Legal tech startups

April’s Legal IT Insider incorporates a new Legal Tech Startup Directory. There are 18 pages of listings and analysis of 52 innovative companies who have “broken with the law firm herd mentality and are set to change the face of legal practice in the UK, Europe, US and APAC regions.”

As well as descriptions of the companies and basic details, the directory also looks at each company’s growth strategy and current investment, its target clients and what it sees as its key challenges. The directory is topped with a typically tongue-in-cheek intro and tailed by comments and tips from leading innovation heads to investors.

The Directory is divided into the following sections which will give some idea of its scope:

  • Lawyer Comparison & Online Legal Resource
  • Access to Justice
  • eTraining
  • Case/Transaction Management
  • Contract Management/Automation
  • Email Security & Cyber Defence
  • BI & Analytics
  • Client Onboarding/KYC
  • Online Wills
  • Client-facing Apps
  • KM and Legal Research
  • Due Diligence and Contract Analysis

“The startup directory gives an insight into the scale of change taking place and where the investment is happening, but it also speaks to the immaturity of the market. The majority of startups have literally no idea what a growth strategy really is. Here’s a clue: it’s not getting more clients.”

Further, firms buying into these startups, whether via investment or by purchasing their product, are essentially “throwing spaghetti up against a wall” to see what sticks.

An online version is in preparation which will be continually updated.

Mapping the legal startup space

A more visually arresting directory of legal startups is the Legal Geek Startup Map, sponsored by Thomson Reuters. As well as a “tube” map (whose purpose is unclear as there are few intersections), colour-coding the various categories, the entries include brief descriptions, lots of pretty graphics and links to the company social media sites.

  • Legal Geek categorises startups as follows:
  • Market places
  • Law for Good
  • Practice Management
  • Contracts: including Legal Docs as Service, Contract Management and Contract Analysis
  • Risk and Compliance: including Cybersecurity
  • Analytics and Search

The Legal Geek family organises events and the famous Legal Geek Conference. They also provide thought leadership on startups, by tracking the startup ecosystem with the Startup Map. Legal Geek has a not-for-profit social purpose called Law for Good Ltd.

How AI is used in legal

Bob Ambrogi has written a good review of Joanna Goodman’s Robots in Law on Above the Law. The “in Law” of the title suggests an analogy between AI and family: “You don’t choose your in-laws, but the in-law relationship can represent a significant part of your family dynamic, and it may require some careful handling.”

As to the scope of AI, its uses may be broader than we realise. Goodman includes in the book a mind map produced by Michael Mills, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Neota Logic, that classifies legal AI into five categories, helpfully set out for us by Bob as:

  • Expertise automation, through products such as Neota Logic and Oracle Policy Automation.
  • Legal research, through products such as Fastcase, LexisNexis, Ravel Law, ROSS and Thomson Reuters.
  • Prediction, through products such as Lex Machina, LexPredict and Premonition.
  • Contract analytics, through companies such as eBrevia, Kira Systems, Luminence and RAVN.
  • Electronic discovery, through companies such as Catalyst, Relativity and Recommind.

eDisclosure systems

The Legal IT Insider’s definitive Buyers Guide to UK eDisclosure Systems is available now. Researched and written by Andrew Haslam and published in conjunction with Legal IT Insider – and now in its fifth edition, the Guide has become an industry bible. The latest edition includes a very helpful Introduction to eDiscovery and a description of the Technolgy Areas involved. The market Survey features 101 suppliers and 76 products, including ten new suppliers.

The Guide is available as a free download from the Insider website.

Hacking online courts

The Society for Computers and Law, Legal Geek and the Judiciary of England and Wales have joined forces to stage a Hackathon devoted to online courts and digital justice.

