“Strange Bedfellows: Austrian Law Firms Join Forces for Innovation Hub”
On October 29, 2018, leading Austrian law firms Dorda, Eisenberger & Herzog, Herbst Kinsky, PHH, Schoenherr, SCWP Schindhelm, and Wolf Theiss announced their joint launch of the “Legal Tech Hub Vienna”: a non-profit forum for LegalTech companies, start-ups, and other legal market participants to identify innovation potential and work together to implement technological tools appearing ever-more-rapidly on the legal market.
The LTHV represents a unique cooperation by seven prominent law firms in the market to encourage and promote the development and implementation of technology for the legal industry, often referred to as “LegalTech.” The organization’s website – lthv.eu – has already announced an open call for the first LTHV accelerator programs for startups and small and medium enterprises to kick off on January 28, 2019. Founders of the LTHV also plan to establish a physical office soon.
We spoke to the founding members of the LTHV to find out more about this unique project.
The Founding Partners came from both large and multi-service law firms and smaller firms experienced in working with start-ups. Herbst Kinsky, which works regularly with start-ups and advises established companies on innovation, falls into both categories. “We advise both sides and speak both languages,” says Phillip Kinsky, “therefore it was clear that this initiative – which focuses on bringing startups and corporates together – is something we had to join and support.”
Ultimately, Martinetz believes that the LTHV will serve as a useful conduit between the law firm industry in Austria and those tech start-ups developing products that may be useful to it. “We want to get the right mix of big companies together for the law firms, and give these startups access to law firms,” she says. This, she believes, should help those lawyers and law firms that are traditionally conservative and famously technology-averse. “Law firms are not start-up savvy. Although many companies are already digitalizing and collaborating with start-ups, the concept is new for lawyers.”
Kinsky echoes Martinetz’s analysis. “Usually law firms are quite conservative when it comes to innovation, due to internal reasons, administration, IT systems, data protection, and other issues,” he says. “We see law firms being reluctant to innovate, and we are trying to change that. I think it will be a great opportunity for start-ups.”
How It Works
The LTHV’s three main activities are Acceleration, Research & Development, and Partnerships. The hub’s specific goal, Artner says, is to discover and develop new solutions and methods to improve the legal industry. And the LTHV’s large law firm membership provides a unique opportunity to potential start-ups, he says. “With the LTHV we offer a market view on the product before start-ups enter the market. This can be done at a very early stage – even just evaluating ideas and visions.”
The hub itself is divided into two groups: the democratically-elected Board, which is tasked with ensuring public awareness and interest and developing strategy and goals, and which consists of Philipp Kinsky, Gudrun Stangl, and Stefan Artner; and the Jury, which is charged with implementing ideas and developing criteria for startups and SMEs and for the scope of work and target technologies, and which consists of representatives of all seven founding partners.
Martinetz herself is tasked with running the day-to-day operations of the LTHV. She explains that the accelerator program will be “the first big thing” the LTHV will work on, with applications being accepted as of the first day of 2019. According to her, the LTHV members plan to work closely with LegalTech companies on innovation and helping them move forward, as well as seeking other start-ups that focus on raising the efficiency of internal legal management and those that focus on AI and blockchain products.