Law firm timekeeping startup Ping received a $13.2 million venture funding boost, bolstering the record rise in legal tech investments over the past few years.
The Series A funding round was led by Upfront Ventures and joined by BoxGroup, First Round Capital, Initialized Capital, and Ulu Ventures. It brought total investment in the artificial intelligence-infused software company to $17.4 million, a Ping statement said.
The announcement stands out for at least one big reason: Most recent legal tech investments of note have focused on vendors selling tools to streamline contract management, e-discovery, and broader-based “law practice management” systems, as opposed to timekeeping tools like Ping’s.
Ping claims its products fill a Big Law niche by using AI to help automate the system of filling out complete time sheets for client billing—currently “a miserable, error-prone process,” the company said.
“Timekeeping in the legal profession has remained virtually unchanged for decades, which means skilled attorneys are wasting time and money on unfulfilling, unproductive work,” Kara Nortman, a partner at Upfront Ventures, said in the statement.
The funding reflects a fast rise in such investments.
Last year was the first to break the $1 billion legal tech investment mark—a figure that’s already been topped in 2019, according to data collected by the legal tech blog LawSites. As of September, more than $1.2 billion in legal tech investments had been made in 2019, according to the blog.
Ping’s AI software integrates with devices and programs lawyers use, including their phones, to help identify which tasks they are performing for which clients, and select the correct billing codes.
The 30-person, San Francisco-based startup in 2017 was a member of the first cohort of Mischon de Reya’s legal tech incubator program, called MDR LAB. It is also one of the vendors whose products are sold through Reynen Court, the legal tech app store backed by 18 American and British law firms.
The changes Ping makes are vital in large part because the current timekeeping system is antiquated, and has become burdensome for attorneys, Ping CEO Ryan Alshak told Bloomberg Law. He said the company has had solid sales successes among the top 50 American law firms, though he declined to specify which firms are now testing Ping or have purchased the “fully loaded” program.
The jump from manual timekeeping to a system like Ping’s is, ideally, equivalent to the jump from manually driven to self-driving vehicles, Alshak said. The aim, he said, “is to get lawyers from Point A to Point B” without their involvement.