Nov 20, 2020
In episode 22 of the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast, your podcast host, Charlie Uniman, interviews Dan Sinclair (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Head of MDR LAB (lab.mdr.london). MDR LAB, which is part of the Mishcon de Reya law firm in the UK, consists of (as stated on the LAB’s website) consists of a “series of programmes that seek to launch, improve and scale the next generation of LegalTech.”
Dan kicks off the discussion by describing how he went from university to a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) (where he worked in strategy initially and then helped to start PWC’s tech startup accelerator program) and then on to join the MDR LAB team. Once at MDR LAB, Dan and his colleagues were tasked with broadening the LAB’s reach by moving beyond what might be called a “plain vanilla” type of legal tech incubator; namely, one that worked with legal tech startups only at a single stage of their development in a program that lasted only several months in any given year. In broadening the LAB’s reach, Dan and the rest of the team aimed to have the LAB take a more agile, three-prong approach to the structure of its programs that enabled MDR LAB to work with startups at all stages of their development, all year round.
Dan paints a picture of how the three-prong program structure at MDR LAB works. As Dan outlines it, there are now three separate legal tech startup development programs at the LAB, each with its own cadence and duration and each catering to companies at different stages of a startup’s development. The “Launch” program lasts approximately 6 months and caters to earliest stage legal tech startups, i.e., those at the problem solving/idea stage. The “Improve” program lasts 12 weeks and caters to legal tech startups that have achieved product-market fit and that want assistance in working with their target market and improving their product development; all in partnership with product users at Mishcon de Reya. The “Sell” program is for later-stage legal tech startups that have customers and market traction and are eager to determine, by way of a pilot of their product offering with Mishcon de Reya itself, whether they are a good fit as a legal tech vendor to the law firm.
Applications for each program can be found at the MDR LAB website, with the Launch and Sell programs getting under way in 2021. As Dan explains, the LAB considers a number of factors in assessing applicants, with a focus on assessment of (i) the significance of the problem addressed by the applicant, (ii) the applicant’s value proposition and (iiii) the team’s ability (or potential ability) to execute on solving the problem and realizing that value proposition.
Speaking specifically to the Launch program, Dan explains that the LAB is interested in hearing from applicants who, armed with a sound product idea, may nevertheless have yet no tech or startup experience themselves. Not only is the the “recovering lawyer” with years of practice experience welcome to apply, but equally welcome to apply are law students or junior lawyers who may have the “right” idea.
In operating the Launch program, the LAB can be understood as almost a kind of co-founder to the individuals who have been accepted into that program. As Dan explains, the LAB will provide program entrants with assistance from experts in tech, data science, business strategy and other areas of startup management. Moreover, MDR LAB has partnered with Founders Factory, an accelerator and venture studio for corporate investors, whose team of founders, operators and investors will provide program entrants with a wide variety of operating , financing and other management advice in such areas as, among others, marketing, revenue growth, hiring and product development.