Atrium: Rise of the robo-lawyers


Ever think to yourself, “I wish there was an easier, faster way to get legal help?” Or, “If only there was some software that could shoulder the burden of legal work while actual attorneys help where it matters.” Maybe, “I wish there was an AI that could transcribe legal documentation and handle e-signing with a suite of tools so workflow management on my projects would take priority?”

Let’s get real: You’ve probably never had any of those thoughts. Most people don’t. But Justin Kan did. And it’s blowing up.

If you recognize that name, that’s because he’s the guy who co-founded Twitch. Kan obviously knows a thing or two about making a successful startup company, and Legal Technology Services (LTS) is his newest idea to hit the market. Co-founded with Chris Smoak, LTS is the closest you’ll ever see to a robot lawyer. “It does everything except give advice,” Kan explains proudly. Atrium was LTS’ first client, and the firm has successfully advised its customers on $94 million in financing since the start of the summer. Clients include Protocol Labs, Meadow and a drug-testing service called Notable Labs.

What is Atrium?

Atrium is a corporate law firm whose competitive edge is largely from Kan’s LTS technology. LTS gives Atrium a huge leg-up with speed, transparency, and consistent prices, which they proudly state clients will receive up-front. Atrium provides its legal services to entrepreneurs – fast-growing startup companies looking to take care of primary financing so they can get their company on the market successfully and legally. LTS works in the background during this typically lengthy and complex process.

Atrium has already helped hundreds of startup companies find their voice

“We’ve helped over 250 clients raise a total of over $500 million in primary financing, and have built the A-team into over 110 great employees who are motivated to change this industry. We are also announcing that this summer we acquired the AI company Tetra to help us build our technology platform,” Kan said. “We can ultimately be this platform on top of which you’re building these legal businesses and eventually other professional services and software services; they’re all sitting on top of the platform that understands legal documents.”

How is this saving time for clients?

LTS utilizes machine learning software that dissects and interprets legal documentation and further automates any repeatable processes. This means that the human lawyers in the company waste less of their clients’ time.

No, Atrium is not fully automated. “We’re not trying to be the Uber of lawyers or ‘lawyer AI'” Kan dismisses. The inclusion of human lawyers is to ensure that companies coming are able to be met with their specific needs; no two startups are the same, and the human quality helps to get the process started on the track. LTS just does the walking. “We’ve always been about humans and  working together.”

The founders for Atrium (Kan on the left)

LTS gets to work on digitizing legal documents and building applications to hasten fundraising, commercial contracts, equity distribution, and employment issues; it takes the most common and time-consuming activities — usually pertaining to tons of paperwork – and builds machine learning workarounds so attorneys can better focus their efforts where they’re more needed.

At Atrium, the lawyers can now prioritize advising their clients instead of arduously hunting through documents for pesky minutiae and tiny loopholes. This makes the entire process not only faster, but more affordable. The result is a procedure that churns fairly predictable costs, so Atrium can offer upfront pricing.

Atrium also helps build your business

Atrium strives to pave the way for more than just legal work (though that remains their primary focus). They also want to share their knowledge of how to succeed as a startup. They offer mentoring and practical knowledge semi-regularly with their two-day “entrepreneurship boot camp” called Atrium Scale. Kan and a number of the company’s other founders personally walk fledgling founders build their companies, find their comfort zone, prepare a series A pitch, and distribute their product. At the end of the crash course they even introduce applicants to Atrium’s own network of partners and investors.

Any roadblocks?

“I think for any full stack vertical startup started by a non-subject matter expert (i.e. me who is not a lawyer), there is a risk that you come in and are very prescriptive on how things work,” Kan said. The fact that Kan managed to build LTS despite having little to no legal background himself is encouraging.

“You build software that says ‘the providers must do it this way!’ but the practical reality is that it doesn’t work with the nuanced, non-linear workflows that providers already have,” Kan said. “So the technology doesn’t get adopted and fails to provide value. That to me is the biggest upcoming risk.”

Making LTS more case-sensitive is the next big step for Kan

Recently Atrium announced that it has raised a $65 million round of funding, practically one year to the day after announcing its seed investment (which was over $10 million). This investment round is led by the mighty venture fund Andreessen Horowitz, and its co-investors include monoliths like YC Continuity, Sound Ventures, and General Catalyst.

Using AI to speed along legal processes is a pretty radical concept, but with financial backing like that, we’re pretty confident that Kan’s onto something big – and very lucrative. Atrium could slowly generate network effects that end up fueling the whole legal business. “Legal has traditionally been something that people don’t want to take risks with. But I think we’re proving to the market that this is real, it’s not going away, and it’s a great opportunity for everyone,” says Kan. “This round of investment validates that as well.”

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