The LegalTech Industry Today
There’s a lot going in in the LegalTech industry, says TechCrunch.
- Lawyers could be the next profession to be automated
- The blockchain came after bankers and now it's going after lawyers
- Can Robots Be Lawyers? Computers, Lawyers, and the Practice of Law
- Forbes: How Technology is changing law
- Tomorrow's Lawyers
- The Jury Is Out On Legal Startups
- Number of Legal Startups Nearly Triples in Two Years which attracts rebuttal There is NOT An Explosion In LegalTech
- Welcome to the Algorithmic Society
- CB Insights, Legal Tech Market Map: 50 Startups Disrupting The Legal Industry, July 13 2016
- Legal Execute Institute published a taxonomy of recent legaltech startups which is a kind of legal tech landscape
- The New Spectrum of Legal Services
- Smart Contracts: 12 Use Cases for Business & Beyond by Deloitte's Smart Contract Alliance
From the Investor Perspective
- Breaking The Law -- Financial Times, Michael Skapinker, April 11, 2016.
- What if we developed legal contracts like we developed software applications? -- Guest post by Joe Dewey, April 6, 2016
- Bessemer reviews their LegalTech portfolio December 16, 2014
- 6 Reasons the Legal Industry is Ripe for Startup Invasion March, 2013
- 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market shows the legal industry in the crosshairs
- Coindesk describes Barclay's work with Corda and links to some slides about Smart Contract Templates
- Four Futures of Legal Automation, UCLA Law Review.
Early Stage Investment Templates for Startups
Legalese is importing all of these agreements. After you configure your deal in a spreadsheet once, Legalese will compile all the agreements you need, automatically translated for your jurisdiction.
- Y Combinator has both Series AA and SAFE instruments in four flavours
- Techstars has both equity and debt instruments
- 500 Startups offers the KISS
- Series Seed (also for Finland and India)
- SeedSummit for Europe, by SeedCamp
- Comparative reviews.
Workflow Solutions for Startups
- Stripe Atlas (Delaware)
- FlashFunders is an equity crowdfunding platform with a ton of augmentations, according to Techcrunch
- Ironclad automates a range of startup-friendly legal templates, with Dropbox and HelloSign integration (for values of "startup" that mean "Delaware corporations operating in California")
- Valcu offers document automation and some scripting
- Bonsai helps freelancers get paid
- Termsheet.io (India & US) does incorporations and fundings
- Clerky (Delaware) does incorporations and fundings
- Legistify does incorporations and fundings
- Paper does incorporations and fundings
- StartupLawyer does incorporations and fundings
- StartupDocuments is affiliated with Bedrock; does incorporations and fundings
- DragonLaw (Hong Kong and Singapore) has lots of templates
- Concord is end-to-end contract signature management
- SeedLegals does it in the UK
- Automated KISS generation by Simmonds Stewart for South-East Asia
Workflow Apps for Specific Verticals
- CP Desk is a good example of a vertical-specific legal application – in this case for shipping.
- The Doc Yard is a polished app for lawyers to address the paint point of deal negotiation and closing.
- Legal Space is a digital immigration and visa solution for relocating to the USA.
- Iubenda generates T&Cs for privacy policies and cookies
- Chinsay contract management for freight
Template Libraries for Startups
- Taylor Wessing's Documents (UK)
- BVCA (UK)
- Orrick's Start-Up Forms Library and term sheets
- LawCanvas – Easy Legal Documents for Singapore
- Simmonds Stewart for New Zealand and Singapore
- The Entrepreneur's Guide to Term Sheets and Equity Crowdfunding
- LegalZebra (for Australia)
- AVCAL (for Australia)
Generic Template Libraries and Legal Marketplaces
- Asia Law Network (for Singapore)
- Priori Legal
- ILRG Legal Forms Archive
- DocStoc died
- LawCanvas (for Singapore)
- Fair Document
- NDAs for Free
- Adams, Kenneth. Copyright and the Contract Drafter. New York Law Journal, 2006 asks: are contracts copyrightable?
Education for Startups
- How Startups Burn Money on Lawyers
- When founding a startup is it worth immediately investing in a lawyer, or can you get by with pre-made documents? on Quora.
