Alyen: 5 Unusual Lessons My First LawBot Taught Me

Alyen: 5 Unusual Lessons My First LawBot Taught Me 1920 1080 Raymond Blyd

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.

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 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 to pick one. If you need some inspiration, here are a couple of Lawbots :



  1. Lexi the Legal Bot: a legal bot you can chat with to generate a free Privacy Policy or Non-Disclosure Agreement;
  2. 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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The History Of The Future Of Law, 2056 AD

The History Of The Future Of Law, 2056 AD 2048 1152 Raymond Blyd

“…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”


“He, Xuber** is here, let’s, go…”


devolution |ˌdevəˈl(y)o͞oSH(ə)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.

2015 Year in Review: The Cool, The Beautiful & The Intelligent

2015 Year in Review: The Cool, The Beautiful & The Intelligent 1920 1080 Raymond Blyd

2015 was quite an eventful year in legal tech. Here’s my shortlist in random order:

But 2015 is also the year legal startup growth stalled:

  • In October, I didn’t de-dup startups tagged as both legal tech and legal so the real numbers aren’t that spectacular.
  • In 2014 (337), we had a 56% increase compared to 2013 (215). 2015 is just 2% (349)
  • Yet, tagged as Legal Tech (139) almost doubled compared to last year (78)

[chart id=”1935″]

I made a breakdown of types of legal startups registered in December 2015 on and it seems that:

[chart id=”2502″]
Dec 15 AngelList2
  • But isn’t the only place to hunt legal startups. (paid) of CB Insights (paid), or (freemium) are also excellent sources;
  • Heck, there even is a dedicated legal startup tracker called;
  • And I also discovered that there are about 946 in the US while roughly 1405 legal startups come from outside The States (Source:, Dec. 9, 2015);
  • I was also happy to see a cool tax startup make it on ProductHunt;

And now for the moment you all have been waiting for: Legalcomplex awards for the coolest, the most beautiful and the most intelligent legal tech of 2015…envelope please

The Cool


I feel this is the beginning of something epic for the internet and the law.

Honorable mentionMachine Learning

The Beautiful


I was smitten by the use of gif’s to convey the beauty in legal.

Honorable mentionZocDoc

The Intelligent

I see brilliance in its simplicity and power of its potential.

? ? ?

Disclosure: This review was compiled based on my 2015 stats from Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, My Blog, Medium etc so it’s completely bias and non-scientific.?

Electrifying Insights from Big Data In Law

Electrifying Insights from Big Data In Law 1920 1080 Raymond Blyd

We recently presented a Masterclass at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and while preparing I had a couple of insights.

As with Artificial Intelligence*, I mostly shied away from the “Big Data” discussion because I felt it was engulfed by Inflated Expectations. Without the right tools to visualize it, more data only provides more problems. Big Data is now all grown up and the evidence is in the apps.

Big Data impacts Legal…Big Time

Our presentation was part of an Executive Education program called “Leadership Challenges with Big Data” and sandwiched between all the professors presenting were Peter & I. Since we only had 45 minutes and were the last act before lunch, we decided to stick to real-world examples to explain the impact of Big Data on the legal sector. While compiling these examples, I was amazed by not only the variety of ways (text recognition or sentiments analysis) but also the variety of data that can solve legal problems. Not only legal matter like legislation or jurisprudence but also non-legal matter such as newstime & billing, court records, and insurance data. Even social media and location data are valuable in helping to decide a legal course of action.

Less Law – More Automation

There is this slight difference between tools for the business of law and the practice of law. In the practice of law, data analytics and visualization play an important role in predicting outcomes or explaining complexities. Legal forces, such as conflicts or compliance, are fueling these tools. At the business end, companies are faced with market forces like costs, customers, and competitors. This requires different apps that support efficiencies and consistency…by way of automation, not just answers. Case in point: this paper states that the global financial meltdown was the result of failures in contracts. Now if a systemic use of faulty contracts can bring down the entire global economy, it can also take down your company. One way to prevent this is by designing and automating smart contracts to the point that law becomes invisible.

