LegaLCompleX

Tech Fires Legal Hires
New Hires And Buyers While Technology Fires The Legal Industry
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Will automation take away our jobs? Eventually, according to this Ted Talk. The more interesting question is who are the new hires and buyers in the sector formally known as Legal?

Fires ūüĒ•

As this recent CNBC story poignantly states: Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers. Meanwhile, new possibilities are bound to open up and to find out what these may be I had to reason from first principles.

1. What is Legal Tech? Essentially it is whatever technology supports a Fair Society. For example, the algorithms behind rating your Uber drivers is Legal Tech. They practically replace the vetting and licensing of taxi drivers. Since autonomous vehicles can predict and prevent accidents, they effectively supersede traffic laws and driving licenses. eDiscovery platforms find legal in millions of documents. AI does legal research and can draft contracts. Legal Tech is as ubiquitous as the buttons you see everywhere to report spam and abuse by Internet trolls. Yet it is still as complex as the privacy settings on all your devices and services. Legal Tech is to protect the vulnerable and to provide transparency in business and government.

2. How will Tech replace Legal? Actually, you won’t need to know legal nor understand it’s logic to practice it. Just like you don’t need to learn the drums to create a beat. Heck, most DJ’s can’t even read music notes or play instruments. Same goes for Legal as this video explains how a non-tax expert passed a university tax exam with the use of AI. It’s a sign that robots are set to fire the traditional legal industry. Still, just like music will never go away, legal is here to stay.

Hires ūüĎ®ūüŹľ‚Äćūüéď

3. What will happen to Legal Professionals? Basically, they’ll need to learn a different tune. Here are the main players in the new band:

  1. Legal Engineers: they create Legal Tech by ‘teaching’ legal logic to machines;
  2. Collision Detectors: they use Legal Tech to smooth out the differences between humans and businesses.
  3. Fair Defenders: they need Legal Tech to sustain the checks and balances in our society.

The Legal Industry Roadmap reasoned how Legal Engineers will be building the backbone for fair technologies. Now I’ll highlight the front-office of The Practice.

4. What is the new Practice of Law? Fundamentally, legal knowledge is a social map of humanity’s past, present, and future. Navigating your way thru this universe, one has to match the right skills with the right tools to be able to avoid collisions. That is the underline principle driving the practice of legal professionals. Another way to see this: the Titanic didn’t need a stronger hull, it needed sonar. If you are as mystified as I am when you hear legal professionals talk about “quality” or “higher value work”. They are talking about Sonar and here are three functional narratives to explain this skill:

1.Is Airbnb’s Top Lawyer the New Archetype for the Legal Profession?

This article explains how AirBnB’s top counsel helps maneuver it’s business model through interpretation of justice. She operates as a Regulatory Sonar within the business to help it achieve its goals. These new archetypes will use legal tech to observe legislators, customers and competitors to strategically move the company forward.

2.Meet the China ‚Äėwhisperers‚Äô who get the big deals done in Silicon Valley

Another function of in-house counsel is assisting the entrepreneur in capturing opportunities. These new legal hires aren’t just adept at detecting collisions as potential threats to the business. They have the strategies to turn them into opportunities. A Business Sonar monitors mergers, acquisitions, deals & patents with legal tech to connect the right people and opportunities.

3.Trump fires attorney general after copy of constitution is found on her computer

All kidding aside, perhaps the toughest job is having the courage to stand up and speak out. The world isn’t black or white but many shades. No one has a monopoly on justice and there aren’t any alternative facts. That is why we need a failsafe: checks & balances. Fair Defenders act like a Social Sonar and signal erosions of our liberties and act to redeem us.

Buyers ūüŹ¶

5. What is the new Business of Law? Initially, while entire industries even democracies operate outside the law, we’ll witness a rise in regulations to win power back. The 2 biggest sectors that will be impacted first are FinTech and Artificial Intelligence, consecutively the flow of wealth and knowledge.

At the opposing end, Governments will evaluate their role and ability to influence populations. They’ll need to integrate legal frameworks into tech platforms to help stabilize their communities. They’ll slowly come to realize that it will be meaningless to carpet bomb with legislation or executive orders.

Here’s a surreal approach from Bill Gates to illustrate: robots that replace human labor should pay taxes. How will governments agree upon taxing all computers in existence if these are just a software upgrade away from replacing us?  In short: in this war for wealth & power, #RegTech will dominate the near future.

 

Conclusion ‚úČÔłŹ

Ultimately, while businesses regulate more of our lives through technology, governments increasingly lose the ability to do so as well. In this battle for our individuality and to restore the imbalance in society, we’ll have to rely on this force called Humanity.

Protect your PrivaCee
PrivaCeee: How to Protect Our Most Precious Asset
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There I was at the dinner table, looking at my little diva shooting her latest Musica.ly¬†music video. Pondering how to write my Privacy Policy in such a way she¬†would a least give it a glance. Then I realize, she and millions¬†like her will never read a¬†legal document on the web…unless they could perhaps watch it like a music video.