- Docracy's guide to Term Sheets
- Brad Feld's Term Sheet Blog Series, now available as a book, Venture Deals
- Deal Terms, by Wilmerding
- Angel or seed investing: Angel term sheets for startups, from the MaRS Library
- Paul Graham on High Resolution Fundraising
- The Truth About Convertible Debt at Startups and The Hidden Terms You Didn’t Understand
- Mark Suster's Bad Notes on Venture Capital
- LivePlan helps you with forecasts
- The Ultimate List of Legal Resources for Startups
- See also Quora
- eShares round modeling which is gaining impressive marketshare
Other Tools for Startups and Investors
- Incorporations.io finds the best jurisdiction in which to incorporate your particular startup
- Valuative capital structure modeling and visualization
- Handshakes maps out all relationships between companies and persons
- VCExperts offers due diligence and other tools
- JustInvesting moves investing online
- DocDep takes you from investment to divestment
- Visible.VC offers a Tech Investing Software Stack
- Venture360 is a complete deal management platform for seed funds
Document Generators by Law Firms
- Wilson Sonsini's Termsheet Generator
- Founders Workbench
- Orrick's Term Sheet Creator
- Vanilla Law by MG/Chambers (news article)
- TermFrame from Pinsent Masons seems to be a wizard expediate lawyers choosing the ideal templates.
- Allen & Overy and Deloiite make MarginMatrix which codifies the law in various jurisdictions and automates drafting of certain kinds of multi-jurisdictional documents.
Document Generators and More by Non-Law Firms
- Neota Logic has an expert system
- Oracle Policy Automation helps you build an expert system
- Contract Standards
- UltraDox converts Google Docs to Microsoft Word
- LegalContract has good decent wizards covering the US
- TermsFeed generates EULAs, privacy policies, and more.
- KM Standards (Kingsley Martin) reads and writes contracts ― see his 2013 FutureLaw talk.
- Turner is a pleasant Mac-app.
- Synergist is a contract negotiation platform with easily tunable knobs.
Document Assembly for Law Firms and In-House Counsel
- ContractExpress by Business Integrity
- CaseRails, unfortunately now defunct
- DocAssemble is opensource (YAML and Python) and allows domain experts to build what TBC would call a shallow-model expert system wizard.
- QnA is a DSL for conducting and displaying interviews.
- Autto is kind of IFTTT for lawyers, with workflows as an expert system
- OxLegal was a startup
- Turner is a contract-drafting IDE
Every law firm has proprietary clause libraries. These are open
Other Legal Startups
- Ai.Law will eat it all, from China.
- Korum Legal is a boutique legal consultancy for special projects at cheaper rates.
- Legal Science tracks current law across 50 states
- FiscalNote, Tim Hwang's startup, has raised $20M
- ComplyGlobal helps big business cover their many widely dispersed asses
- LegalTechLabs has a portfolio of startups
- Synergist is a platform for online negotiation
- Parley Pro negotiate better contracts faster
- Joshua Browder's bot gets you out of parking tickets
- Axiom is positioning initially as an outsourcing option for in-house counsel See coverage
- Lex Machina groks patent law
- elementaryIP groks patent law
- LawGeex reads contracts
- Kira reads contracts
- Beagle.ai reads contracts
- ClauseMatch reads contracts
- Luminance reads contracts (and other documents in dataroooms)
- JPMorgan reads contracts
- jEugene reads contracts
- Counselytics reads contracts
- LegalRobot reads contracts
- RAVN reads contracts
- MetaJure reads contracts
- rfrnz reads contracts
- LitIQ drafts contracts
- VizLegal for legal research
- Logikcull does e-discovery
- Everlaw also does e-discovery
- HLP Integration
- See also Inc.com on 4 Startups changing the Legal Landscape
- Allegory Law
- Ravel Law
- Haystack HQ
- Legify, which seems defunct
- FirstCounsel offers legal support
- Lex Quanta does legal analytics for large firms.
- Law Hackers for a curated list of legal startups
- Imandra: Online ecosystem for sharing and analysing internal and client-facing trading system specifications
- Docket Alarm
- Academx helps lawyers write
- MyLegalWhiz, Intelllex and Ross Intelligence help lawyers do research
- Blue J Legal helps lawyers research tax law
- Github for Law! surfaced on Hacker News and attracted a response on the Legalese blog.
- Ironsides open legal operating system for start-up companies
- Common Form on Orrick's templates
- Seriesnext a community revision of the Series Seed financing documents
Academic Research and Development
- Stanford Computational Law
- Stanford's Codex Center for Legal Informatics produces a crop of startups every year
- Stanford's Computable Contracts Initiative
- Legal Informatics Research Network
- Next Generation Contracts by Helena Haapio
- Nick Szabo on formal languages
- Surden on Computable Contracts
- Floyd & Goodenough, Contracts as Automata
- Richard Susskind, author of Tomorrow's Lawyers
- ABA Futures and ABA Journal
- Ron Dolin's Legal Technology and Informatics Course Reader
Computational Legal Studies
Borrowing from social science, these apply computational data-science techniques to the legal world.