Big Data is the new Electricity

Hearing the other speakers in the program talk about the impact of data on their sector made us all realize: data sits at the heart of every industry. Data powers most decisions like electricity powers most tools. Without the support of data, one feels like a kite in a storm. In the past, we could get by on software without data. One could fire up an empty word document and start drafting. Now, software platforms infused with Machine Intelligence* are connected to devices and sensors not only generate but also consume data. It means apps come pre-build with data and intelligence providing us with super powers at a push of a button: Look Ma, no drafting!

..and with great powers comes some bewilderment.

WK Big Data.044

* I prefer the term Robolaw because legal doesn’t require (even simple) AI to solve itself. Legal is 80% illogical reasoning that will be fixed by automation and 20% emotion that should be ignored by robots.

What is Perc? A Way To Outsmart Robots

What is Perc? A Way To Outsmart Robots 1920 800 Raymond Blyd

This might sound crazy but what if we could outsmart robots?

We depend on them for a majority of our daily tasks and it is increasingly harder to make decisions without the assistance of an algorithm. Meanwhile, machines are learning at a faster pace and making most of our skills obsolete. But robots have weaknesses, and if we want to stay ahead we will need to exploit them.


One of the good traits of the legal profession is its demand of Continued Legal Education (CLE). Many countries have a similar system in place to assure legal professionals are qualified to perform their duties. While the current CLE requirements are skewed towards traditional skills, the premise is sound: you need to keep training to stay fit. The survival of any professional will ultimately depend on their ability to adapt and learn…continuously.

There are Two parts to training: first is the type of skill and second is the effort involve to acquire it. Once you join the workforce, your freedom to learn evaporates. Simply because your time gets limited. Training resources are growing in abundance and getting cheaper all the time. Some offer clever ways to help you learn complicated stuff by first assessing your level. I believe this is key: Measurement precedes any Improvement.

Basically, there are Three types of skills actively being solicited: Hard skills, Soft skills and Vapor skills. The first 2 are measurable with numerous tests like teasers, IQ, personality etc. I suspect vapor skills are a bit trickier to capture and measure because we so little understand these skills. Yet they are the most valuable skills according to the brightest minds. Albert Einstein called it: the father of new knowledge and Steve Jobs encourage everyone to follow it above all else. I’m talking about Intuition.


The past 2 years I have been quietly tinkering on this thing called: Perc. Perc started as legal technology but quickly evolved into something else. I started with studying quantitive and qualitative characteristics and designing companion visualizations. While exploring these graphs, I stumbled on something: not only could I measure and display knowledge, experience, and personality based on data, I could also use metrics to capture my intuition. And when I became aware of it, it increased my confidence in trusting my intuition.

While MIT claims it can beat human intuition with big data analysis, some believe humans beat robots by handling big decisions with little data. With Perc I intend to prove it could also boost your intuition.


Perc is a project to create an iOS app with a companion watch app which helps to educate the user and spread acquired knowledge with everyone. I feel I have a few good years left before my skills and my entire profession become obsolete. That’s why I like to put them to some good use and create Perc to help us stay ahead of robots.

Meanwhile, feel free to connect, follow or sign up to be the first to know by clicking the 3 dots.

3 Epic Insights From Hunting Legal Apps on Product Hunt

3 Epic Insights From Hunting Legal Apps on Product Hunt 2560 1600 Raymond Blyd

In “Who will beat Law Firms?” I mention that Product Hunt had just 22 legal apps. That number seemed a bit low, so I went back to see if I could find more. And what I found was Epic. Here are my 3 main insights while collecting legal apps on Product Hunt.

Product Hunting

Product Hunt (PH) is a site were new products get submitted and Product Hunters can upvote them. This creates a daily list of most popular products. The main difference between startups syndicates, crowdfunding or other marketplaces is:

a) PH primairily hosts  real products you can start using right away;

b) And this makes the PH experience, one grounded in practice rather than promise,

First, I did a couple of searches with keywords like “legal” or “law” but my results missed some valid products. I then expanded my keywords and browsed other collections, which is another cool feature of PH. These collections broaden my horizons and boosted serendipity. This resulted in a tangible “Legal Tech Hunt” collection with 65+ apps which nicely offsets my fantasy “Legal Visualizations & Designs” board on Pinterest.

