Legal design thinking in real-life with Hannele Korhonen
This week I spoke with Kaisa Kromhof, founder of Ment which is a no-code document automation solution – for lawyers – and anyone who wants to automate and customise their document production. We talked about user-centred design and the role it played in the development of Ment.
For those who aren’t familiar with Ment, it’s a pioneering document automation tool. Sure there are lots of document automation tools around, but Ment is easy to use, doesn’t have a steep learning curve and requires zero programming skills. I love it because Ment is built on understanding the core user needs – rather than the perceived needs developers might have – which is a foundation design thinking principle.
It’s a lovely tie-in with our contract design workshops because it adds another layer of ease to creating documents that add meaning and ease to your legal work.
“When everyone in your team is able to create legal documents, you’ve made that world accessible to everyone.”Kaisa Kromhof
Kaisa Kromhof – tell us about you and Ment
Kaisa: I’m the founder of Ment, which is a no-code document automation solution that allows lawyers, members of legal teams, clients, and business people to create their own legal documents.
I’m a lawyer by profession. So prior to founding Ment, I was the General Counsel with a small legal team in an electronics manufacturing company working with law firms locally and internationally.
Hannele, you and I have known each other a long time and back then we shared our grumblings. Those grumblings were the reason I started looking for a way to solve my problem.
For you Hannele, your problem as a lawyer was doing manual contracting work for clients from end to end. It wasn’t scalable – so you were trading hours for dollars.
For me, as General Counsel it was challenging for our team to share best practice drafting and playbooks for different situations – especially when people outside the legal team were producing the documents themselves.
So with the help of document automation technology, we built a system that could create a document by answering a set of questions. Then based on the answers, you get the automated custom document.
And this answering can be done by the lawyer or the business person or the client themselves. And that way, it’s made accessible. So that’s the solution.
Ment and legal design – what does it mean to you?
Kaisa: Well, six years ago, when the company was founded, I didn’t know too much about legal design. I didn’t really know that much about legal tech – but I knew I had a problem.
That’s the starting point – the challenge or the problem that’s making it more difficult to do work or affecting user rights and the question is how to minimize, improve or remove the problem.
And when that happens in the area of law that’s what I think about that’s legal design.
So it can be, then that legal design is really a way of solving problems in the legal area. That’s how I think maybe it’s not the same as it’s written in the official books. But that’s how I think about it and I go approach solving problems.
Hannele: That’s why I asked because I think that everybody has their own definitions and kind of approaches to this. And there are no right and wrong answers here.
Why is the user problem important for Ment?
Kaisa: Understanding WHO has the problem has always been at the core of Ment since the beginning.
Six years ago when I started looking for a solution for my in-house problem, I found the document automation products on the market were complex and burdensome to implement.
And they didn’t consider the customer (me) in the way I wanted – back then, if I wanted to automate a document, I was the one doing the automation.
I’m a lawyer, not an IT specialist. So that was the second step of the problem. The first problem was I needed automation but the “how” to automate solutions available were not ones I wanted.
I didn’t want to read lots of instructions or go to training, I wanted something I could buy and use pretty much without training.
That’s a tall order.
But that is where the design thinking comes in – we understand that our clients are not IT experts – Ment is for people like me: people who aren’t specifically interested in the concept of automation or go to months of training. It’s for people who want to quickly automate their documents not spend months doing it.
Hannele: so you discovered the existing solutions weren’t solving your problem – they were solving a perceived problem. You started tapping into people who shared the same experiences as you to identify solutions that would solve the real problem – and Ment was born. That’s fantastic.
So who uses document automation tools like Ment?
Kaisa: If you think about document automation, there are two levels of users
- users who make the automation with our no-code tool (and they are often lawyers)
- users who generate the new custom documents from the tool (also lawyers generating their own documents) but also business people in organizations from procurement to sales to HR, you name it
And then we also have this third group, which is the clients of our clients.
Meaning that if we have a client who has automated certain, let’s say, legal documents for consumers they use automation to automate templates, and then may make it available, for example, on websites, either for free or behind the paywall.
So the end consumer is the client of the client – but the people automating are often the lawyers. But they could also be interns or paralegals and with the solution we built, anyone can learn how to automate fast – even as short as 15 minutes.
I didn’t know what no-code was back then, but that is what we did. I didn’t know about legal design back then, but that is what we did. We took time to fully understand the customer problem and came up with processes, tools and solutions to solve those problems.