- The Law Lab at Illinois Tech
- LawOS at Santa Fe Institute
- law.mit.edu takes a social-science approach to examining law: see Dazza's video.
Contract Formalization and Natural Language Generation
- The need for multilingual contracts can be seen in Indonesia, where a court has ruled that contracts must be in both Bahasa and another language
- CLACK at UCL
- Joe Dewey's essay on ContractCode, April 6, 2016
- Codex by Pax is a scripting language for Ethereum; in concert with Pax Directory
- Michelson, by Tezos, is a scripting language for smart contracts
- Lexon, by Lexys, is a scripting language for smart contracts
- Babbage smart contract language for Ethereum
- Restatement by Jason Boehmig, Tim Hwang, and Paul Sawaya. (intro essay; see also Modeling - Background Reading)
- CommonAccord has some early thinking online.
- Hammurabi Project hosts its DSL in Wolfram Language (Mathematica). An earlier version developed a DSL called Akkadian.
- You've heard of XBRL, now the SEC wants Python.
- In the 1980s, the British Nationality Act was encoded in Prolog.
Smart Contract Implementations and Papers
- Ethernote appears to be a proof-of-concept implementing a promissory note as a smart contract
- Democracy Earth
- Step by Step Towards Creating a Safe Smart Contract: Lessons and Insights from a Cryptocurrency Lab by Delmolino, Arnett, Kosba, Miller, & Shi
- A Survey of Formal Languages for Contracts from FLACOS 2010
- Digital Assest Modelling Language
- Ivy Smart Contract Language
- UCL's blockchain group
- Initative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts
- Compositional Specification of Commercial Contracts
- Composing contracts: an adventure in financial engineering
- Certified Symbolic Management of Financial Multi-party Contracts
- The Representation of Legal Contracts by Aspassia Daskalopulu and Marek Sergot, 1997
- Formal Verification of Smart Contracts
- Attores will build your smart contracts
- Adjoint will build and formally verify your smart contracts
- Clause will build a Ricardian smart contract
- EthCore will build and browse your smart contracts
- Mintchalk is a web IDE for smart contracts
- OpenZeppelin is an opensource library for smart contracts
- Trust in Smart Contracts is a Process, As Well
- Kadena's haskell-based turing-incomplete PACT language
Smart Statutes, Digital Legislation
- Internet of Agreements by Vinay Gupta explains demand from blockchain
- Digital Legislation from Data61 attempts to answer the call
- Making Sense of Regulations with SBVR
- SBVR to OWL 2 Mapping in the Domain of Legal Rules
- On the Road to Regulatory Ontologies: Interpreting Regulations with SBVR
Electronic Signatures and Contract Management
- e-SignLive by Silanis
- and dozens more (see the full list)
Contract Lifecycle Management
- Contract Logix
- Concord Now
- Precisely is doing contract management software with pleasant UX
Lawyers and Law Firms who get it
Other Interesting Things
- Ambrogi's Legal Tech Startups list
- Lawyers On Github
- AngelList shows over a thousand startups in the legal category, but many of these are what we call "law firms with websites", not actual LegalTech startups
- Artificial Lawyer is a blog covering the computational legal field
Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing
Reliable natural language processing is a vastly harder problem than domain-specific-languages, compilers, and natural language generation, but we wish them the best. Should they be successful, drafting contracts which meet their AI’s approval will be straight-forward because we can run the contracts through the AI ourselves.
- Kira is used by a surprising number of law firms.
- Peter does for legal what Clara does for appointments
- Riverview Law is also developing an artificial assistant.
- ThoughtRiver does NLP to read contracts and reason about them
- Perceptiv also does NLP to read and extract data from finance contracts
Unauthorized Practice of Law
Wait, aren’t a lot of these startups breaking the law? Well, maybe the law is broken.
- Robot, Robot & Hwang
- ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services, final report, comments from CodeX
- When Public Policies Collide: Self-Help Software and UPL
- Technology and the Unauthorized Practice of Law
- Latest legal victory has LegalZoom poised for growth
- Law firms fight to protect their turf from accountants
Wait, then how is Legalese different or better than all these resources?
Most of the resources above are document-oriented. Each template, for instance, gets you a single agreement for a set of parties to execute. Typically, you fill in the blanks in a Word doc, or in a web app wizard. The result is flattened onto the page. This is fine for simple agreements, like an NDA.
