Luminance targets Kira in AI legaltech PR spat over Litera sale
Slaughter and May-backed tech company sparks war of words after promoting 'rescue package' for rival's clients
Luminance has raised eyebrows in the legaltech community after publicising a ‘rescue package’ for users of rival AI-assisted legaltech provider Kira Systems following Kira's sale to US document management specialists Litera Microsystems.
The unusual public spat began when Luminance – which is backed by Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May – issued a press release on 16 August stating that it was putting together what it described as a 'rescue package' to allow Kira users 'to migrate their work and configurations as seamlessly as possible'.
The move was in response to Litera's acquisition of Toronto-based Kira last week, one of the most significant AI-related legal tech acquisitions to date. As part of the deal, Kira’s CEO and co-founder Noah Waisberg is setting up a spin-off company, Zuva, with around 30 employees to continue targeting the corporate market, although he will serve as a strategic adviser to Litera. Kira co-founder and chief technology officer Alexander Hudek is becoming a board director at the acquirer.
In its release, Luminance said Kira 'was being broken up and its senior management team would be leaving to start a new business in other markets' with 'the remaining rump of Kira' being disposed of in a sale to a third party'.
Eleanor Weaver, Luminance’s CEO, said: “Luminance is fully committed to the law firm market and will continue its rapid growth and technology development in that area. Those customers of Kira who wish to continue with the vision of AI-assisted legal practice will find the Luminance community welcoming and supportive.”
Waisberg fired back on Twitter, questioning Luminance's ability to 'read the press around our deal'. 'Litera should help Kira get to ubiquitous use in law faster,' he added. 'Around 150 Kirans are going to Litera. I think it’s a great step for Kira in law.'
Litera CEO Avaneesh Marwaha added in a Tweet of his own: 'I don't know if opening @KiraSystems up to our now 800+ employees, 15,000 customers and 4 workflows qualifies as a disposal?'
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UK title Artificial Lawyer questioned the wisdom Luminance's tactics. 'The Luminance press release is treating Kira’s sophisticated law firm customers as if they are a bit dim and will just see their PR message and suddenly say: "Oh, OK, let’s move over to Luminance even though we have been working with Kira’s system for a very long time,"' it wrote.
'In any case, the world of legal tech usually is a sector of politeness and although everyone can get a bit too hyped sometimes, things don’t usually get this negative or deliberately designed to undermine another company in public.'
PR and reputation management consultant Michael Evans, former EMEA head of communications at Baker McKenzie, said: "Aggressive PR strategies targeting rivals have their place as a business development tool, but can also backfire. Such an approach has to be grounded in truth and reality. Stretch these things too far and they will snap back at you by damaging trust in your company.
"The jury appears to be out in this case and it will be interesting to see the details of Luminance's proposed rescue deal, as well as processes around Litera's integration of Kira's business."
Founded in 2011, Kira’s client portfolio includes more than half the Am Law 100, 18 of the top 25 ranked M&A practices, and seven of the Vault 10.
Luminance's AI-powered legaltech tools is used by more than 300 organisations across 55 countries, including the likes of Vodafone, Featurespace and Ferrero as well as a host of law firms including Slaughters, which has a stake in the company.
It expanded its offering earlier this year with the launch of Luminance Corporate, an in-house-focused contracting platform to help legal departments get a better grip on their contracting issues.