Documate, a company whose no-code automation platform is used by law firms and legal organizations to automate the creation of legal documents, is rebranding under a new name, Gavel, to better reflect its continuing expansion into serving as the platform on which law firms, legal organizations, and legal tech startups can build online legal products.
“There’s an estimate that within the next 10 years, 90% of legal services are going to be delivered online,” founder and CEO Dorna Moini told me ahead of today’s announcement. “We want to be the infrastructure on which that is built and that’s the direction in which we’re building all of our features.”
In conjunction with the rebrand, the company is also announcing that it has hired a new chief technology officer, Pierre Martin, who has 15 years of technology leadership experience. Prior to joining Documate last November, Martin co-founded and scaled logistics software company Beacon. Earlier, he served in software development and engineering leadership roles at both Amazon and Microsoft.
While the company will continue to offer and support its core document automation product, the rebrand is intended to reaffirm its commitment to serving as the infrastructure for legal professionals to “automate their expertise” by creating online legal products, and it will now focus on continuing to add features that enable that. Already, Gavel has added such components as a client portal and product billing, and it will soon be integrating more communication features.
Several companies and law firms were already using the Documate platform to build legal products, including the companies Hello Divorce and Landlord Legal and the law firm Wilson Sonsini, Moini told me. “What we’ve noticed is that there are so many of our customers who are building things that are so much more than just document automation — building full end-to-end legal products that really help scale their practices.”
In fact, she said, in recent years, startups that have built their products on Gavel have raised over $25 million in venture funding, and the company has customers building products on its platform in at least 23 different countries and 18 different languages.
Like a no-code platform such as Squarespace does for building websites, the Gavel platform allows legal professionals with no coding background to build products ranging from tools that will be used only internally, to hybrid tools that combine DIY features with hands-on legal help, to tools that are entirely DIY, Moini said.
“Attorneys are able to scale their practices beyond what they ever would have been able to if they were doing one-to-one services. And they’re able to serve this huge underserved middle class that actually has some form of disposable income to spend.”
Given this increasing use of the platform for creating products, the company began to see its name as limiting, Moini said. “It refers to the document automation piece, but it doesn’t paint the picture for legal professionals of what they can build long term.”
The company chose the name Gavel because, for centuries, gavels have been used to express finality in decision-making and a trusted process.
“That’s exactly what our customers are building on our platform,” Moini said. “They’re building these workflows and these legal products into which they have put all of their expertise and that their clients or their customers can also, in turn, trust to give them a process to get to the resolution in a particular matter, whether that’s a transactional matter or litigation matter.
“We want to be the platform on which you’re building these tools, and wherever along the spectrum of productization you fit, we want to provide you the tool set you need.”
Moini said this latest evolution of her company takes her almost full circle back to the company she originally founded. As I wrote when she launched the company in 2017, it was originally called HelpSelf Legal and it was an automated platform to help to women obtain domestic violence restraining orders. The document automation technology underlying that site was so successful that it became the company’s focus.
“We’ve now gone almost full circle to allowing people to build that whole platform, like what I had built in 2017 in that domestic violence platform,” Moini said. “We now want to allow legal professionals to build that whole suite — not just the document automation, but login, payments, multiple ways of billing, unbundled services, in-app messaging, document automaton, information storage, and more.”
By “information storage,” Moini is referring to the ability of clients to create profiles on the platform and store their profile information. She sees the potential for allowing clients to authorize the platform to share their data with other attorneys who are also on the platform. For example, maybe a client worked with an attorney on the platform one year to create an estate plan, and then, the next year, is getting a divorce. If the client uses an attorney who is on the platform, the client can authorize the data to be transferred.
Where Legal Is Going
Gavel charges for use of its platform on a SaaS subscription basis. All of the pricing is listed on its website. Customers can be transparent about their use of the platform or white label their products to hide any mention of the company. That said, Moini’s vision is that the Gavel platform becomes so trusted among both legal professionals and legal consumers that developers would benefit from saying their product is on Gavel.
The company’s customers include law firms of all sizes, but Moini sees a difference in how different sized firms use the platform.
Larger firms tend to use Gavel more for internal-facing projects and document automation, whereas small firms are more likely to use it to build client-facing products.
“Smaller firms are really going head first into making their tools client facing. Whether or not they’re fully making a legal product, they’re at least making the tools that they do develop be client facing.”
Gavel has also launched a Marketplace where visitors can find and use applications created using the Gavel platform. Some can be used for free, others require a payment.
Several of the apps have been created by legal services agencies, such as a group of Social Security forms created by Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services.
“This rebrand is a symbol of our focus and commitment to this area, because I think some people have thought of some of these features as being ancillary to the document automation platform, but they are very much our focus in the direction of our company and our North Star. We believe that this is the direction in which the legal profession is going.”