My Cool is Cold

What struck me was the fact that cool products had little upvotes. Premonition uses AI to find the best lawyers, how cool is that! It had only 1 vote ?…so I gave it one more.  ROSS, an AI powered Attorney, did ok so I guess AI may only be suitable for judging the law but not the lawyers. But it’s not just me, legal industry darlings like Ravellaw or Casetext got relatively little love from Product Hunters. I initially found 22 apps because I was looking for particular legal characteristics. Eventually, I  found more legal apps when I stopped looking for legal apps.

Insight: I view products from the perspective of a Practitioner of Law and not as a Consumer of Law. Therefore, I subconsciously love the things that would only work for me.

epic 2

Practical is Popular

Topping the collection are straightforward legal apps for entrepreneurs. The top 3 are products which basically replace lawyers and empower consumers of law. Actually, 2 of them look similar to a well-known Legal Unicorn. The rest of the list is sprinkle with simple tools that help you avoid lawyers and court battles e.g. Clear helps you find and clear potentially damaging social media posts. Or Clerky which makes startup legal paperwork painless. These products make legal complexity invisible and anybody can use them right away.

Insight: Product hunters like practical, simple and fast. Their psychology towards legal services has evolved and so have their product preferences.

epic 3
Blockchain is Epic

I’ll be honest, I’m no expert on Bitcoin nor Blockchain but I think it’s awesome. I’m not the only one getting all warm and giddy ? at the promise this technology embodies for the legal market. Examples like Ascribe or Bitproof help protect Intellectual Property with Blockchain. Any Intellectual Property Attorney, with enough alcohol running through their veins, will admit that copyright law in a digital space can actually not exist. Computers copy, it’s how they operate on every level. So if the law states it’s illegal to copy then we would never be able to use the Internet. No lawyer nor contract can protect you from actual digital theft, but cryptography can. It’s Epic.

Insight: Technology is not only making legal protocols invisible, it’s making them redundant in a digital space.

epic 4

Summary: Legal professionals may not be the best at picking the hottest apps. Hunters (and future CEO’s) prefer the most practical apps to accomplish business goals and personal fulfillment. In the end, technology will make the need for legal protocols obsolete. Now before these exquisite specimens get sued into extinction…Come hunt with me…

Legal Tech Hunt

[icon name=”pinterest-square” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] Legal Visualizations & Designs

DESH 3: Smart Legal Tech on your Wrist

DESH 3: Smart Legal Tech on your Wrist 1920 1080 Raymond Blyd

A while ago I wrote that I did not believe in legal technology on your wrist. I changed my mind shortly thereafter but I was haunted by my wavering because: how would it work?


DESH debuted on June 17, 2013, in “DESH: Your Personal Legal Assistant with Sense.” The idea: a robot that ‘reads’ your legal matter and assists in making intelligent decisions. It was inspired by the rise of personal assistants such as Google Now and Mynd. Google Now tells me if I would encounter traffic wherever I am. Mynd calculates my travel time and notifies me when I should leave for my next appointment. Both need little configuration and run invisibly in the background. I envisioned DESH to do the same for your legal activity.



Loupe (prequel)

DESH actually originated from an earlier concept called Loupe. While DESH is a front-end, Loupe would be the backend. Loupe is a concept whereby the (search) engine would convert any information into a  legal context query. For example, if Loupe recognized an amount or a date it would check the meaning within a specific legal domain. Similar to how Wolfram Alpha calculates data within a certain domain. Loupe rules would be:

“ 10 million” in Competition Law → Cartels = fine

“ 10 million” in Competition Law → Merger = Acquisition Price

DESH (sequel)

In “Seymour: Maybe I Was Wrong About Legal Wearables” I realized why wearables would be especially significant for legal professionals: mobility. I believe legal counsels, like physicians, would travel from client to client with little or no time to pause and do stationary PC work. However, pride prevented me from reducing DESH to a mundane calendar app. I needed it to be this intelligent decision-making machine.



