(Bloomberg) -- Could the armies of lawyers needed to close billion-dollar deals soon be a thing of the past?
That’s what Invoke Capital, the London-based venture firm run by former Autonomy Plc Chief Executive Officer Mike Lynch, is betting with its latest project financing. Invoke said Wednesday that it’s making an undisclosed investment in Luminance, a U.K. startup using artificial intelligence to process legal documents and automate due diligence in mergers and acquisitions.
Luminance says its software can read and understand hundreds of pages of legal documents a minute, enabling lawyers to carry out due diligence far faster and with smaller, less expensive teams, than previously.
"Luminance has been trained to think like a lawyer," CEO Emily Foges said in a statement. The software can highlight important information without needing to be told what specifically to look for, according to Foges. Rather than employing attorneys to scan through thousands of documents to identify possible issues, these lawyers can now devote their time to analyzing the software’s findings and negotiating deal terms, Foges said.
Founded by a team that includes mathematicians from the University of Cambridge, as well as legal and deal-making experts, Luminance has been incubated by Invoke over the past year and developed with help from the London-based international law firm Slaughter and May. The company launched its product more widely Wednesday.
Steve Cooke, senior partner at Slaughter and May, said "legal due diligence is ripe for the revolution that artificial intelligence offers."
Luminance is hardly the only company to be developing AI for reading and analyzing complex legal documents. RAVN Systems, another U.K. based technology company, has developed a competing system. IBM’s Watson cognitive computing platform has also been piloting software to analyze legal documents in bankruptcy cases. U.K. law firm Riverview Law has developed its own digital legal assistant, called KIM, that it’s now selling to others, and Pinsent Masons has developed a program to read and analyze clauses in loan agreements.
But Lynch said Luminance has "a technological advantage that outstrips its rivals."
Luminance’s focus on due diligence surrounding mergers and acquisitions may raise a few eyebrows given that Hewlett-Packard’s $10.3 billion acquisition of Autonomy, announced in August 2011, went badly wrong: Hewlett Packard later claimed that Autonomy had improperly booked revenue and wrote off almost $9 billion of the acquisition’s value. Subsequently HP sued Lynch and ex-Autonomy chief financial officer Sushovan Hussain for $5.1 billion.
Lynch has denied any wrongdoing and counter sued HP for 100 million pounds ($131 million). The U.K. Serious Fraud Office investigated Autonomy’s accounting but concluded in January 2015 that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission continue to investigate aspects of the deal.
Last week, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., one of two companies split from Hewlett-Packard Co., sold the division that includes the assets it purchased from Autonomy to the U.K. software firm Micro Focus International Plc for $8.8 billion.
Invoke, which says it has access to $1 billion in assets, has previously backed three other Cambridge, England-based companies exploring applications of machine learning. These include the cybersecurity firm Darktrace, whose executive team counts a number of Autonomy alumni, a genomics startup called Sophia Genetics, and Neurence, which is working on computer vision and object-recognition.
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