5 min read

Unlocking Innovation: Definely’s Blueprint for Disrupting Contract Workflows

Fringe Legal hosted the founders of Definely, a Microsoft-backed legal tech company, to share their founding story and how their growth is a function of their core mission.
Unlocking Innovation: Definely’s Blueprint for Disrupting Contract Workflows

Startups are hard, and building successful startups is harder still. We sat down with the founder of a leading Legal Tech startup to explore their journey and their blueprint for building a growth company.

Legal innovation often lags behind other sectors, but new technologies are starting to disrupt traditional practices. Definely, a legal tech startup founded by former lawyers Feargus MacDaeid and Nnamdi Emelifeonwu, provides a blueprint for driving innovation in legal services based on its own journey.

Definely aims to transform legal workflows by building purpose-driven technology focused on access, efficiency, and transparency. Its software plugins enhance how lawyers draft, review, negotiate and analyze contracts using natural language processing and machine learning capabilities. Definely’s products integrate directly into Microsoft Word to streamline contract workflows for users.

What is behind our product? I think what it boils down to is two people who are looking at a problem together from a very unique set of circumstances in a pretty unique environment. That really underpins the mission behind everything we do. Everything we do is about how we can access information in a way that's easy and effective without disrupting the workflow.

By leveraging their experience as lawyers, the founders have developed legal tech solutions that increase efficiency and accessibility for all users regardless of physical ability. Their story illustrates key strategies for unlocking innovation, including launching a minimum viable product (MVP), iterative design based on user feedback, and a measured approach to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).

Definely’s Origin Story

While working as a lawyer at elite London firms, MacDaeid faced challenges reviewing contracts due to blindness, relying on visual aids or his wife’s assistance. Emelifeonwu recognized the wider applicability for legal tech that could increase accessibility for information in complex documents.

What would your ideal solution look like, was essentially the proposal he [Nnamdi] put to me.

Despite minimal existing solutions, the pair validated demand by demonstrating early but flawed prototype software to prospective customers. Even with its faults, user enthusiasm around the prototype proved the market need and cemented their resolve to solve this pervasive issue. As Emelifeonwu stated, seeing the early version was “enough to just let my passion take over.”

They took the bold step of leaving their lawyer positions to found the mission-driven startup Definely in 2018. According to MacDaeid, “I think we just knew we had something here. I think a good product sells itself.”

Key Components of Definely’s Innovation Blueprint

Starting with an MVP Product

Definely’s first product, Definely Draft, provided a “360 degree one click solution” for drafting, reviewing, and analyzing contracts within Microsoft Word. By focusing first on a specialized application for a known user need, they could deliver value quickly to early adopter clients.

Inclusive Design Thinking

By considering the extreme use case of a blind user, Definely developed its MVP to enhance accessibility with a design applicable to all users. This inclusive approach of making the technology simultaneously more accessible and efficient opened it up to widespread adoption beyond its original target demographic.

“When you solve a problem for somebody with a disability, you often make things a lot easier for people generally,” MacDaeid observed.

Iterating Based on Customer Feedback

Definely’s agile, user-focused design process relies heavily on customer feedback. Early pilots revealed flaws, but user enthusiasm indicated the correct product direction. According to Emelifeonwu, the prototypes had problems, but customers said “no, but we still really like it.”

Continued improvements based on real lawyer interactions have shaped its suite of products covering the entire pre-execution contract lifecycle. Definely can quickly adapt its legal tech solutions based on user needs.

The way we see it is we operate on what we call the pre-execution contract life cycle. When you first want to create your contract, and you want to access all the past wordings and provisions and clauses - those are part of a new product, which we haven't yet launched, but will be launched in a few weeks allows you to do that and access all the sort of knowledge from your organization's repository. Once you've done that, and you want to interrogate the contract, negotiate it, draft it, review it. That's when you then utilize Definely Draft. Then after you finish doing that, you want to clean up the contract, sanitize it, you utilize our proofreading products, which does what it says on the tin. And finally, once you've executed the contract and you turn it into a PDF, you can review it using our PDF product. So that's essentially how the products merge together.

Vision for the Future

Looking ahead, Definely plans to leverage natural language processing in new ways while mitigating risks related to emerging generative AI technologies like GPT. Their legal experience makes them uniquely equipped to innovate thoughtfully.

As MacDaeid noted, “this opens up the possibility of really supercharging the offerings that we already have in a lot of ways” But he emphasized not rushing to market, stating, “I’m not a big believer in that, the first in the race doesn't always wins.”

Responsible Approach to Leveraging AI

Definely cautions against overhyping AI capabilities, given concerns around security vulnerabilities and output inaccuracies. They advocate for slow, deliberate integration of new technologies with safeguards to address risks.

As MacDaeid stated, “You have to take time and look at these kinds of technologies and assess what are the risks involved with it.” Their insights can guide others pursuing AI-enabled legal tech in an accountable manner.

Maintaining Focus on Ethics and Reputation

As former lawyers, Definely's founders are attuned to client confidentiality, data sensitivity, and professional integrity. They aim to transform workflows without undermining user trust.

MacDaeid emphasized, “I’m not going to build something that puts my reputation or the company's reputation in jeopardy by providing a solution that is crap.” This commitment to ethics is central to their blueprint.

Framework for Evaluating Generative AI

Definely recognizes both the opportunities and limitations of generative AI models like GPT-4. As Abhijat Saraswat, who hosted the discussion, shares, there is a useful framework when evaluating whether Generative AI (at least in its current state) should be utilized:

  1. how important is the accuracy?
  2. how important is the understanding of the real-world outcomes?
“I think you have to answer at least two questions: how important is the accuracy of the output? And, how important is the understanding of the real world outcomes?"

For legal tech, precision and comprehension of impacts are critical. Definely's measured approach accounts for these factors appropriately.


Definely provides a blueprint for legal tech innovation and disruption rooted in solving real-world problems. By launching a focused MVP, embracing inclusive design, gathering user feedback, and proceeding carefully with emerging technology, the company has steadily built momentum for change.

Above all, Definely's blueprint underscores how purpose-driven businesses can activate change while upholding their values. The ethical application of technology to increase access, efficiency, and transparency points the way forward for the legal industry.

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