Sydney legal tech firm Smokeball, a cloud-based practice management software startup that automatically tracks a lawyer’s time and activity for billing, has raised $30 million in its first capital round.
The investment from private investors and employee shareholders will be used to fast-track the expansion of its 200+ person team, based in Sydney and Chicago, as well as further develop technology to help small- and medium-sized law firms manage and grow their business in the US and Australia.
Smokeball has been bootstrapped until now.
CEO and co-founder Hunter Steele, who grew up with his father running a country NSW law practice, said the global pandemic and transition to remote work, meant it’s more important than ever for lawyers to operate efficiently and effectively.
“Smokeball has grown rapidly because most small- and medium-sized law firms either don’t use automated software or have poorly functioning solutions,” he said.
“Our mission is to help attorneys grow the value of their business, which is the basis for everything we do. By securing private funding we can continue this mission with clients as our primary focus rather than delivering a short-term return to investors. With the support of private investors, we can focus on solutions that benefit our clients for decades to come.”
Steele estimated that around 100,000 small- and medium-sized US law firms don’t use any law-specific software to manage cases and their business.
“Just as many are trapped in outdated legacy systems tied to a server, or use cloud platforms that lack innovation and depth,” he said.
“We exist to help firms realise the potential in their business, and to get them back to practicing law rather than pushing paper and chasing timesheets.”
The cloud-based platform offers tools such as automatic time tracking; seamless document automation and form libraries; advanced matter management; and complete legal billing.
Steele said Smokeball clients bill more than four hours per day, compared to the industry average of only two.
Family law acquisition
Alongside the raise, the company has acquired another lawtech startup, Sydney-based FamilyProperty.
The venture was founded in March 2019 by family law specialist and mediator Fiona Kirkman and her technologist husband, Tim Kirkman, from an idea by leading family law expert Professor Patrick Parkinson.
They set out to ease the administrative burden in family law financial separations with a collaborative
online platform. The business was part of the YBF lawtech hub and had seed funding from BinaryZen Ventures.
Hunter Steele said family law has previously lacked significant focus from technology creators and innovators.
“We wanted to increase our commitment to family law professionals and help bring a ‘new law approach’ to this area, by creating highly specialised software,” he said.
“We have been incredibly impressed by what Fiona and Tim have created and are thrilled to welcome them into the Smokeball family.”
Kirkman, FamilyProperty’s CEO, said they were happy to be working with another trailblazer in the Australian practice management space.
“This is the right time to accelerate our innovation and expand the reach of FamilyProperty to make it the ‘must have’ platform for the family law profession,” she said.
Terry Giannakopoulos, CEO of a FamilyProperty seed investor, adds: “We were looking to partner with a team that understood how technology can drive change in Australia’s legal system. We partnered and funded FamilyProperty from its inception and are extremely supportive of its future under Smokeball’s ownership.”