DESH (today)

Compromise: it’s both. Rational: if it were a smartphone app with more screen real estate it would make sense to have it do a lot of fancy #Robolaw. But on your wrist is a different story. While mobile is the starting point, providing simple straightforward data is the max on a ‘watch.’ Apple encourages “light interaction” and describes these as “glances.”

How it works

  1. Launch the app to ‘glance’ your legal activity progress*;
  1. Turn the dial or swipe up to reveal your legal activity in a calendar item.

*News is approx 75% read, Cases read at 30%, Contract drafting is at 15%. That’s it. Does this make any sense?

This article first appeared on Medium.

Five Stages Lawyers Need To Embrace In a World of Robots

Five Stages Lawyers Need To Embrace In a World of Robots 2000 1125 Raymond Blyd

The Kübler-Ross model describes the five emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Similarly, change is an irreversible and unapologetic event. Here are 5 alternate stages for legal professionals to help navigate change in the legal market.

1. Acceptance
In Suriname, a mourning process is accelerated by having a party during and after the burial. It is believed that one should celebrate death. This is taken literally as coffin bearers joyfully dance with the deceased until they reach the final resting place.

Legal professionals aren’t shy about adopting new technology. Just look at smartphone and tablet adoption rates among lawyers in the past 4 years. I believe the pager, cell phone, and blackberry enjoyed similar successes.

However, adoption is not the acceptance of a new reality. The technology examples above just empowered existing workflows; it did not fundamentally change the dynamics of the marketplace. Technology like smartphones, just enabled lawyers to communicate more efficiently not necessarily differently.

We are now in the midst of a revolution whereby the core value of a legal professional(providing legal counsel) is shifting towards platforms, algorithms and data (Robolaw).

It’s not a faster way of drafting an agreement, it’s accepting the fact that you do not ever need to draft one.

Acceptance of the new reality should be a feast: a celebration of the fact that the tedious & repetitive have died and made way for the joy in legal work.

2. Trust
My faith in technology is derived from a belief that it has saved my life. Yet faith alone may not suffice in winning the hearts and minds of legal professionals. We’ll need evidence that robots can do a better job before we trust them.

Proof is mounting that platforms (crowdsourcing) and algorithms outperform humans in predicting legal outcomes. However it’s not like IBM’s Watson has already passed the multistate bar exam and is now a licensed attorney.

Legal work isn’t a chess match or an equation, but a complex nuanced construct of emotions in text. And herein lies the problem: the sheer amount of ambiguous texts.

5-4Due to data overload, it has become humanly impossible to find justice without the assistance of algorithms.

With Predictive Coding we have effectively conceded that the days of manually reading through stacks of documents have come to pass.

Trust in technology can be derived from either faith or evidence. However, in trusting legal technology, we may have already passed the luxury stage and ventured into necessity. Ultimately, we may not have a choice but to trust robots.

3. Mobility
I read this inspiring story: ‘Barefoot’ Lawyers Teach Ugandans Their Rights.’ It seems 97% of lawyers serve a population of 2 million people within the capital. The remaining 3% are left to serve a population of around 36 million in the rest of Uganda. In order to alleviate the travel burden covering an area of 241,038 square km, Ugandan lawyer, Gerald Abila, uses volunteers and a range of technologies like social media to educate and provide legal advice.

I’ll compliment Gerald on embracing technology to bridge the gap and his story highlights a fundamental principle about legal work: it is most effective if served in person. Mobility is the cornerstone of the legal profession. It is one of the main drivers of technology adoption among legal professionals.

If only the mobile tools were as good on the road as they are at home. I have dedicated most my writing in the last 4 years on this subject. I even went as far as to declare the death of legal research on desktop. I believe the cause of this imbalance has many factors. A root cause may also lie in the very nature of legal professionals (see stage 5).

4. Simplicity
#Robolaw: A World Without Law elaborates on the necessity of simplicity. Driven by the rise of digital currencies, the world is moving towards a frictionless reality – one where simplicity is handsomely rewarded and complexity is not welcome.

Yet, any legal framework is built upon barriers. The law revolves around setting rules and exceptions. Its goal is to avert risk and minimize misunderstandings. It is there to protect us from ourselves.