The proposed introduction of online courts in England and Wales (for civil, family, and tribunal disputes) represents one of the most significant reforms to the justice system in the past two centuries. Supported by both the Government and the Judiciary of England and Wales, the motivation behind online courts is to provide greater access to justice at lower cost than the conventional court system. While the government is leading the transformation (and is investing around £1 billion in modernising the courts), it is recognised that the design of the online courts would benefit from the input of the wider communities of lawyers, court users, law students, and technologists.

The idea of the Hackathon is to bring these communities together over a 24-hour period (from noon to noon) and in a friendly and yet competitive spirit, to invite teams to come up with designs, solutions, systems, and technologies for online courts. Participants will be invited to design various tools to support online courts – for example, tools to help litigants structure their legal arguments, organise their documents, negotiate settlements without advisers, as well as systems that will promote “open justice” and machine learning solutions that will help analyse all the data generated by the online courts.

Tomorrow’s Lawyers 2.0

The Susskind trolls will be out on social media soon as we see the publication of the second edition of his Tomorrow’s Lawyers, prognosticating on the future of legal services, the new legal landscape and the prospects for aspiring lawyers.

The new edition has been fully updated to include an introduction to online dispute resolution, his views on the debates surrounding artificial intelligence and its role in the legal world, a new analysis of new jobs available for lawyers, and a retrospective evaluation of his 1996 work The Future of Law.

Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future, 2nd edn, £12.99, OUP http://bit.ly/susskindTL2.

A chatty bot in chambers

Billy Bot is a project by Clerksroom to test artificial intelligence and how it can be used to link lawyers together to find the right barrister. He is a junior clerk and chatty bot, currently in training to learn about how lawyers, companies and members of the public wish to engage with barristers.

You can ask Billy a question via LinkedIn messaging and he’ll do his very best to answer. Billy has 27,000 contacts in his database, can search LinkedIn and can instantly contact up to 200 barristers chambers, their clerks and 12,000 barristers. 6,000 of them have undertaken training to work directly with business and members of the public. Billy can even arrange a mediation in England & Wales from £500 + VAT per party on any date, at any venue.

Or so he says. Connect with Billy on LinkedIn.

Electronic evidence

Electronic Evidence, edited by Stephen Mason and Daniel Seng, now in its 4th edition, is available now from OBserving Law in the Humanities Digital Library. The work is available as a free PDF download, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. It is also published in hardback (£60), paperback (£40) and ebook (£20).

In this updated edition of the well-established practitioner text, Stephen and Daniel have brought together a team of experts in the field to provide an exhaustive treatment of electronic evidence. This edition follows the tradition in English evidence text books of basing the text on the law of England and Wales, with appropriate citations of relevant case law and legislation from other jurisdictions.

Access or buy at http://bit.ly/electronicevidence.

Digital Economy Act 2017

The Digital Economy Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017 in what is known as the “wash up” procedure before the dissolution of Parliament (see www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/30). It is substantially different from, and shorter than, the Digital Economy Act 2010, whose provisions largely ended up being shelved by the 2010-2015 Coalition government. It addresses policy issues related to electronic communications infrastructure and services, updates the conditions for and sentencing of criminal copyright infringement and introduces a new requirement for porn sites to verify the age of visitors.

More specifically, the provisions of the act include:

  • allowing Ofcom to penalise communications providers for failing to comply with licence commitments.
  • creating an age-verification regulator to publish guidelines about how pornographic websites should ensure their users are aged 18 or older.
  • Requiring internet service providers to provide compensation to customers if service requirements are not met.
  • Allowing English and Welsh courts a greater range of sentencing options for internet copyright infringement.
  • Providing for increased penalties for nuisance calls.
  • Giving Ofcom oversight of the BBC.
  • Updating the Ofcom Electronic Communications Code to make it easier for telecommunications companies to erect and extend mobile masts.

An accessible summary of the legislation is provided by Engadget at http://bit.ly/digitaleconomyact2.

On its Intellectual Property Blog SnIPpets, Field Fisher considers the copyright provisions: http://bit.ly/digitaleconomyact1.

Nick Holmes is editor of the Newsletter.

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