Precious

I’ll admit, I never wanted to have a legal document on my site. It’s the most user unfriendly and universally¬†ignored part of any service. Why would you write a document that nobody wants to read? Is there any way to design for legal that it can actually serve its purpose? More important: how do you protect the most vulnerable¬†demographic on the web from squandering their¬†most precious digital asset? According to ‚ÄúGrowing Up Digital‚ÄĚ, a report by the UK Children‚Äôs Commissioner: 0% of 8- to 11-year-olds understand what they sign when they join a social media site.

This has spurred several initiatives. From creating classes around 5Rights, an idea created by Beeban Kidron, a film director who said children‚Äôs online safety is ‚Äútoo vital to leave to the government.‚ÄĚ. To a lawyer rewriting Instagram‚Äôs privacy policy so kids and parents can have a meaningful talk about privacy. All commendable efforts but I don’t think it would make a dent. The reality still is that it takes 2.3 seconds for an average (adult) consumer to accept terms of service and sign away the rights to their first born. This behavior is unlikely¬†to be changed by any activist, government nor lawyer.

Asset

It’s obvious that companies are struggling. It seems they all need to vacuum every little nuance of our digital presence in order to provide their service. Evernote famously had to apologize for its¬†privacy policy providing their robot and employees free reign on your notes. Musica.ly defended it’s handling of young users, as it raced past 40 million users. Security experts warned that Meitu, which is a free download on Google Play and the App Store, requires way more data from users‚Äô phones than is necessary for a simple photo app. Even old trusted toy makers put our most vulnerable at risk. Hackers showed they could access location data about children and steal voice recordings of children through the app that connects to Hello Barbie.

However, 150 experts, that gathered on Data Privacy Day belief you will get control of your personal info. They trust capitalism to be the catalyst for companies to safeguard data. This may not be as naive as it sounds since studies show the stronger a user believes in having understood the privacy policy, the more he or she will trust the company. Making a strong transparent data protection policy and sticking to it may turn it into a company asset.

Now how do you create a credible company? I once read somewhere: “..With over a million prolific ‘writers’, the¬†legal industry is the biggest publisher in the United States, eclipsing the entire media and print publishing industry, according to the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics..”. I doubt we really need “more publishers” to draft unique descriptions of how companies handle user data. Especially, when you can automate it. Here are some generators that can:

Generators

Validators:

Other Legal Documents

Policy

Even though I tried some of the above generators, I still wasn’t satisfied with the output. While my little diva keeps generating more data and exposing more of her digital self, she will never be fully aware of what happens with her data. Worse, since she may not understand, she will never be in control. In order to protect her, I embarked on this journey: to design a way for everyone to stop and take notice of data protection and privacy policies.

First, your data protection policy is not supposed to be a tool lawyers use in court but rather a guide to make your consumer more comfortable with you. Therefore it should not be just text and can be more visual.

Second, only after reading the policy out loud did I become conscious of what I was actually asking for from site visitors. Making it more audible makes it more real.

Finally, not only by acknowledging it as the product owner but as a parent, it dawned on me that our Privacy is Priceless.

My plan: make a video¬†to explain the Legalcomplex Privacy Policy to my little girl. As far as I know, it’s the only such video in existence on Youtube. My hope is more will follow and create Privacy Policy videos. If you do, let the world know by tweeting it to¬†@PrivaCeee.

My plea: explain your data policy to our children. They are the future so watch it!

Protect

My daughter came to me last week showing me a message from one of her apps. It said that the app’s privacy policy had been updated. She looked at me: I know what this is! Is what we have been shooting the video for, right? I said: Yes. She didn’t read it but she did take notice.

Dreams & Intuitions for 2017
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As I was crunching data for the 2016 year in review, my mind started wandering into 2017. Logically, I felt of swell of predictions and trends. However, I¬†once attempted a prediction and, in my humble opinion, the future turned out to be worse. Instead, I’ll just jot down some of my dreams and intuitions¬†for 2017.

Sharing Slowdown

On October 21, 2014 at 8:34PM, ¬†I quit Facebook¬†and limited my sharing to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium. While I kept my rhythm of a post-a-day and blog-a-month, some of my compatriots slowed down. My Instagram and Pinterest use also dipped near the end of 2016. Even Product Hunting became less exciting since I encountered a bug with their collection feature 1. Recent¬†Twitter struggles and the LinkedIn acquisition¬†indicate I’m not alone in experiencing sharing fatigue. In 2017 ¬†I hope we see a (new) network that honestly rewards those who sincerely curate and share original thoughts and links in a world of¬†clickbait¬†&¬†fake news. So I tip my hat to¬†Artifical Lawyer.