Nevertheless, legal products, and services need to become as clear and simple as a hand Shake. Actually, it may become invisible, even in the event of disputes. This future is more likely to happen if we let robots do the negotiations and dispute resolutions- just like we will trust them to drive our cars. We may only need a notification or a glance.

5. Adventurous
In the search for simplicity, one characteristic will truly serve us: experimentation. There are penalties for failure in every profession; in some the consequences are far more severe than others. However, I believe this new era is giving us a license to try new stuff. This era of relentless change has set us free from a stigma of dumb and has opened a world of daring.

One time a customer, a jetsetting lawyer, had an extreme request. He wanted me to create a product only he would use, custom made and tailored to his needs. I told him I could not because I couldn’t justify the costs versus return. I stated that if we had more customers like him I may be able to justify it. He said, “No, I hope there aren’t any. I want to be unique and my calling card is using these special tools.”

By now, you may have guessed what he asked for. He was clearly a risk taker and dared to be different.

My best friend and godfather to my youngest is a physician. He’s my reminder: I am allowed to dare & fail. Some really do not have that luxury.

#Robolaw Is A World Without Law

#Robolaw Is A World Without Law 2048 1152 Raymond Blyd

…I get my receipt and check the numbers. There is fine print at the bottom stating something legal. It is referencing some other texts and is suppose to enlighten me about liability, indemnification etc…I believe its evidence…

 The law blankets our society like an invisible fabric. It is a web that governs every human interaction. It materializes on paper and thru the voices of patrons like a code only a programmer can decompile. We mostly do not understand the law yet it is supposed to make things clear.

So why is the law so complicated?

Guardians of Legalcomplex

Unlike the other ‘things’ that (will) run our lives, the law has been romanticized in science, literature and film as something righteous yet secretive. A language only a few have mastered yet is revered and adhered. Its practitioners are modern-days saints which guard us from mayhem and malice. But there is a dark side to this benevolence. Legal work intent is to provide clarity but to the contrary: it is cleverly disguised complexity. One that is perpetuated by its guardians, who are the ones bestowed with the power to decrypt. I call this LegaLCompleX.

Now many strive to unravel and democratize this mesh of rules from the inside out and outside in. Yet there might be another force which is inadvertently cracking this barrier of complexity: Money. Simply said:

most legal rules exist to regulate the flow of money.

The law (especially tax law) was initially conceived to distribute wealth in an orderly fashion. Now that money as currency has fundamentally change from paper to digital, so does its governance. As this wonderful article more eloquently explains: the event of crypto currency such as Bitcoin is forcing us to fundamentally rethink our legal contracts required to regulate the flow of money.

Vanishing Legal

So while preachers of law have consistently pressed this complexity, they are also engineering its inexplicable evanesce.

The more complex the law and its language has become, the more intolerable we will be to its use and visibility in either small or fine print.

We are entering a perfectly designed world of convenience which will not tolerate complexity. In any industry this is a fact:

if your product is too complicated to comprehend, it will fail.

The law as a product to regulate us will fail unless it gets more sophisticated in its applicability and ease of use.

Moreover, if its too complex, none will comply. Either the complexity is fully automated and made invisible or it will be designed out of existence. The law will vanish in code that will be computed not argued. Better to let logical If – Then – Else statements negotiate human interactions where trust is required.

Ultimately, it is trust we try to enforce with rules so if we delegate this trust to software it might free humanity.


Engineering Bondrew

Smart contracts are legal contracts running on computer logic rather than human language and the inevitable emotions it conveys. These contracts will be used by robots of law in resolving legal issues. No judge, jury or jurist just run and debug. I do not believe making the law simpler is easily achievable, I do believe its complexity can be hidden in software. Just click: “I agree” and trust that your Robo-lawyer has acted in your best interest.

Bondrew: transform rules into code and puts code into robots. Robots support humans. #Bondrew = Rise.