It’s not just legal tech – it’s the whole thing. We created a solution for people who wanted hassle-free document automation that breathed a little joy into tiresome jobs.
How did you find other people with the same user-experience problems?
Kaisa: We started asking people. It was scary at first, but it’s much easier now. I remember one meeting going four slides of PowerPoint, saying “ yeah, we have this thing. Do you think this is also a problem?” But it’s the whole point – you have to understand it. If you develop something just because you can, it’s possible, but the likelihood of success is smaller.
Lawyers are often scared to change words or play around with clauses in documents because they worry that making things simple will affect the legal meaning. Ment allows you to customize your document without losing original text, so it’s very user-friendly and helps reduce the anxiety that comes with simplifying documents.
Please see the YouTube video for a live demonstration of Ment in action.
How is Ment helping your customers?
Kaisa: We are always very close to our customers and we want to hear their experiences.
Sometimes we also get ideas from them that we never thought about. One customer decided to put a widget in their email footer. ( A widget is a link or button that you can put anywhere so someone can generate a document outside of our product.) The widget link leads to a questionnaire about the legal issue the customer has so the lawyer has more information.
In another – a QR code of a questionnaire. It’s so simple in a way, but it brings the applicability to a different level. We are always happy to hear our customers’ ideas that we never thought about how to use automation.
Hannele: That’s the thing, we are not the ones who have ideas and when you’re listening to what the customers are doing, then you can actually learn quite a lot.
From lawyer to design entrepreneur
Hannele: One question comes to mind – what’s it been like for you?
Because you were an in-house counsel, and then you jump into the entrepreneurship and legal tech and legal design? How has it been for you? Going to talk to the customers and being so close to the customers and listening to them and developing? What would be the biggest transformation for you personally?
Kaisa: It’s a good question, I think it’s easier to start with what has not changed. If I think about my time back as a General Counsel, and sitting at the negotiation table, you have to be very much listening. If you were only talking and telling your point of view about what you want you’d have an unsuccessful negotiation.
So it’s all about listening, understanding, reading between the lines, trying to get in the same way and understanding what they really want. And seeing the eyes through the other one’s perspective. And when you understand that, the solutions appear and you can see how to do it. If you don’t understand, you’re just worlds apart and talking. So I think that has not changed.
But what has changed is that in the startup world, the pace is very fast. So, in the in-house world, yes, we work a lot, there are long days, and a lot of things are done.
But as an entrepreneur, you have to make decisions quickly, execute, and do things without losing the big picture at all. The pace! And now I’m not only responsible for the legal matters, but it’s also the financing, managing board meetings, product development, and team building strategy. It’s very wide. But that’s the whole point. That’s why I do it. I love it. And now with a bigger team, obviously, I’m not alone.
What is next in the document automation world at Ment?
Kaisa: All our product development is based on discussions with the customers. So I’m always listening to the customers to understand what features to bring into the product. We’ve introduced some cool new features – enabling the customers to rename documents in a bundle differently to produce a different kind of automated document, even if they have 100 different documents in one bundle.
But in general, we now have our first US customers and we also went to Iltacon, which is a big legal tech event over there. We were very well received and I was surprised. So that’s, that’s super nice.
And on the product side, we are going to be adding more integrations. We have plenty of APIs already but we are not an island and we need to continue to grow. And that’s exciting.
Where can we find out more about Ment?
Legal design thinking: IRL. Episode 27
You’ve just read a summary of my LinkedIn Live.
Each week I provide actionable advice for law firm owners and discuss real-life legal design in action. I hope legal design thinking can help you get more happy clients and be happier lawyers.
What do you think Ment? Breaks down some of the traditional barriers to documents, right? I encourage you to check out the YouTube video and watch the demo because you’ll see the tool allows lawyers to maintain full control over the drafting (so when it seems scary to change things – the original text is still there.) You might even see an opportunity for you to productize something you do in your work!
If you’ve read something that interests you please join me next week.
You can catch a replay of episode 27 here Legal Design Thinking: IRL or join me live and ask questions.
Want to chat about it?
Feel free to DM any questions or join me on LinkedIn every Wednesday at 8 am ET where you can ask me about legal design and growing your law firm.
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Watch all the Legal Design IRL Episodes episodes.
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