The agenda of the first FutureLaw conference at The Stan- ford Center for Legal Informatics wasn’t your typical continuing legal education fare. Tim Hwang, name partner at three-year-old legal startup Robot Robot and Hwang,
served as the curator of the program. (Hwang is serious about
the “Robots” in his firm’s name, calling “Apollo Cluster” and
“Daria XR-1029” senior partners.) The April 26 conference
drew about 250 law students, lawyers, entrepreneurs, investors, consultants, and technologists to the Palo Alto campus.
Hwang declared that his goal was to assemble a group to
discuss legal service ideas and developments that they “might
not usually have a chance to nerd about with others.” Simply
put, Hwang wanted the conference to answer this question:
“What awesome things are people working on [in legal ser-
vices] that should be shared more widely?”
Among the highlights from the 26 speakers:
» Daniel Katz, assistant professor at Michigan State Univer-
sity’s School of Law, and co-founder of its Reinvent Law Labo-
ratory, said that surveys consistently document that 70 percent
of the people who need legal services can’t get them. (See also,
page 11, “Assassins Aim to Reinvent Law.”)
» Eddie Hartman, co-founder of LegalZoom, an online
service designed to help people create their own legal documents, looks at these surveys (and other data) and concluded
that the biggest competition lawyers face is not from other
Redefining the practice of law
by inventing new technology,
one startup at a time.
BY MARK MICHELS
lawyers or law firms but from “non-consumption” in the consumer market.
» Rocket Lawyer founder Charley Moore, who provided the
opening keynote, attempts to serve this consumer market.
Moore challenged lawyers to think like entrepreneurs, and
embrace technology to create efficiencies to serve the consumer market. Jamie Wodetzki, founder of Exari Systems,
which sells document assembly and contract management
software, said simply that “technology is the key enabler of
change” for the legal market.
MONEY. A quintessential Silicon Valley program component was a panel entitled “Financing the Legal Revolution.”
One speaker opined that the companies that will really transform the legal market will be supported by venture capital.
Blake Masters of Judicata said that startups can face a
daunting challenge explaining the legal market to potential investors. Masters illustrated the challenge by showing a
popular web video of a cat in a shark costume chasing a duck
while riding a Roomba vacuum cleaner. Masters declined
to say whether the duck represented the startup or the VC.
(One of the many You Tube versions of the video has charted
more than 2 million hits as of mid-May: http://at.law.com/
PHOTO BY SCOTT STE WART (TOP)
Robert Siegel, a general
partner at XSeed Capital, said
that “a lot of innovative technology is being developed to automate what was done manually”
in the legal arena.
One such technology that
caught Siegel’s eye was Lex
Machina’s machine learning
algorithm, which — in part —
explained xSeed’s investment
in the start-up.
(On May 1, Lex Machina
closed a $4.8 million Series