10 Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs of 2024

Ann Björk: Trailblazing Entrepreneur Revolutionizing the Legal Industry with VQ

Under Ann's leadership, VQ has become a market leader in the legal technology space, with a global presence and a reputation for excellence. Ann's dedication to innovation, her commitment to her team, and her passion for making a positive impact have earned her numerous accolades and recognition within the industry.

By Business Outstanders
Ann Björk: Trailblazing Entrepreneur Revolutionizing the Legal Industry with VQ

Ann Björk, the Co-Founder of VQ, a Swedish company that has revolutionized the legal industry with its innovative digital solutions. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for opportunity, Ann has built a thriving business that has disrupted the status quo and created new paths for lawyers and law firms alike.

As we celebrate Ann's achievements and her journey as an entrepreneur, we're reminded that success is not just about achieving milestones, but also about making a meaningful impact. Ann's story is a testament to the power of determination, creativity, and perseverance. From her early days as a lawyer to her bold decision to venture into the unknown, Ann has consistently demonstrated her ability to adapt, innovate, and lead. In this interview, we'll delve into Ann's entrepreneurial journey, her insights on the legal industry, and her advice for women looking to start their own businesses.

Business Outstanders has reached out to Ann Björk to learn more about her journey as an entrepreneur and her experiences as a woman in the legal industry. Here are some highlights from our conversation: 

Congratulations on being recognized as one of the 10 Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs of 2024! What do you attribute your success to?

Thank you, I’m truly honoured for the recognition! Working as a lawyer at a major law firm for ten years, it was a huge step to embark on an entrepreneurial journey back in 2010, but it’s undoubtedly the best career decision I’ve ever made. I was fortunate to team up with Helena Hallgarn, one of Scandinavia’s legal tech pioneers, which made the leap of faith less daunting. Together, we founded Virtual Intelligence VQ with a vision to develop technology solutions that could revolutionise the way lawyers work. Fourteen years later, we are still going strong and working with legal innovation in various ways, with the widely adopted tool VQ Legal as our flagship product.

Today, I am also a partner in a quality wine importing business, the founder of a business providing housing for university students and an investor in various startups, so the journey with VQ has certainly encouraged me to further develop my entrepreneurial mindset.

The key to VQ's success has undoubtedly been the partnership with Helena Hallgarn, as well as with software developer Magnus Erixzon, who also joined early on. Our unique blend of technical knowledge and legal expertise allowed us to create truly disruptive tools. Another crucial factor has been to be able to dedicate my time to things I’m passionate about, making it easier to invest all the necessary hours and work, and find inspiration to keep evolving and developing the business.

How did you come up with the idea for VQ, and what was your vision for the company?

After ten years at Vinge, one of Sweden’s largest law firms, in both client-facing and legal tech and knowledge management positions, and after having executed several successful technology solutions together with Helena Hallgarn, we wanted to make use of the gained understanding of to drive innovation in the legal sector on a larger scale. We saw tremendous potential in developing tools that could be utilized by multiple law firms and decided to launch our joint venture, VQ, to create these tools ourselves.

Our vision was to establish a business where our expertise was at the centre and to adopt a broader approach to competence than the traditional ‘lawyer/non-lawyer’ one in law firms. We aimed to find new ways of collaboration rather than hiring personnel, making it possible to engage in various projects together with inspiring and driven experts, as well as creating flexible working arrangements. Instead of the traditional startup approach, pursuing external financing, scaling and international expansion, we focused on the Swedish market and funded all developments ourselves. This approach allowed us to take the necessary time to create the kind of high-quality tools that we would want to use in the line of legal work ourselves. Our strategy proved to be very successful, and VQ Legal is now used by nine of the ten largest law firms in Sweden, among many others.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in starting VQ, and how did you overcome them?