Legal Tech Paradox

Let’s face it: the legal industry was pushed off a cliff during the 2009 recession. Technology has only acted as an accelerant to its descent ever since. Some samples of laws left splattered by technology:

  1. Copyright: at odds with the Internet and the music industry never recovered, will Blockchain save it?;
  2. Patents: is stifling innovation and forcing titans like Elon Musk to completely misappropriate it with Tesla or ignore it with Space-X, will Trade Secrets Law help?;
  3. Tax: a chaos of contradictory rules confusing global commerce, giving¬†Apple a ‚ā¨14.5 billion tax headache;
  4. Finance: these laws can’t handle crypto-currency;
  5. Traffic: most laws to become obsolete with self-driving cars;
  6. Labor: in complete disarray in an on-demand economy of Uber;
  7. Property: where laws severely challenge your freedom to use Airbnb;
  8. Litigation: 75% goes to court without a lawyer because even millionaires can not afford it.

I’ll revisit the¬†Evolution of Law series in April to see if the technology is the parachute or the propellor of decline. In any case, Legal Tech may need to strike a balance to Automate the existing legal frameworks but not to perpetuate them. Legal Tech should not strive to protect laws (and lawyers jobs) but rather to protect a fair society.

Another concern is Data. There may not be enough data available to have apps take full advantage of machine learning. Even Apple researchers published a paper on the challenge of too little data. But the legal industry has an extra burden of lot of legal data is locked in layers of laws & ethics. I believe companies should open and automate their contract data to prevent another global economic crisis as concluded by this year’s Nobel prize winners. Governments should release all litigation and legislation data. If they don’t, someone will hack their way to it or use non-legal open data. The inevitable but less desirable outcome will be that non-legal is used to approximate legal and train algorithms.

Voice + Video = Future

It may be just wishful thinking but typing to a Lawbot just isn’t my thing. I would rather be talking to it like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri or Google Assistant. I also rather not be reading texts but listening to it or better yet, watch it come alive. So before¬†the #Docs2Bots revolution takes off, I’ll jumpstart a “Watch my Rights” movement with a¬†PrivaCeee campaign in January 2017. ¬†I’m not alone. Pioneers like¬†TalksonLaw¬†and LegalTechLive¬†by @NickJRishwain¬†are reinventing the video space. I’ll keep adding clips to the LegaLCompleX TV channel. In short, videos may become a better vehicle to deliver a legal message. Be honest, isn’t it more efficient to watch a TEDTalk¬†before you drag yourself thru an entire book on the subject?

This movement isn’t just restricted to videos, but also extends to audio. I’ve seen a rise of podcasts delivering legal advice and insights. Interestingly enough, dispensed by fellow founders rather than lawyers. I also almost exclusively use the “Listen” feature in Pocket for all articles I ‘read’. I’m hoping I can find a equally soothing ‘voice’ on my desktop¬†so I can save and share the audio version of my posts on SoundCloud.

Buzzkill

I hope you have noticed and appreciate the restrain in my using of buzzwords like Innovation, Big Data, Blockchain and AI. This is not to say these trends aren’t relevant but rather they may actually diffuse the debate on what really matters. That they are just means to an end and I’m more concern about the end.

Big Data: The ideas, talent, and apps are available. I believe we are waiting for an uptick in demand and adoption of the inevitable. In short, a culture of acceptance that hoarding data and content will not sustain a business but rather the algorithm to understand it.

AI: Like flying cars, it is the idea so beautiful that it becomes hard to ignore the reality of the¬†evolution of law. That it simply will not matter if computers become as smart as lawyers in knowing the law when these laws become obsolete. That conflicts will be resolved without ever becoming one and disputes may only be entertained by the rich as a spectacle. Just like Tesla’s Autopilot predicted an accident before a human ever could, the rules of engagement in our society will parse like code in a¬†computer rather than prose in parliaments.

 

Ever since Perc¬†I have this thing for intuitions. Premise: mark your inclinations and checked them later. Here goes: in 2017, I dream of viewing unique voices that break laws & traditions to bring us crazy tech¬†without the buzz…and I hope to contribute.

Change = Chance

2016 Year in Review: The Bold, The Bots & The Beautiful
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The 2015 year review featured the cool, the beautiful and intelligent. This year I like to honor the bold, the bots, and the beautiful in the legal industry. First some metrics.

Legal Startups

Notable numbers from 2016 as reported in The Hottest Summer & Legal Startups Charts:

  • 40+¬†average Legal Startups per month;
  • 50+ average Legal Startups per month between¬†August-November;
  • 479¬†(Jan-Dec, 20) total # of Legal Startups registered this year;
  • The US¬†(244) narrowly¬†outpaced¬†the rest of the World¬†(235);
  • But not in¬†February, March, June and September;
  • Helped by India (53), Canada (42) and..Australia¬†(17);
  • California is by far the most prolific location (39) barely beating New York (35);

Legal Tech

Some Legal Tech specifics from 2016:

  • 11 Legal Tech startups from San Francisco make them leaders in 2016, nudging London (9) and¬†New York City (8);
  • 66 number of legal tech startups from the US, subsequently India (22) and Canada (20);
  • Europe, on average (46-28) produced more Legal Tech than any other continent, followed closely by Asia (46-23);
  • 147¬†total # of Legal Tech startups created in 2016;

Other Tech tidbits:

 

LegaLCompleX

It’s been a crazy year in the LegaLCompleX studio:

While all of the above made me happy, one stood out in terms of community love ‚̧ԳŹ.

