I’m delighted to announce that my startup, Judicata, has raised $2 million from Peter Thiel, David Lee of SV Angel, Keith Rabois, and Box founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith.1 Our mission is clear: to build legal research and analytics products that dramatically advance what lawyers can do.
Legal technology is at something of a crossroads. On one hand, it is notoriously inefficient and outdated, and has been for quite some time. On the other hand—to use Marc Andreessen’s parlance—software is eating the world.2 We can imagine a few different futures unfolding. One would entail the continued stagnation of the status quo. Another would involve minor, halting changes that never quite deliver on their promises. A third would see truly innovative technology that empowers lawyers to argue better and do more than ever before.
The latter is clearly ideal. So why hasn’t it happened yet? Why hasn’t software eaten the law?
Our thesis is that it’s actually quite hard. Lots of people have tried. Some are still trying. But most are hacking at the branches. Incremental change is not without value. But software can’t actually improve legal decision making unless we aim higher. Harder, but more promising, is to strike at the root of the problem. The law is information. The future of legal technology involves organizing and understanding that information. All of it.
This is why Judicata is mapping the legal genome—i.e. using highly specialized case law parsing and algorithmically assisted human review to turn unstructured court opinions into structured data. We can leverage that data to build legal research and analytics tools that are an order of magnitude better than existing offerings. The Palantir model is a rough analogue. Palantir’s software can’t tell a CIA analyst who is a terrorist. But it can identify patterns and make sense of massive amounts of information to help the analyst make that call. Great legal technology will do the same—assist lawyers in exercising their skilled, human judgment.
We believe this is possible, and that we can do it. The fusion of legal domain expertise and engineering talent is key; our founding team of three (Adam, Itai and myself) consists of two engineers and two JDs. Chris and Itai built some of the most advanced features in Google Scholar’s legal index. Patrick worked with Adam at Adap.tv. David, Beth, Adam and I were Stanford c/o ’08 together; two of us became engineers, and two went the law route. This team understands not only how law works, but also how to extract, organize, and analyze the underlying information. We revel in this stuff. (Let us know if you do too.)
Justice Holmes once wrote that understanding law is an exercise in prediction: given a dispute, and given all that have come before it, what is the court likely to do? How can lawyering impact legal outcomes? In 1897, he took a guess about what was to come:
“For the rational study of the law the black-letter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics.”3
Substitute “computer science” for “economics,” and we aim to prove him right.
We’re thrilled to be working with this group of investors. Peter, David, and Keith—formerly lawyers before their careers in entrepreneurship and venture—deeply understand how technology can augment legal practice. Aaron and Dylan are captaining one of the Valley’s most successful enterprise software companies. The collective wisdom of this bunch is astounding. Their belief in our vision is, to say the least, inspiring. ↩