An interview with founder Peter Milligan
Here at Miso, we’re not like most other software companies. For us, people are key. It’s one of the reasons we haven’t rushed to make the sign-up process digital. We want to talk to our users, make sure they have what they need and can get to work effectively with Miso. For us, relationships are an integral part of what we do.
To find out a bit more we spoke to Miso founder, Peter Milligan, about where the idea came from and the journey Miso has been on since its inception.
Pete, the idea for Miso came from a struggle most lawyers will empathise with, didn’t it?
The challenge to organise thinking… to structure information around an ‘issue’ structure… is universal to the litigation process. This is a core process that every litigation lawyer learns and will recognise as an inherent part of their work. Finding a way to manage this, however, has been a very personal journey for me.
I started out life as an advocate at the Scottish Bar. I specialised in personal injury and other insurance work but like so many others, I’ve tried my hand at lots of areas of law, over the years. And, like those others, I experienced a daily frustration of how to juggle large volumes of information, spread over several cases, in my head. In the old days we used to do this with coloured pens and sticky notes… and to an extent that worked ok. But when software started to be introduced – when clients asked us to ‘go digital’ – we tried to replicate the order we were able to achieve with paper mark-ups and it highlighted the limitations of the available software packages. There wasn’t anything that was a true digital replacement and certainly nothing that allowed for incisive organisation of thinking and knowledge, on an issue basis.
So, how did you work out that Miso was the answer?
After a number of years I decided to take a sabbatical and signed up for a six-month cookery course, where I learned about the brigade system used in high-end restaurants and created by Escoffier. The system is about productivity and efficiency. It’s about taking a collaborative approach in the kitchen, using the brigade structure to deliver maximum value from your head chef and each member of the team. At its core is a concept of mise en place, which means ‘everything in its place’. The concept is that if you are as well organised as you can be… if you prepare properly in advance and put everything in a logical place, when it comes to time to act, you can do so in the calmest and most efficient way possible. Everything is under control because you’ve prepared properly and everything is where it needs to be.
As so often happens, I was standing there washing up, one day, and realised that the same approach could be applied to the litigation process. Currently, most litigators work in a highly inefficient way. Chefs have developed the tools and processes to combat this but litigators haven’t. From this I realised that developing Miso – a tool that helps litigators to put everything in its place, using the well-known concept of ‘issues’ – was the answer I’d been looking for.
How did you take Miso from idea to reality, then?
I had done a bit of software coding and knew how you could connect bits of data using a database structure. I felt it would be possible to replicate the principles of the brigade system in this way, to develop software that would help lawyers to be more efficient as litigators. It would be a way of using and communicating the litigation information in a more structured, organised way.
I started by looking to see if there was a product that could do this already. And, when I drew a blank, I began to look into the viability of building one.
Miso is proudly created by litigators, for litigators. How did this come about?
When I was working out how to create the first, blueprint, version of Miso I talked to a number of developers. But it became clear that the results wouldn’t be as I felt they needed to be. They’d be very much from a developer perspective and the real strength was in having something that was really designed by practising lawyers. I was determined that it should be built by litigators for litigators and so, in the end, I taught myself enough about coding that I could create the blueprint version myself. I used it myself, as a ‘jobbing advocate’ and found myself relying on it more and more. The design and functionality evolved through practical experience.
How did Miso get from beta to launch?
I have no illusions about my limitations as a coder and I was increasingly aware that the system was frail. It wasn’t as reliable as it needed to be, even though we now had a great, working blueprint for how it needed to work.
Armed with this I was put in touch with Business Gateway in Edinburgh and they helped me to move things onto a more commercial footing. I met Eric Jutrzenka, who became co-founder of the company and is still our CTO today. Together we were able to take my blueprint software and make it industrial.
We built an initial commercial version of the software, which we tested with some advocates and law firms in Scotland. People were excited about the underlying principles but the software was too complicated to use and was too focused on personal injury. People wanted a more generic software based on the same principles but applicable to all. So, we went back to the drawing board… again.
We rebuilt the beta from scratch, also bringing in investment from friends and family. I guess you could say that we ‘bootstrapped’ it, but things were really starting to move forward and it was an exciting time.
How did you know Miso was going to be a success?
There were a number of indications that we were on the right track.
First, through Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International, we were invited to join a trade mission for legal tech to Zurich and Vienna. We were invited back to Vienna to pitch for a place on an accelerator programme and not only won a place but won the final pitch at the end. We were tiny but competing on an international stage, alongside big companies with £1m+ budgets. This was a real milestone moment in the growth of the company. We proved that Miso not only worked but was well-received across multiple jurisdictions. There was no denying that the legal tech community saw Miso as a strong idea.
The second step-change was when we restructured the Miso Board in 2021. Richard Neville-Towle, one of our investors, stepped in as Chair and created a new board that now includes Blair Davidson, Craig Nicol and Anthony White. Working with our lead investors we were not only able to put in place a plan for growth and development but also bring in Philip Petersen as CEO.
Philip has been instrumental in driving investment, commercial improvements, growth and brand development.
What’s next for Miso?
2022 has been a really transformational year for Miso. We’ve just launched our new interface – which has totally changed the look and feel of the software. We took a big step back, considered the overall Miso brand – colours, fonts, style – as well as how users needed to interact with the software. The result is something that’s a lot less white and that is designed more for the users. It’s much easier to understand information and how it links across different areas and functions.
We’re also part way through a big programme of development – working on features that are a direct result of feedback we’ve had from users such as human rights lawyer Simon Crabb, Carolyn Jackson at Balfour+Manson, advocate Lisa Henderson KC and barrister and advocate Brandon Malone.
We’ve already launched our eBundles feature, so users can create bundles, simply and quickly, from the Documents they have added to the Case. We’ve integrated onboarding into the product with a virtual tour and guidance cards to each function, so you can see – almost at-a-glance – how Miso can help to organise your thinking and to transform the litigation process.
And we’re about to launch a new tool that will allow you to create different damage scenarios in a schedule as well as enhancing the Chronology function, introducing Facts into the chronology, so you can cross-reference everything in an order that works for you.
Finally, we are going to be launching an online subscription system but, for the moment we’re carrying on with a more personal approach. This is important because it allows us to get to know our users and improve the product through their feedback. It’s about balancing the ease of subscription that an online SaaS model will offer, with the benefits of real, personal relationships.
Have you taken out a free trial of Miso? Struggling to know where to start? Here are our top tips for getting started:
- You’ll get the most from your trial if you put several cases in – in fact, the more cases you add, the better you’ll be able to see the ways it can support you across the whole litigation process.
- We understand that you’ll probably have questions. That’s ok. Take a look here to see a summary of how Miso works https://www.miso.legal/how-it-works/
- Want to find out more? We’re always available to book a one-to-one demo or support call. It may be possible to claim this as Practice Development CPD. Just contact us at [email protected]
- It can also be helpful to speak to other lawyers using Miso, to understand how they’re getting the best results. Let us know if you’d like us to make an introduction.
Didn’t realise you could have a free trial? Contact us today to get set up and started with Miso.