Future of Law and Why Lawyers May Save Humanity on Slideshare

 

Awards

Now to the awards and the winner of the LegaLCompleX 2016…by popular vote, please…

The Bold: Get Paper

It’s the sheer ambition ūüí™ūüŹĹ¬†that I find attractive: replace all legal with tech.

The Bots: Alyen and others

We may need to rethink the design, purpose, and even the names we give robots but they are here to stay.

The Beautiful: PrivaCeee

I won’t apologize for being bias but how can I not nominate my most beautiful creation¬†ūüėć.

2016

As we head into 2017, please pause and reflect on the significance of 2016. The year¬†7-Eleven and Amazon quietly started¬†autonomous deliveries¬†while Uber is forced to pull their autonomous taxi’s. When the Breaking News app shuts down while fake news runs rampant. We said farewell to G.O.A.T. & Prince and settle into orange as the new black.

Legal Industry Roadmap 2016
Legal Industry Roadmap: How Legal Tech Will Transform Our Lives
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Was there a lawyer in the room when Elon Musk decided to unleash¬†Tesla’s Autopilot to the masses? A decision to put the lives of heedless humans in the hands of a robot. If there were lawyers in the room, what would they say? If they weren’t in the room, why weren’t they? To answer these questions we should understand how the legal industry will unfold in the future. We’ll look at The Market, The Product and it’s Roadmap…and a huge little secret.

The Market

What is the Legal Industry? It is the business of constructing Trust. Just envision any encounter you have with another person or a business and you needed some kind of assurance, that is where you find legal. Even if you were alone on a deserted island, that island falls under some kind of treaty or agreement to ensure your solitude. When you think that you have enough trust and don’t need any legal in your live, that’s because the legal structure was already solidified somewhere upstream. The end-product for legal is your trust and trust is one of the most precious assets the human race possesses. If you don’t believe me, try living with animals.

What is the Market size? Now that you get a sense how ubiquitous legal is, you may be startled to learn the market size is just $700 billion, according to one astute observer. Compared to other industries, it seems a relatively small market and this may be due to what dynamics drive this market.

What are the Market Segments? When there is little or no trust, disputes arise. One can take court cases as a proxy and get a sense of where the most action is happening in legal. We can draw two market segments most of the legal industry money flows thru:

  1. Low volume – High margin e.g. Corporate Litigation & Arbitration, Mergers & Acquisitions, Intellectual Property.
  2. High volume РLow margin  e.g. Family & Criminal law, Insolvency, Tax.

To see an in-depth breakdown of litigation data, check out: The Evolution of Law Charts for samples from The Netherlands.

Based on the above dynamics, the supply side of the legal industry naturally flocks towards the #1 segment, leaving many stranded in the access to justice. Apparently, it has gotten so bad that even single-digit millionaires can not afford it.

Undoubtedly, we’ve stopped laughing at Peter’s little secrets¬†since November 8th so here’s mine about the legal industry: there is a third market and it’s huge.

The Product

What should the Legal Product become?¬†Trust will become increasingly more depended on Technology. Example: I order a pizza with a smartphone app and want it delivered to me within 30 minutes. Let’s say the merchant offers discounts when the delivery time exceeds 30 min. The app tracks the time, distance and calculates the right price. It can thereby estimate and set the variable amount to be deducted automatically based on these conditions. If demand outstrips supply, the discount may not apply and prices can surge. In return, the consumers can compare offers and seek cheaper alternatives all in the same app in real time. That is the anatomy of a Smart Contract.

One can argue that there were mitigating circumstances which caused the delivery to be difficult e.g. earthquakes, scooter crash, terrorist attacks. Well, you add these conditions in the Fine Code to be executed by the app. Now drone delivered pizzas will limit human errors in the logistics but tech can’t remedy all disasters. So we’ll have to include clauses to ensure these apps don’t act like sociopaths. Fact that Uber surge pricing automatically kicked in during a terrorist attack is evidence that the machine can’t handle empathy yet. As this TEDTalk eloquently explains: we can’t outsource our ethics to machines. Our connected smartphone can check for extreme circumstances but we need the Fine Code to hand us a fair deal.

