Legal startup, Resolve Disputes Online (RDO), won first prize at the Legaltech Venture Day at UNSW Sydney on Monday night. The international competition, co-hosted by UNSW Law, The Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation, and IE Madrid Law School, supports startups disrupting the legal sector.

The competition prioritises startups with the potential to have a positive impact on the major challenges in the legal industry and to further the cause of justice.

RDO, which specialises in dispute resolution software, beat four other Australian start-ups delivering a seven-minute pitch to a jury of local and international experts selected by UNSW and IE Madrid.

The startup’s software allows clients to create and host their own branded negotiation, mediation and arbitration tools for case management, including valuable data insights and analytics.

This year’s shortlisted startups also included an AI research assistant (Ailira), an online learning tool for legal students (Yegal Academy), an automated documentation verification app (Atticus), and a digital family property platform (FamilyProperty).

“[Winning] means a lot because the competition, as you saw tonight, was so, so impressive,” says RDO Co-Founder Joe Al-Khayat. 

“There are some amazing legaltech companies in Australia so to win it here, where I think Australia is one of the best hubs for legal technology, means an awful lot.”

RDO Co-Founder Joe Al Khayat

RDO Co-Founder Joe Al-Khayat

RDO will participate at the Global Legaltech Venture Day final taking place in Madrid later in 2020 along with seven other international start-ups. They will pitch their business to a range of investors, legal industry representatives and entrepreneurs. They will also receive support and promotional credits from Amazon Web Services as part of their prize.

The UNSW event host, Professor Lyria Bennett Moses, Director of the Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation, says that the competition is not just about the prizes.

“For legal start-ups, [it’s] also the opportunity to hear about what others are doing, get some feedback and, for the winner, get global attention at the finals of the international competition in Spain,” she says.

“For the legal industry, it is a chance to see what is happening in process innovation and what might be available – or on the horizon – placing firms in a better position to imagine, and plan for, the future.”

Inefficient processes in the legal system and in legal practice, and the prohibitive cost of some legal services are two of the issues that prompted this event, Professor Bennett Moses says.

At the same time, there is also growth in the legal start-up sector; digital automation, for instance, can help people access relevant legal information.

Start-ups that use technology to solve important legal challenges faced by companies, governments, public institutions and civil society, as well as those that address operational issues, were encouraged to apply.

“Our perspective on what we see as massive structural change in the legal profession is not one of doom and gloom but one of genuine excitement,” Dean of UNSW Law, Scientia Professor George Williams AO said in his opening address.

Global Legaltech Venture Day will travel to two more countries around the world before RDO travel to Spain for the finals.

“I love Madrid,” says Co-Founder Joe Al-Khayat. “I’m just going to go and really enjoy it – soak up the atmosphere, check out the competition, and try and win.”

Heidi Harrington-Johnson