Originally posted on Medium

I’m Bondrew and I Build Robots for Law

I’m Bondrew and I Build Robots for Law 1704 960 Raymond Blyd
 It was a hot and humid Saturday and I really did not want to spend my time in a dark damp dungeon in the middle of Amsterdam’s Redlight District. But I had to. We, a small community of charity lawyers-in-training, were granted access to only a single computer which resided on the University of Amsterdam campus. I decided, no more…I’ll build a robot.

My First Lesson Building a Legal Product

Back in the late nineties, I was a 3rd-year law student and I volunteered to work for a student-led NonProfit Legal foundation. We focused on providing free legal counsel to low-income groups. In the evenings I’d travel to an infamous neighborhood in Amsterdam called ‘Bijlmer’ with pencil and paper to do interviews and intakes on client issues. In hindsight, I realized these cases weren’t earth shattering, complex nor unique. Yet there were to me.

Now after every intake a lot of drama and stress set in. Why? In order to do research and draft letters for our clients we each needed to schedule time back at the campus. The reason: we only had one computer awarded to our foundation to service all clients. You can imagine scheduling was a nightmare, especially taking into account legal deadlines and in some cases people’s livelihoods.

Because years of knowledge from my peers and predecessors resided on this single PC I got this idea. I would gather all the documents on that computer, categorize them by topic e.g. labor, tax etc, rip some library CDs and online reference materials from our university library. Then I converted and saved everything to a single floppy drive as an HTML website and walla! I had built my first mobile legal knowledge portal. This amazing feat took me a couple of weeks but now I could stick this floppy in any PC and start working. No internet needed. Just look up similar cases, amend and you were good to go.

I made copies for all my colleagues and prepare a Steve Jobs-style presentation for our annual foundation gathering. So I presented this marvel to my peers and then…blank stares and silence…I could sense this wasn’t going well.

Yet, at that very moment, I discovered my purpose and I’ve been waiting for cheers of delight ever since .

Takeaway: It doesn’t take money to build something, it takes ingenuity and passion.

My First Lesson Selling a Legal Product

Moral of the story: instead of devising a clever scheme to outsmart my fellow frustrated ‘friends’, I would rather solve the problem with tech to benefit us all. It was crude by all means but at least it was something portable.

So I waited for a response…any response…and there wasn’t any except the ever so lethal: “Ooh, looks nice”.

Years later I think I’ve figured out what went wrong. First, I did not involve my peers enough in the idea behind the portal. I think they were startled by my effort and couldn’t figure out a proper response.

Second, my pain wasn’t shared by the rest so the value of this product got lost on them. I did use the floppy for a while but I still needed to go update my ‘portal’ at the dungeon with the latest drafts from my colleagues. However, while getting a PC was already a struggle for most, you also needed a printer. I had both at my dorm but most didn’t. Worse, they did not feel the need to buy a PC, books were more important. I figured they would just as well use a PC at a local internet cafe but it seems the students liked the dungeon.

Finally, I did not put any effort in marketing this product. I just assumed I would build and they will come. I did not factor in the story of why it’s useful because it was obvious to me.

I needed to explain it a bit more rather than just show what it does and how it works. In hindsight, I believe it was obvious to most but the why baffled everyone.

Takeaway:Spend more time on the ‘why’ than the ‘what’ or the ‘how’ of a legal product. Understand the pain and amplify it emphatically.

My First Lesson Building a Legal Business

Fast forward 14 years of experience in building digital legal products and I realized something else. Something that dawn on me recently while preparing another “Steve” style presentation about future trends in legal services.

I can preach but do I practice? do not have such a marvelous history to back it up. So if I want my message to come across I’ll need to do more than just preach it.

I’ll need to live it. I’ll need to build more robots. And I need to love doing it.

Everything is easy if you love what you do, even the hard stuff. And believe me, there is a lot of tough, dreary tasks that need to be done. But if you really love everything or at least think is fun, you’ll succeed. Currently, I’m growing my heart immensely.

Takeaway: You need heart, a big heart to love even the dirty side of succeeding.

I would like to take you all on this journey towards achieving my goal. I’ll chronicle it carefully. I’ll record all big (mis)steps and share them with you here. So please to meet you…I’m Bondrew and I build robots for law…

Originally posted on Medium

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