In addition, these algorithms will use your social profile, job description, and maybe even your bank balance to determine your optimal purchase power. This is already happening in the marketing and ad space. If we consider all the data which can be used to influence us than biased news feeds will be the least of our problems. AI is alive but our data is the oxygen it needs to deliver us smart services that will improve our lives not send us back to the sixties.

Will there be any work left for Legal?¬†Therefore the answer is Yes, it is the greatest opportunity for legal to safeguard our society since the invention of the written law 3000 years ago. We know now that math can’t do it. Sample: a single-digit millionaire is snowed in their secluded chalet, hours away from starvation. Their only option was drone¬†delivered pizzas to reach them in time, what would the optimal offer be? Consider the bank balance and weather conditions in the calculation.

So how would that work? In all Transactions lies a legal agreement in disguise: the assurance of fairness. Now, every transaction happens within a chain of several Interactions. Each interaction has its own set of rules and is govern by law. You receive an Offer, Negotiate, Sign, Exchange, and Execute an agreement. One of these pillars of interactions has spawned the first Legal Tech unicorn by helping to seal deals with signatures. Likewise, a similar startup won the 2016 Dutch Legal Tech Award. What if all these digital signatures were placed on smart contracts?

Interactions - LegaLComplexWhy is this Third Market relevant?¬†In a pen & paper world, it was humanly impossible to track all these interactions. Now that we’ve gone digital, they have resurfaced to become an integral agent¬†of new industries and the transformation of our lives. Moreover, going digital meant being able¬†to scale the Volume of transactions as well as the conditions. On November 11th, one merchant made $5 billion in one hour by being able to process 120,000 transactions per second. Each transaction was part of a non-negotiable offer, executed under a single immutable contract and without a signature. It’s inevitable that these exchanges will evolve at both ends: negotiating the deals and settling disputes.

Imagine, you could negotiate a discount for a large order of pizzas with just a slider in my app rather than a lengthy complicated phone call with an operator who may be unauthorized to make me any offer. All the while trusting it is a fair offer considering the circumstances and knowing you can resolve any disputes directly in the app.

The Roadmap

Here’s the kicker, all the ingredients are in place: infrastructure, algorithms, engineers, and demand. No fancy blockchain required unless we aim for near-perfect transparency. The minor missing piece is the Consensus. Why minor? Let’s go back to the first statement about Tesla’s Autopilot. I bet there were engineers in the room and maybe even some marketing people to get consensus. If they would have invited a lawyer, it may have never launched.

What is the Roadmap? In 2013 I drew an image depicting the path I envision the legal profession would travel into the future. First, some see change coming and build the technology and platforms. That movement gathers steam and attracts passionate crowds to rally behind these platforms. With more minds on the job, we get to build robots. Robots which in turn would start to communicate and assemble themselves. This will free up the minds to return to the boardroom and ponder the safety and fairness for future generations.

Legal Industry Roadmap 2016Here’s some evidence we are on this trajectory: in the year 2014 and especially 2015 we saw a rise of legal tech startups vs just legal startups. For every 10 “law firm” startups created, we had 3 Legal Tech startups (3:10 ratio) in 2014. In 2015 we ran at an amazing¬†7:10 ratio clip. This year we dropped to a¬†5:10 ratio. Check out the chart:¬†Legal vs Tech 2016.

In 2015-2016 we also witness the rise of Legal Hackers¬†events, Legal Tech Meetups, Awards and Conferences. Dedicated Legal Tech incubators, accelerators, funds and institutes. Legal now has it’s very own AI award¬†and Design Summit. There are many communities and networks to choose from so I encourage you to¬†join one.

This year, we also met quite a few robots. Lawbots generally answer simple legal questions or generate documents. The next natural progression of legal AI is that machine generates law and create smart contracts. If a robot can navigate traffic than regulating humans isn’t far fetched.

Who will Build this stuff? In the 80’s the financial experts ruled the world. If you could calculate you would be at the top. That slowly transitioned to the engineers in the 3 decades thereafter. Those who could¬†compute went on to become rulers of the platforms. But remember that they all started in cubicles on spreadsheets and terminals writing formulas and code to lay the groundwork for the future. Now I see the beginnings of a new shift, those who can Consensualize*¬†and restore the balance within the code will become the Players in the future.

Who are the Players? A few words on who will pioneer this revolution. We have the Investors, Builders & Consumers. Investors aren’t only the ones handing out angel capital, these are also students, engineers, and enthusiast who see the need and are willing to invest their expertise and time for a¬†career in legal. While I do see the passion from the existing legal professionals, I’ve yet to witness the new mindset it requires. I’ve noticed that successful Builders of legal tech generally aren’t legal professionals but rather practically minded pioneers that see a problem and want to fix it. Why these Builders succeed is that the new Consumers of legal value the products for their simplicity and practicality¬†not for¬†its complexity nor completeness.

Conclusion

#Robolaw¬†stated that law will vanish in virtual since the Biggest Problem the industry faces is failing to envision the future. So here’s the future:

Any business needs trust to operate and serve customers. Where you need trust, your hire legal. The message for legal: your end-product can not be just talk & texts, it has to be technology.