When we launched VQ Legal back in 2010, we were so early that the concept of 'legal tech' was barely recognized, and many things now taken for granted were significant obstacles. For instance, many law firm CIOs believed it was safer to have physical servers in-house than to use cloud solutions, making it challenging to convince them to adopt a SaaS solution like VQ Legal.

Additionally, the traditional billable hour model and law firm structures hindered the incentive to work more efficiently with digital tools. Over time, the legal industry began to focus more on efficiency, realizing that clients were not willing to pay for the internal education of new associates and expecting law firms to be up-to-date with digital developments and tools. To help raise awareness and push the legal industry in the right direction, we wrote articles, held seminars, and hosted an annual legal innovation event, VQ Forum, inviting international speakers to provide inspiration and emphasize the need for transformation.

You've been at the forefront of legal technology innovation. What do you think are some of the most significant trends shaping the industry right now?

AI is undoubtedly the buzzword at the moment. There has been tremendous attention to AI for many years, but after initial mind-blowing utilizations such as IBM Watson playing Jeopardy back in 2011 and more recent advancements like ChatGPT, we have been waiting for implementations providing actual business value for the legal sector. Now, we are finally seeing AI projects and implementations all over the legal field. However, as exciting as this is, especially with advances in large language models (LLMs), I don’t believe that lawyers need to worry about being replaced by AI. While AI has enormous potential to change legal practice, it should be seen as a tool to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, not something that could suddenly transform into humanoid robots as in the movies. But it will certainly be interesting to see the result of the projects we are witnessing at the moment, where technology with LLMs is used in, inter alia, legal research, drafting, and best practice benchmarking.

Another significant trend is the shift towards crossover solutions that offer holistic ‘business advice’, blending legal and management advice. We currently see the launch of many new service providers in this intersection, as well as law firms hiring experts with competences other than strictly legal, to be able to offer a broader range of services and to further drive digitalization. I believe that lawyers are beginning to appreciate the value of diverse skill sets complementing their own to enhance legal practice and the quality of advice provided to clients.

As a successful entrepreneur, what are some of the most important skills or qualities you think are essential for building a thriving business?

The single most important quality for an entrepreneur is passion. Passion for the product, the service or the objectives of the business, whatever they may be. Building your own business requires so much time and effort that you need to be wholeheartedly invested in what you are trying to achieve.

When founding VQ, we were fired up by the potential of truly making an impact on the legal industry, both by creating awareness for the use of technology in legal practice and for developing tools to prove our point. We wanted to support lawyers with solutions to facilitate their work, allowing them to spend more time on high-end work rather than the more repetitive kind. We wanted to make work at law firms more cost-efficient, so that advice could be provided to a lesser cost. But most of all, we wanted to challenge the traditional industry to find completely new ways of providing legal advice.

Another essential quality is curiosity. To keep a business thriving, you need to remain curious, constantly learning new things and challenging your own perceptions. This is especially important in legal tech, where new tools and technologies are continually being developed.

Finally, what do you think is the most exciting thing about being an entrepreneur in today's fast-paced business world? What keeps you motivated and inspired?

Coming from a law firm background, it’s exciting to see the new cross-industry approaches. With VQ Legal having firmly established its presence in the market and entered into a phase of mature management, I’m looking at taking on new challenges in the legal tech industry as well as broadening my entrepreneurial focus to other industries. My involvement in the wine importing business has shown me that insights from different industries, no matter how diverse, provide new perspectives and valuable lessons. I see great potential for VQ and myself to engage in external projects at the intersection of technology and legal practice, as well as digitization projects in other industries. It’s a very exciting time to be an entrepreneur!

About: Ann Björk

Ann Björk, Co-Founder of VQ, a Swedish company that has revolutionized the legal industry with its innovative digital solutions. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for opportunity, Ann has built a thriving business that has disrupted the status quo and created new paths for lawyers and law firms alike.

"To be successful as an entrepreneur you need to be passionate about your business and put the same amount of love and nurture into it as if you were raising a child."


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