A consumer law platform that aims to help solicitors “transition” to freelance practice, as well as supporting small law firms, has raised £1.8m in seed funding.
Chief executive and co-founder Pierre Proner said around 50 solicitors currently offered services remotely through the platform, with 290 more on a waiting list.
Lawhive delivers qualified leads, onboards clients with identity and anti-money laundering checks, enables solicitors to work online and on the phone, and provides secure file-sharing and messaging, invoicing and billing.
Solicitors pay a monthly platform fee based on the volume of work they have billed. Mr Proner, a tech entrepreneur, said most were from small firms with up to three partners, solo practices or freelancers.
He said some had previously worked for consultant-led law firms but had been so successful on Lawhive that they had left to work for the platform as freelancers, billing up to £140,000 a year. He estimated that around a third of Lawhive’s solicitors worked freelance.
“One of our objectives is to help solicitors transition to freelance. Many more solicitors want to work as freelancers than are currently doing it.”
Lawhive raised £1.8m in a seed funding round from a range of investors led by Episode 1 Ventures, which provided seed funding for Zoopla, with additional support from Tiny VC and 25 angel investors, including Aron Gelbard (Bloom & Wild founder), Jonathan Petrides (Allplants founder) and senior executives from Monzo, Spotify, Meta and N26.
The money will be used to expand Lawhive’s product, engineering and operations teams as it targets increasing the number of customers 10-fold over the next year, and to enhance the automation and user experience.
Mr Proner founded the start-up with software developer Jaime van Oers and Flinn Dolman, a data scientist specialising in machine learning and artificial intelligence.
They were working in Dubai on a fintech start-up when Covid hit and their flights back to the UK were cancelled – but the airline refused a refund.
“We went to high street law firms and without exception they quoted a higher fee than the entire amount of the refund,” Mr Proner said.
He said he was not attracted by the alternative option of losing 25-35% of his flight compensation by instructing a no win, no fee service.
Mr Proner said Lawhive had helped several hundred people obtain flight compensation for a fee of as little as £99.
Launched in January 2021, Lawhive provides a wide range of consumer law services, including conveyancing, wills and probate and employment, but does not cover personal injury and medical negligence.
The platform uses automation and artificial intelligence to speed up casework, as well as a ‘legal knowledge graph’, a database of consumer law knowledge.
Mr Proner said family law, consumer disputes, landlord and tenant and neighbour disputes were all areas of high demand from clients. The platform has also processed hundreds of name change requests, including many from people transitioning from one gender to another.
He said a third of Lawhive’s solicitors operated only through the platform. On average 60% of each participating solicitor’s income was earned through it.
By the spring of 2023, Mr Proner said he hoped to have around 100 solicitors working for Lawhive.
After that, expansion to Europe and then the USA were on the horizon – probably for the following year.
“The problems we have here in terms of consumer access to the law exist pretty much everywhere in the world. It’s a massive global problem.”
He added that there would be a further funding round before Lawhive expanded overseas.
Hector Mason, a partner at Episode 1 Ventures, said: “We believe that by using cutting-edge AI, Lawhive can transform the way legal work is carried out for consumers and SMEs who are often most in need of but lack adequate legal assistance. We’re excited to have backed this world-class team disrupting a huge market.”