One can hardwire trust into a chip like Apple or convert the entire language of lawyers into a computational one like Stephen Wolfram’s ¬†Symbolic Discourse Language. In any case, it will reside in the code not the courts. The legal elites may have to stop chasing the high margins in low volumes because the people just want pizza to be great again.

So to get back in the boardroom we’ll have to start at the bottom and involve everyone with a passion for serving fairness. If legal wants to help the next Elon Musk launch the next AI, legal should draw the blueprint, not draft the fine print.

If you don’t believe me, try living with AI.

Software is eating the world, #LegalTech should be hot sauce.

Consensualize* : the act of continuously calibrating connections between commerce interactions to balance these interactions for fairness. Is used in algorithms to proof their legitimacy by having them constantly be validated by an¬†external independent framework of rules on justification. ¬†Is derived from the word ‘Consensus’.

Alyen: 5 Unusual Lessons My First LawBot Taught Me
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Last update:March 22, 2017

On October 9th, 2014 I told myself to go build robots for law. After exactly 2 years I can finally say: I did. It’s been a 16-year journey and here are my five unusual lessons.

You may fail

When you try Alyen, remember: I may be the least qualified person to attempt this. I’m not specialized in Immigration Law but I had suffered thru the process. I do have a degree in Legal Knowledge Engineering from the University of Amsterdam, which qualifies me to code legal knowledge into computer systems. Actually, I’m lucky because they scrapped the course shortly after I graduated. I believe there aren’t that many of us out there so I’m hoping to bring it back.

The real reason I created Alyen is to fail fast and learn. Growing up on legal inferencing engines, I was curious to find out if chatbots, with machine learning and natural language processing, are the next level. Yet, ‘teaching‘ chatbots requires a different approach and mindset. However, legal professionals are hard wired to avoid risk. So the Lawyer in me wanted Alyen to be perfect and risking failure wasn’t acceptable. The Creator in me gave me the courage to stumble as long as I got back up.

So if you think Alyen doesn’t work, let me know in the form below. I’d be happy to hear it because in Life and in Law, we can all use data to improve.

You can cheat

Cheating is when you take a shortcut to success or create something fake which actually reflects an aspiration rather than the reality. Gamers use cheats, programmers use hacks. In programming, cheats are a healthy way to trim code or for your constituents to let you know how they expect your app to work. I ran into numerous obstacles trying to build Alyen. A major hurdle was that I needed to use webhooks to make it truly intelligent. I will, once I get the hang of it and learn how to connect it to Zapier. Webhooks would have enabled me to save and calculate the answer faster. Example if a user would state in the chat: “I’m a Syrian Refugee and I would like to know my chances”. My goal was to parse it as follows:

Question: “I’m a [first instance] Syrian [ nationality] Refugee [goal] and I would like to know my chances [metrics]”

Answer: You have 98% chance your application would be accepted.

Maybe it’s my limited technical expertise. Or maybe I should ‘cheat’ and use another platform.

 

Recast.ai

You should slow down

What I realized is that having a conversation maybe one of the quickest ways to transfer complicated information. As in my example above, normal legal expert systems needed many questions to get ambiguity out of the way. With more powerful natural language processing, it’s easier to parse questions in chunks and offer up an answer immediately. However, I discovered that speed isn’t always helpful when providing complex conclusions. When running my “Syrian Refugee” simulation and offering my instant answer I didn’t believe it myself. I expected Alyen to ponder my question and display the strain it took me to get that answer. Then I remember this article about why Facebook purposefully slows it services down in order for the human brain to get a grip of what information is put forward.

 

You will understand

Meanwhile, I discovered chatbots are an amazing legal service design tool. Chatbots have an intimate conversation with your users. During the conversation, it becomes blatantly obvious where your user journey is broken. Alyen had over 200 conversations since it’s launched and I can report that most didn’t go as I expected. Moreover, most didn’t follow the path I initially set out (immigrants) but rather were more interested in testing (experience). With this data, I’m now pondering a pivot for Alyen from Immigration to something else. Nevertheless, chatbots are the reality check on any service. They have been called  the best prototyping tool and the most insightful way to get user feedback.

