(L-R) TechCrunch senior writer Anthony Ha; GGV Capital managing partner Hans Tung; Google Cloud head of startup programs Samantha O’Keefe; Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Jeremy Liew; Greylock Partners general partner Sarah Guo; Toyota AI Ventures’ Jim Adler; and McCarthyFinch co-founder and CEO Nick Whitehouse speak onstage during the first day of TechCrunch Disrupt 2018 at San Francisco’s George R. Moscone Convention Center on Sept. 5, 2018.

McCarthyFinch, a 15-month-old legal technology startup from New Zealand, was one of 21 companies chosen to compete at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco.

The company, the latest upstart seeking to use artificial intelligence in an effort to simplify legal services, was formed in 2017 as a joint venture between leading New Zealand law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts and Auckland-based boutique venture capital firm Goat Ventures. The two sponsors gave McCarthyFinch about $2.5 million in pre-seed money to get started.

“We are now at a point in time where we are kind of getting into a conventional phase,” said Nick Whitehouse, a former chief digital officer at MinterEllisonRuddWatts who now serves as co-founder and CEO of McCarthyFinch. “We thought that TechCrunch would be a great place to show our technology.”

Since founding McCarthyFinch last year, Whitehouse has brought together a group of more than 30 lawyers and data scientists to develop an AI-powered platform that claims to be able to simplify certain tasks for the legal profession.

The McCarthyFinch team has been looking at how to use AI and other technologies to automate labor-intensive tasks such as document review and discovery, Whitehouse said. As of now, the startup’s platform is able to perform four main functions, including automating document review processes, drafting and approving contracts, providing insight into trending legal decisions such as settlements and M&A deals, and using conversational AI to address legal questions for clients.

“Billable hours have been disrupted for a really long time. The Big Four, all the [major] accounting firms, have really done a good job moving on from that and [Big Law] has been slow to do that,” Whitehouse said. “I think we are offering a solution to help and transition in a really valuable way.”

Although McCarthyFinch did not get the $100,000 cash award that comes with winning the coveted Disrupt Cup, the TechCrunch event has helped the company gain more exposure in the United States as it seeks to start raising its next found of funding. (TechCrunch is a technology news publisher founded by former O’Melveny & Myers and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati associate J. Michael Arrington, who sold the business in September 2010 to AOL Inc., now part of Verizon Communications Inc.)

McCarthyFinch currently has 10 ongoing trials, including with three U.S.-based law firms. While the startup itself is based in Auckland, McCarthyFinch opened a second office in Los Angeles about four months ago as it seeks to extend its presence into the U.S. legal services market. Richard DeFrancisco, a Los Angeles-based business executive, has been hired as president of McCarthyFinch.

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