As the UK’s Brexit crisis drags interminably on, British citizens can at least console themselves with the fact that their country has one of the oldest, most venerable justice systems in the world. But although its archives are a goldmine of information, these details can be surprisingly hard to access in a field that has seemingly proved resistant to the introduction of modern technology.
Now, however, the legal-information provider vLex is joining and accelerating the drive for change by bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into the sector, enabling users – ranging from law students to major enterprise clients – to access information with far greater ease and speed than in the past.
The company has secured £4.2m in funding from BOOST&Co, using part of the money to acquire London-based Justis Publishing, which has the largest database of structured common law cases in the world. Justis has clients in more than 40 countries, and the acquisition increases by more than 20 the number of countries in which vLex has a presence.
Together, the businesses boast one of the world’s biggest legal databases, with sophisticated disruptive technology helping to provide valuable services to more than 6,000 clients in 70 countries.
Artificial intelligence for the legal sector
This globally renowned database comprises more than 125 million documents, with a powerful search function that enables users to filter cases by client, sector and jurisdiction. Access is enhanced by tools and services such as Vincent, the world’s first AI-powered intelligent legal research assistant, and the Iceberg AI cloud-based data hub.
“The technology that vLex has developed is what sets the company apart,” says BOOST&Co principal Kim Martin, who worked with vLex on the loan. “The legal system is still behind other industries in adopting technology – case notes can be handed to judges on pieces of paper, before being placed in archives to gather dust – so this is an important tool.”
Although vLex is smaller than competitors such as Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis and Bloomberg, it is also more agile, offering competitive pricing and flexible packages that are tailored to meet the individual needs of its clients, such as educational institutions. University students, for example, are able to search the database for cases in specific jurisdictions that show how case law was made.
Investing in the UK
The company, which has millions of users around the world, was founded in Spain by brothers Lluís Faus, the firm’s chief executive, and Angel Faus, its chief technical officer. With headquarters in Barcelona and Miami, it also has a strong presence in Central America and the US.
“The firm is competing with some major players, but vLex is a big hitter for its size, and we were keen to help the team acquire a British business and invest further in the UK,” Martin says. Justis, based in Camden, north London, has clients in countries including the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as across the Caribbean. In addition to cross-selling between the two businesses’ respective clients, the company is likely to gain opportunities to make more acquisitions and further consolidate the market.
Justis’s comprehensive database means that the acquisition has “real kudos” for vLex, says Martin, who was also impressed by the firm’s staff. “Justis has a strong executive team that is keen to grow the business. The managing director, Masoud Gerami, has been with the firm since it was established in 1986, and he is staying on, which was key,” she says. “When you make an acquisition, you’re looking for one plus one to equal three or four, and that’s certainly been the case with this deal.”
Venture debt for faster growth
Lluís Faus believes that venture debt was the ideal solution to help vLex expand. “Our funding from BOOST&Co will play a big part in vLex achieving its targets for growth, and we are delighted to have funded the acquisition of Justis with the loan,” he says. “Kim quickly gained a strong understanding of our business and built a working relationship characterised by excellent communication and trust. Decisions were made swiftly and Kim ensured that BOOST&Co’s offer was the right fit for us.”
In addition to funding the acquisition, BOOST&Co has provided growth capital to cover the expansion of vLex’s sales, marketing and customer retention teams. The aim is to accelerate the growth plan for the combined businesses, both of which are profitable, Martin says. “Having a Spanish-US company acquire a sizable UK business is complex at this level of the market, but this is the type of deal that BOOST&Co can do.”