Legal publishing and software giant, LexisNexis, has chosen UK-based TagDox, along with four other companies to join its inaugural Accelerator programme for legal tech start-ups.
The accelerator, which was announced last December, examined over 40 applications to the mentoring and development scheme, which will lead the lucky five legal tech companies through a 12 week period of training and education designed to further their business and technology goals.
- Visabot: A legal bot powered by AI that helps customers complete US visa applications.
- Separate.us: A web-based application that automates legal document preparation for divorces and provides access to relevant professionals at affordable fixed rates.
- Ping: An automated timekeeping application that collects all of a lawyer’s billable hours by operating entirely in the background in concert with standard legal billing software.
- JuriLytics: An expert witness peer review service that attorneys can use to challenge their opponent’s experts with previously unobtainable credibility, or bullet-proof their own expert’s work through vetting from the world’s top researchers in any field of expertise.
The five companies will spend time in Menlo Park, California with LexisNexis and also the team running Lex Machina, the legal AI analytics company. The program will be led by Lex Machina CEO Josh Becker with support from LexisNexis’ Chief Technology Officer, Jeff Reihl, Chief Product Officer, Jamie Buckley, Vice President of US Product Management, Jeff Pfeifer, and Lex Machina Chief Evangelist, Owen Byrd.
In an interview with Artificial Lawyer, Becker said: ‘We chose each start-up for different reasons.’ He noted that some of the applications developed by the companies were focused on commercial law firms and inhouse teams, while others were more business-to-consumer focused.
In this regard the first Accelerator covers a wide range of legal needs, from very data-centric needs of business lawyers, such as Ping for time keeping and TagDox for document analysis, to what could be seen as an Access to Justice (A2J) project in the shape of Separate.us, the divorce system, given that the majority of divorces in America take place without the parties being able to afford lawyers to represent their interests.
Visa.bot clearly also has an A2J dimension and a clear human rights aspect. Visa.bot’s tagline on its website is ‘I help immigrants make America great again’.
Artificial Lawyer also caught up with TagDox founder Eli Luzac to ask more about the programme.
‘I could not think of a company that is in a better position to partner with start-ups in legal tech,’ he said. ‘They clearly have the data, know-how and global reach to help emerging technologies in this space.’
‘It’s the combination of resources and fit. We are excited to be working with the Lex Machina team in the heart of Silicon Valley with their mission to transforming law for the better,’ he added.
One important point to note is that this is definitely an accelerator in terms of character, rather than an effort by LexisNexis to immediately invest in the chosen five companies. While it is not ruled out that there could be a deeper relationship with some of the companies after the end of the programme, financial investment is not the priority here.
As Luzac says: ‘[The benefit in working with LexisNexis is that] TagDox will be receiving investment in kind. For instance, through its unmatched dataset and technology.’
And the point about data should not be underestimated. It was in part the need to access sufficient data to help train its AI systems that led to Lex Machina joining LexisNexis in 2015 (see story).
AI tech such as natural language processing needs a sufficient number of examples of a data set to be fully trained. LexisNexis, with its vast legal data stores, from court papers to expert opinions, which it replenishes every day, provides a huge training set of data for start-ups to make use of and which they likely could not find in most other situations.
Moreover, Becker and other key members of the team, are experienced investors and legal technologists, who will be able to provide business advice on everything from funding to how to approach business development and marketing. The group’s links to Stanford University and a range of VC investor talent will also be tapped to help the five companies.
All in all one could see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity for the companies involved to truly be ‘accelerated’. And, as to what’s next, Becker concluded: ‘We’ll see how this goes and collect feedback. But we could see us doing another Accelerator in the Fall. I think doing this twice a year would be good.’