Legal Innovators

At MSU College of Law’s ReInvent Law Lab, we frequently discuss innovation in and outside of legal practice and the implications of both on the future of legal services. For instance, an innovation outside of legal practice might be the latest Google product. Although something like Google Glass may not appear, at first glance, to have much to do with legal practice, there are a number of legal issues and opportunities that surround emerging technologies, even seemingly novel devices or services (more on this to come).

Then, there are people, products, and services within the legal space that are innovating and changing the game. Below are three startups/companies that we have discussed in the Lab. For law students and anyone else interested in law/entrepreneurship, these are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Links are available by clicking on the names.

Clearspire

One part law firm and one part business entity, Washington D.C.-based Clearspire aims to expand its nontraditional legal services model across the country with the addition of 50 to 100 former BigLaw lawyers each year for the next five years.

With brick-and-mortar outposts recently opened in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and more planned for Chicago, Atlanta and a handful of other cities, Clearspire operates primarily through a $5 million online platform that connects lawyers and clients through virtual offices and high-end videoconferencing systems. The company’s business operation aims to raise another $3 million from outside investors in 2013.

This model allows Clearspire Law Co., a law firm that outsources all business processes, technology administration and commoditized legal work to its independent sister company, Clearspire Services Co., to cut overhead costs by 50 percent compared to traditional firms. That drastically reduces client fees on complex legal matters and maintains market salaries for its lawyers and staff, the firm says.

Rachel M. Zahorsky, New-model firm plans hiring spree, 50 to 100 lawyers a year, ABA Journal (Jan. 17, 2013 11:25 AM CST).

Fastcase

Fastcase is a legal research software company based in Washington, D.C. Quietly it has been building market share in the legal research market for lawyers, with more than 500,000 subscribers.

Fastcase’s legal research service is poised to make some major changes in the way that lawyers access the law. It sorts results algorithmically, like Google, bringing the best results to the top. But more than that, it incorporates citation analysis right into the results, so you can see which cases are most cited. The service also allows customized results – users can sort results a dozen ways to emphasize what’s important to them.

The service is also the first to move legal research beyond the tired “search-results-document” paradigm, with cool data visualization tools that create beautiful, four-dimensional maps of search results. The most important cases jump off the pages in these maps – just one of many interesting tools that make Fastcase a smarter alternative for legal research.

Fastcase Profile, CrunchBase (last edited May 14, 2011).

Judicata

Judicata’s mission is ambitious, which is likely why it hasn’t been undertaken in quite the same way before. Masters argues that previous attempts have only addressed symptoms and offshoots of the problems facing legal software and how it works for lawyers. Instead, the startup wants to take the mass of unstructured data represented by the body of case law that exists, and turn it into something structured, searchable and fully, properly indexed for targeted use. Judicata’s mission involves what it calls “mapping the legal genome,” which is a fancy way of saying it hopes to combine algorithmic, machine learning approaches to ingesting the mass of legal data and turning out something useful with careful human review to guarantee the accuracy of results.

Darrell Etherington, Judicata Raises $2M From Peter Thiel, Keith Rabois And Others To Give Lawyers Better Research And Analytics Tools, TechCrunch (Dec. 11, 2012). For more insight on Judicata, check out its co-founder’s blog post: Blake Masters, Judicata: The Path of the Law, Blake Masters (Dec. 11, 2012).

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