We advance

I used motion.ai because it looked the easiest for me to use. There are many platforms and resources to choose from and I found Chatbots Magazine a useful starting place. Once you’re ready to pick your platform, you can head on over to botlist.co to pick one. If you need some inspiration, here are a couple of Lawbots :

Insights

Lawbots

  1. Lexi the Legal Bot: a legal bot you can chat with to generate a free Privacy Policy or Non-Disclosure Agreement;
  2. Lawbot.info: a chatbot focused criminal offenses;
  3. Do Not Pay: well-known traffic ticket chatbot;
  4. Appjection: dutch version of Do Not Pay
  5. Visabot: US Immigration bot in Facebook messenger;
  6. Lawdroid: Incorporate your business in Facebook messenger;
  7. Oblo: answers legal issues & recommends lawyers in Facebook messenger;
  8. Liza: French legal chat bot;
  9. Alyen: my courageous attempt to provide clarity to immigration;

When you try Alyen and other bots please realize: a typical calculator can calculate faster than any human being but the calculator itself can not comprehend what it’s true purpose is. Robots are merely a tool and the real potential resides in our imagination. We get gentle reminders every day, even with their flaws bots are able to judge our laws. So lets us advance and see beyond.

 **Added: Rise of Chatbots by Lawgazette. 

**Updated Nov, 23, 2016:  Oblo added

**Updated Nov, 18, 2016:  Visabot & Lawdriod added

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Premonition Win Loss NL
What is the Legal Industry’s Biggest Problem?
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On September 29th I shared an image from Premonition on Win-Loss rates of Dutch¬†Lawyers, Here’s what happened¬†next.

A series of tweets and questions which helped frame the debate in my mind and led me to a discovery: the biggest challenge facing the legal industry.

Transparency & Commodity

Metrics on win and loss for lawyers have always existed, they were just kept in-house. Actually, the practice of ranking lawyers may have started as early as 1868 when James B. Martindale first published a directory of lawyers and law firms and rated each. This practice has endured and is long overdue for an upgrade.

Besides, transparency allows consumers freedom to compare and comparisons lead to more consumption. So even if more legal services¬†are commoditized, increase demand may still balance it out. Ultimately becoming more open and cheaper shouldn’t be a problem.

Quality & Complexity

Cheap legal products can never be the high-quality complex stuff, right? Well, here’s the thing about the complexity of legal matter: it is a subjective measure. Like all things in this world, what is complex for one person, isn’t for the next. Moreover, since legal matters are mostly solved behind a curtain of confidentiality, no one will be able to validate it. Even when circumstances¬†are truly unique, the laws that may apply could be decades old. The simple fact that we use very static means to fix very advanced fluid problems¬†is a human limitation. No wonder we find these complex. Computers driven by Moore’s Law do not have this limitation. And the same goes for quality.

Nonetheless, if we really want to be good at comparing value, then quality and complexity should be measurable. Some platforms are already moving towards becoming the standard of measure for legal endproducts.

The Biggest Problem

The legal¬†industry is stuck selling hay to horsemen, while failing to envision the future of fueling transportation. Most industries with business models predating the internet face this dilemma. Just as car companies are acknowledging they¬†should build solar powered robots instead of fossil fueled¬†suicide combustibles. Legal professionals¬†will need to accept they’ll have to abandon the prestigious and once profitable occupation of billing for complexities and settle for a noble occupation of coding a fair society. If self-driving talent is worth $10 million per person, legal engineers will be worth twice as much once we realise these robots lack empathy. They run on racially biased¬†algorithms that will charge you extra to flee a terrorist attack.

The Best Solution

Face reality, our society needs rules and these should not be purely based on physics and math. Fact is that robots are inevitable and we should figure out the best way to leverage their strengths and fix their weaknesses. Fight for a world where the pen is still mightier than the sword.  But that the pen is the algorithm in our watch hailing a ride at a regular price when it senses our distress.

A Message To Legal Tech: 4 Signs Winter Is Coming
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After a couple of record breaking¬†months during the Hottest¬†Summer¬†in Legal Tech, ¬†I believe winter is upon us¬†and here’s why.

#1 Lots of Legal, Little Tech

While Legal Startup numbers look spectacular, the reality is that the quality of startups is more of the same. Some geographies are doing better than others (see #4). However,¬†the majority of registering startups are marketplaces, solo’s¬†or niche practices that use simple & little tech. As the chart below illustrates, this year started very encouragingly. In January and February, Tech was winning. Yet in the heat of summer, the lead started to melt away. Clever company names will not disguise the fact, it is not tech you’re selling, it is just legal. This September we passed 40 again but don’t rejoice: since legal tech life should begin at 40.

#2 Lacking Creativity

There is only so much spin and juice one can put on “Uber for legal”¬†before you start smelling the rot. So I like to give a nod to Paper, who aims to automate the legal workflow associated¬†with creating your business. By putting the legal flow in a UI instead of documents and making¬†lawyers an “In-App” purchase. They also launched their site with an SSL Certificate or more commonly known as¬†HTTPS. I’m not a security¬†expert but I do feel more confident when sites have https. This makes Paper very rare on Angellist and I’m hoping to see more of them.

