Legal documents. If they didn’t already bore you to death imagine having to find the mistakes in them. This is the role of quite a number of poor humans who must screen these things, or suffer hefty losses when something goes wrong.
For years, software engineers have enjoyed the assistance of quality assurance software when writing computer code. Lawyers, however, are generally stuck with Microsoft Word. Yikes! So automated, intelligent reviewing of legal contracts by software should be the future. That’s where jEugene, a new YC startup as part of this summer’s batch, comes in.
This startup helps the drafters of legal documents catch mistakes that could be fatal to such documents’ validity or enforceability.
The original idea of Harry Zhou, who, as a first-year lawyer, was tasked with proofing a 250-page contract and wanted more than his supervising lawyer’s assurance that “you did great,” jEugene scans through a legal document and highlights in text potential drafting mistakes in the document.
The product is being used by White & Case LLP and is undergoing trial at Fenwick & West LLP. Tens of smaller law firms are accessing jEugene through Clio, a provider of cloud-based legal management software. Other clients are under NDA.
Errors that jEugene currently detects may seem innocuous at times, but could lead to hefty costs. For example, millions of dollars that certain creditors recently failed to recover in a famous bankruptcy case could have been avoided had jEugene been used; and jEugene’s analysis of legal documents disclosed on SEC EDGAR routinely reveals similar errors missed by some of the most sophisticated law firms (they say).
Here’s how it works: A user uploads a document, waits a few seconds, and downloads the resulting file. This emulates handwritten markups that lawyers are used to seeing, and highlights potential drafting mistakes in the document with different colors. The user then reviews the results to determine whether any revision is necessary.
Competitors are software companies that make legal proofreading plugins for Microsoft Word, like Lexus Nexis, but as you can imaging this is pretty old-fashioned. Instead, jEugene runs as a web application, which can be deployed either in a private cloud or as an on-site deployment.
Because it’s web architecture, it can perform more sophisticated analysis on legal documents and contribute to a better user experience. In other words, jEugene simply generates better results and won’t slow down or render users’ computers unstable.
They plan to make money via a subscription fee per active user. The exact price depends on the number of active users from a subscriber, and whether the charge occurs monthly or annually.
At this point it doesn’t use AI, but could in the future.