But some deals involve multiple documents, all of which have to agree with one another. Think about an investment deal which needs a Term Sheet, a Subscription Agreement, a Shareholders Agreement, and a Deed of Ratification and Accession, not to mention all the corp-sec Directors’ and Members’ Resolutions needed to validate each corporate act. The same names and terms appear in multiple documents. (A deal begins to look like something you can – and should – configure and compile using m4 and make!)
So, the world needs workflow-oriented solutions.
- Clerky is workflow-oriented. It has the notion of Document Sets. But Clerky doesn’t support a lot of workflows. They support incorporation but not investment. (At time of writing, 20150504) And the templates are closed, so you can’t add your own.
- Valcu is worth a look too.
- Docracy is more open. Their vision is to be Github for legal documents. Their web editing UI is pretty nifty, and you can fork any document. But they’re document-, not workflow-oriented. And you have to be a lawyer to add a new document.
Legalese is both workflow-oriented and open. Each workflow in Legalese produces one or more agreements for the parties to execute. Instead of editing the document directly, you describe the particulars of the parties and the terms of the deal in a separate spreadsheet. Legalese compiles your workflow’s docset by combining the spreadsheet with the templates. To rebuild your docs, just hit
For Unix hackers, this is pseudocode for what happens behind the scenes of the Web UI:
$ make model seedround send
loading negotiated term sheet from Google Sheets... loading cap table from Google Sheets... loading party particulars from Google Sheets... downloading latest legal rule engine for relevant jurisdiction... fetching missing information via regulatory APIs... fetching latest version of agreement templates from Github... computing amendments required for constitutional documents... parsing articles-of-association.pdf computing corporate actions and resolutions required... parsing history of corporate actions... 16 PDFs found... analysis complete. constructing company model... done. computing dependency graph for seed round financing... staging... producing PDFs... stage 1 PDF: Term Sheet for Seed Round stage 1 PDF: New Articles of Association describing Vesting/ESOP and Series AA shares stage 1 PDF: Directors' Resolutions Announcing Fundraising and Alterations to Articles stage 1 PDF: Members' Resolutions Approving Alterations to Articles of Association stage 1 PDF: Volunteer Agreements -- IP Assignment, Confidentiality, Noncompete stage 1 PDF: Shareholder Agreements -- Drags/Tags, Preemptive & Information Rights stage 1 PDF: Description of Vesting Scheme and ESOP stage 1 PDF: Directors' Resolutions Announcing Vesting Scheme and ESOP stage 1 PDF: Members' Resolutions Approving Vesting Scheme and ESOP stage 1 PDF: Directors' Resolutions Announcing Issue of New Shares for Vesting/ESOP stage 1 PDF: Members' Resolutions Approving Issue of New Shares for Vesting/ESOP stage 1 PDF: Directors Notify Shareholders of Pro Rata Rights for Vesting/ESOP stage 1 PDF: Shareholders Waive Pro Rata Rights for Vesting/ESOP stage 1 PDF: Directors' Resolutions to Issue and Allot New Vesting/ESOP Shares stage 1 PDF: Instruction to Corporate Secretary to File Vesting/ESOP Shares stage 2 PDF: Checklist Bundle for Conditions Precedent stage 2 PDF: Cap Table, before Series AA stage 2 PDF: Cap Table, after Series AA stage 2 PDF: Investment Agreement for Seed Round Series AA stage 2 PDF: Deed of Ratification and Accession for Seed Round Series AA stage 3 PDF: Directors' Resolutions to Issue and Allot New Series AA Shares stage 3 PDF: Instruction to Corporate Secretary to File Series AA Shares stage 3 PDF: Series AA Share Certificates sending Stage 1 PDFs for signature via Adobe EchoSign... seed round Stage 1 paperwork sent. Please check your email. will poll Stage 1 paperwork status once an hour. will send Stage 2 PDFs when all Stage 1 PDFs are received. will send Stage 3 PDFs when all Stage 2 PDFs are received and funds arrive.
Legalese takes openness to a new level: the templates sit in public Github repositories (right now, the templates are in XML, which admittedly might scare off some people.) And the configuration spreadsheets live in Google Spreadsheets. So you can import and export your data as you see fit.
Legalese has global ambitions. Most of the above services focus on one, at most two jurisdictions. Legalese serves people who live outside the U.S. too.
Legalese is Web 2.0 the way YouTube, Wikipedia, and Github are Web 2.0. Convincing or paying lawyers to upload their precious precedents doesn’t scale. We’re betting on user-generated content. Maybe only one in a hundred users will upload their lawyer-drafted documents into Legalese; with enough users, that should be enough. Maybe we’ll even have Kickstarter for desired contracts!