South African startup Legal Lens has launched in a bid to protect companies, state entities, and individuals from inflated legal fees, claiming to be able to reduce legal fees by as much as 60 per cent, or by an average of 10 per cent.
Launched in November 2020 by Catherine-Jane Paulse and Yusha Davidson, both admitted attorneys, Legal Lens allows users to send in legal invoices as well as any correspondence regarding fee arrangements and their letter of engagement with the lawyer.
Using experienced attorneys, optical character recognition and machine learning, Legal Lens digitally reviews the legal invoices to identify areas for potential savings. Legal Lens then engages with the customer’s lawyer regarding the fees in dispute.
All engagements are professionally handled to ensure that the relationship between the customer and the lawyer is maintained. After the legal invoice has been renegotiated and revised, Legal Lens obtains a new invoice from the legal firm that reflects the reduced amount to be paid.
Clients are charged 17.5 per cent of the amount saved. If there are no savings, Legal Lens does not charge. The idea for the startup came about after Paulse and Davidson recognised that legal invoices often reflected billing practices and errors that resulted in unfair, high legal fees.
“The recent discussion paper by the South African Law Reform Commission regarding its investigation into legal fees also confirms that improper and unethical billing is a reality in South Africa,” Paulse said.
Davidson said the pair realised that it was awkward and difficult reviewing legal invoices, as clients fear disrupting the close relationship they have with their lawyers and may not have the knowledge needed to dispute a legal invoice.
“It’s time consuming. So, we developed a tech solution to review legal invoices and reduce legal fees,” he said.
Legal Lens is currently in discussion with some of the major banks and insurance companies to offer its service, but offers its services to any company, state entity, or individual who would like their legal bills reviewed.