#3 Startup Winter

Angellist is preparing for winter¬†because of a decelerating startup scene. They are not alone as Y Combinator, the world largest incubator, is also¬†changing strategies. Both CB Insights (image below) and Mattermark are warning of a slowdown. ¬†So I’m a bit bemused by the fact Legal is¬†jumping on the accelerator. It takes, at best, 4 years for a business to find traction and 5 to flourish or exit. Moreover, if your startup is selling to the legal professionals¬†market beware. Law firms have notoriously long sales cycles¬†and this will only become more fickle as market pressures mount on them.

winter-cbinsightsSo when the Pro’s pause, Legal steps on the gas. And that approach may work but I do see the benefits of breaking so bear with me..

***Mr. Robot Spoiler Alert***

While my head¬†is still reeling from Mr. Robot season 2 finale, I captured an important message dubbed “Python Approach“. One of the characters explains that a python’s primary attacking tactic is to wait for its prey to come. Patiently¬†tracking it over long periods of time and snapping it up when the time is right. As Dom states, Pythons can go up to a year without food.

******

In short, startups¬†should not expect Capital to be heading their way, so it’s time to bootstrap and focus on the other C: Customers. Choose them well.

#4 A Bright Spot

There are bright spots, as seen in this video: Where do Legal Startups come from?¬†In October, I’ll publish more stats so here’s a preview: it seems the rest of the world is picking up the slack and I see quality legal startups emerging from Asia and Africa. Diversity & necessity may be better drivers for quality startups than venture capital or accelerators.

The History Of The Future Of Law, 2056 AD
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“…Son, did you know you needed a license to drive your car!? You needed a license to start a¬†company. Heck, you even needed a license to be a lawyer.”

“Grandpa, What is a lawyer?”

“Well back in my days, we, humans, had some trust issues so we decided to have many rules in order for society to operate properly. This¬†was before the great Computer Devolution*. Now, these rules became so complex that we needed special people to help us explain them. Much like an engineer teaches robots to behave before they can teach themselves, lawyers taught other people¬†to behave with speech and text.”

“But who made these rules?”

“That’s the funny thing: before computers, lawyers use to conceive rules and made them so emotionally complex and conflicting that they were the only ones that were able to explain them. It’s also how they made a living. They called themselves Attorneys and they made a rule that no one else could be one unless you had a license. Just like driving a car”

“Hahaha, who wants to drive a car?!”

“Don’t laugh, cars didn’t use to drive themselves. We bought and drove them manually. It really wasn’t safe. I’m lucky I survived. ¬†Did you know grandpa went to a law school to become a lawyer? I survive that too”

“Huh?!”

“He, Xuber** is here, let’s, go…”

¬†—

*¬†devolution |ňĆdev…ôňąl(y)oÕěoSH(…ô)n|:¬†

the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration. In this case, from humans to computers. 

** In 2036, Uber transitioned from cars to drones for transporting goods and humans. They changed their name to Xuber to become an airline company and compete against Tesla Fleet.

The Summer of 2016: The Hottest on Record for Legal Startups
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Last update: March 17, 2017

You may have missed it but June 2016 broke the single month record set this February with 44 legal startups registering on AngelList. Wait, there is more…

**Update Sep, 2:  Psst, in August we broke 56 **

Last year, I was curious to know how many legal ventures were seeking fame and fortune from the angels. In December, I wanted to know what types of legal operations would deliver us from hell. This June, I still noticed quite a few law firms masquerading but I’m expecting more startups to be aiming for the heavens. So I was pleasantly surprised by the June numbers. More so seeing May and June are historically not known for its highs.

June 2016 did not only break the record but we may have reached a tipping point: It can very well be the first time more startups registered from outside the US on AngelList.

Where do Legal Startups come from?

I first suspected Canada but a closer look revealed India making quite a surge. However, if we break it down in continents, the western hemisphere, specifically the Americas, still outweighs the rest…with a little help from South America.

Where to track more Legal Startups?

Recently, there has also been a flurry of legal startup trackers. Here’s a list of communities and enthusiast chasing startups:

I’m a member of the Legalpioneer community and since I couldn’t find similar listings, I created the last 2 Charts and Hunt lists. In doing so I realized that it’s particularly challenging to tag and categorize legal startups. Stanford and ‘Legal Tech – Mapping Disruption’ both have about 8 categories but differ on topics e.g. only eDiscovery, Research and Practice Management appear in both. In 2013, a Quora member listed 11 submarkets in the legal space but this was before the AI and Machine Learning era. Same goes for tagging: Stanford has 237 tags and Lawhackers around 69 after de-duplication. In short, we are in the midst of figuring out the Fog of Apps and after the dust has settled, we’ll know who solved the real pains.

Meanwhile, it’s great to see that we’re back on track in making this a summer to remember.

 

**Update Mar, 17 ’17: Fixed Australia tracker **

**Update Feb, 13 ’17: Germany and Australia tracker **

**Update Dec, 20: Robert J. Ambrogi**

**Updated Dec, 7: Y-combinator**

**Updated Aug, 5: Added Spain tracker**

**Updated Jul, 18: Canada  & CB Insights as trackers**