democratise the use of AI for contract review, so that negotiating and managing complex contracts is easier and more manageable.

By creating a secure way to train our AI, we have built a community-based model, which continually improves through increased usage. Allowing firms of all sizes from across the world to leverage our AI at an affordable rate. That makes a huge difference because the use of AI in legal contract review has historically been limited by resource and material requirements. This means, for the most part, only large English-speaking law firms have successfully implemented it. Della is changing that. 

Della also helps legal departments on a daily basis by speeding up contract negotiations. Our technology helps in-house teams with compliance or historical contract review, as well as contract negotiation, using user-defined playbooks, enabling general counsel to keep track of the risks and obligations that exist across their contractual landscape.

What is your plan /growth strategy?

Our platform launched in January 2020, and we are already being used by small and large law firms across multiple countries and by several large multinational corporations. Our partners range in size, from top UK and European law firms, to smaller boutique providers and enterprise organisations. This year (2021) we are primarily focusing on expanding our client base in the UK, US and Europe.

We believe that our AI should be available to our users via the solutions they are already using. To do that, we have a number of partnerships and integrations, such as being able to use Della with Microsoft Word. Last year, we finalised a partnership with Wolters Kluwer to provide Della to their contract management platform customers, and we are working with several other legal tech vendors to add Della’s AI capabilities to their solutions. 

And your key achievements?

We are very proud of our partnership with Wolters Kluwer and the fact that Della is being used by many of the top law firms in Europe and the UK within a year of launching. Even if, in hindsight, 2020 was not the easiest year to launch a product, we are extremely proud to have designed and built a tool that lawyers like and find easy to use. Della is not trying to be ‘just’ another machine learning platform, we want to provide a smart assistant to help lawyers do their jobs. We want using Della to be the fastest way for a lawyer to read a contract comprehensively and based on the feedback we are receiving, we are on the right track.

Have you received investment?

We have raised £1.2m so far.

Have there been any key changes in direction since you were founded?

We spent around six months analysing the market after founding the business, which enabled us to gain a much better understanding of what our target users needed. We assessed the myriad of other legal AI capabilities that were available and the limitations of many existing, competitive solutions. At that point we knew that ‘dumbing down’ contracts into single documents that contained a series of clauses was a mistake, which was limiting many current vendors and was not reflective of the needs of the market.

We decided to move away from the clause analysis we used in our earliest prototypes and focused on answering real questions. This approach, and the technology underlying it, are inherently more scalable and flexible than looking at clauses. The technology enjoys network effects and the flexibility of answering questions addresses common issues like multiple answers in a single document or even across multiple documents. 

We believe that by answering their questions, we are providing “augmented intelligence” to the lawyer, and more so than by simply extracting clauses or data points from documents. 

What are the key challenges in your market?

The legal sector has often been categorised as being conservative and reluctant to adopt new technologies; however, with the outbreak of the pandemic, digital transformation has certainly been accelerated. The ways in which working from home has, and will continue to, affect the legal sector is yet to be fully revealed, but the use of technology is only going to grow. As a result, the key challenge in the ‘new normal’ is likely to be finding ways of educating entire teams about the benefits of using our technology, rather than individual stakeholders. Helping teams to collaborate across organisations, rather than enjoying siloed success will also be key. As a result, ensuring our customer success journey reflects that reality will be central to Della’s future growth. 

Tell us something people don’t already know about the company?

There has been a lot of buzz about AI, but it is also no secret that many vendors who brand their technology as being AI are coming up a bit short. There has been a lot of over promise leading to disappointment. At Della, even though we are working on some pretty fancy machine learning algorithms, we prefer to say that AI stands for Augmented Intelligence. That difference is very important to us and it is a great way of setting the right expectations with our users. 

It also helps our talented R&D and product team to remember that Della is being used by lawyers and that lawyers hate (and often can’t afford) mistakes. AI is a new technology and no-one  can guarantee any systems won’t make mistakes, but we are always working on ways to improve our feedback loop and help our users spot mistakes. I would say this is a pretty down to earth approach to machine learning and law. So, if you are looking for a fully automated solution with 100% accuracy to review 10,000 contracts, Della may not be the solution for you, but if you are looking for a sensible approach to use modern technology, which helps your team to become more productive, improves knowledge sharing and contract review best practice, we would love to talk to you.

Caroline.hill@legalitlexicon.com

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