Last month CodeX hosted a “video demo event” called EVOLVE LAW. CEOs from eBrevia, Casetext, Traklight, LawGives, Ravel Law, Wizdocs, Hire an Esquire and ClearAccess IP were invited to talk about the “nuts and bolts of starting a legal tech business, funding experience, marketing and sales strategies and brief video demos of their products.” The session is almost two hours long so I thought I’d break it down and give you a chance to jump into the video where it might interest you most. However, if you have the time I encourage you to watch all of this illuminating discussion.
Roland Vogl, Executive Director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology (LST) and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School, hosted this event featuring eight legal tech innovators sharing their thoughts on trends in the industry and their experiences creating a legal tech businesses.
Owen Byrd, Chief Evangelist & General Counsel of Lex Machina, started things off by talking about the growth of Lex Machina. He touched on the alliances developed between the computer science department and the law school at Stanford and the potential business opportunities available for applying legal analytics and informatics, resulting in what he calls “money ball for lawyers.”
Each of the legal tech CEOs then provided some introductory remarks about each of their companies followed by a short video demonstration of their products.
I’ve provided some very rough notes from their introductions below.
- due diligence in mergers and acquisitions, extract and summarize key provisions in target companies, contracts, employment agreements, leases, etc.
- usually done by a large team of junior associates, time consuming, expensive and inaccurate
- grew out of sponsored research at Columbia
- lawyers can read cases, statutes and regulations annotated by the legal community
- lawyers spend 30% of their time doing legal research
- it’s not just reading but providing context
- large players have huge teams trying to provide this service and results are not necessarily of high quality
- take all public legal knowledge, including judges, law firms, academic blogs, etc. and integrate it into the data where you do your legal research
- private networks in a large law firm can provide better access to lawyers in your firm
- four out of five5 lower income households who need legal help don’t get it at all
- how to match up lawyers with people who need them; build communities to find and do the rewarding work that they want to do
- millennial lawyers looking for a different way to practice, rewarding and purposeful work; senior lawyers concerned that they were only hitting the tip of the iceberg through their volunteer and pro bono work, how can they pass on their wisdom and experience
- legal research and analytics platform
- discovered, when returning to law school, legal research tools hadn’t changed much in 10-15 years
- met with computer science, data visualization, analytics
- difficult to contextualize the vast amount of legal information
- “instead of doing legal research, could do higher value lawyering, writing and crafting legal arguments”
- “identify key material faster, understand why it’s important and have data driven insights in how to use it”
- machine learning, data visualization, natural language processing
- mergers and acquisitions, manually reviewing thousands of agreements, creating issues lists, disclosure schedules, etc.
- must be a better way?; leverage technology to automate these manual processes
- isn’t it great that lawyers are inefficient, i.e. billable hours?; clients more savvy and demand better service
- attorneys should not be doing “administrative” work
- automates the management of manual work creating valuable reports
- commercial litigation, contract attorney automating staffing processes
- patent docketing system
- law firms, not a lot of interest in technology
- “why can’t it be easy like that?”, e.g. Facebook
- reduced manual labour to focus on more meaningful work; liberate data
- protecting/tracking intellectual property of entrepreneurs
- analytical tool to identify and understand IP rights
- inadvertently created a client intake platform for attorneys
Before each of the video demos each the panelists were asked to speak briefly about who they perceive to be their competitors. Tony Lai preferred to call them “compatriots” rather than competitors. Ben Longoria says, “The competitors are the lawyers themselves who don’t realize that they need to embrace technology.” Mary Juetten noted that attorneys think that technology is replacing them rather than freeing them to do higher-value work.
Vogl then leads the beginning of a very interesting Q&A session.
- Do you view your companies’ innovation as building new technology or is your innovation in using existing technology to legal processes?
- What trends in the legal industry make it ripe for disruption? Is it ripe for disruption?
- What’s it like to transition from an attorney to a legal tech entrepreneur?
The audience was then invited to contribute questions:
- Have investors started to identify legal technology as an industry space? What kinds of challenges did you have in raising capital and identifying investors?
- How do you see the potential for collaboration across both process-driven innovation and technical driven innovation in the legal industry?
- What are some tactics for selling into law firms?
- How has your experience been for those who brought in external capital, outside investment vs. those who have grown organically from within?
- Have you seen any backlash or response from larger entrenched organizations, maybe products that have come out reacting to the services you’re providing?
- What’s the trajectory you see for your company? What’s your exit strategy? Waiting for your legal tech IPO?
- [Question is inaudible – international opportunities/applications for legal tech company?]
- What wheels are each of you reinventing? Are there opportunities to collaborate? What raw materials are you using in terms of R & D and universities?
- What are some potential technology challenges for building your business?
This was another great CodeX session giving us some great insights into the emerging legal technology environment.