Do the Opposite

‘”The Opposite” is the 86th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld,’ according to Wikipedia. It is also one of my favourite episodes because it teaches an important life lesson. Here is a clip to refresh your memory:

Today, a Canadian company backed up by tech interests and talent announced acquisition of an important Canadian legal publisher Maritime Law Book (“maritime” here does not mean admiralty law; instead, it refers to the Maritimes—the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island—presumably because that’s where the publisher originated).

Law tech startups, attention. Your exit strategy probably involves acquisition by a legal publisher, especially the two giant and most powerful ones. These publishers control most of the B2B lawyer market, which you are targeting with your products. It’s a natural strategy for big publishers to acqui-hire law tech startups and deliver innovative products to law firms quickly. The reason is that it’s hard to sell tech to lawyers, but lawyers will buy more willingly from the big publishers because they sell most law tech to them already.

But another huge factor of success or failure for many law tech startups is the scarcity of source law. A lot of brilliant machine learning/”AI”/law analytics products will fizzle out because they cannot run on empty: no caselaw, no AI. Of course, the big publishers control the caselaw. But not only big ones.

And here is where the people behind the purchase of Maritime Law Book did the opposite and basically owned this round in the law tech game. Instead of waiting for big publishers to buy them, they bought a smaller publisher with an apparently precious database. Only in August, Slaw published a piece called “The Passing of Maritime Law Book – the End of an Era,” which gives a clue to some background of this deal.

Why am I so excited about it? Because

  1. It looks like an absolute first in the industry. I love brilliant first-mover advantage surprises.
  2. I know at least one person behind this deal, and he is absolutely one of the best people to build cool tech on top of source law: Colin Lachance. Follow him on Twitter here: He was the first CEO of Canlii. I have not seen anyone build better products on top of source law than Canlii.
  3. Again, Colin Lachance is behind this. Worth repeating it. Look at Canlii (which I understand does not own its database) and imagine the coolness they will do with Maritime Law Book’s data.

Can’t wait to see where MLB goes. In the meantime, do the opposite!

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