By: Marissa Louro
Technology has changed the way we fulfill necessities. E-mail is a faster medium than snail mail, and online news is more accurate than newspapers. Naturally, technology has complemented the legal world—as demonstrated by E-Discovery, online legal research, and attorneys using their iPads in courts. However, a new solution entitled, “LawGeex,” will likely not receive the same embracement from lawyers as it has amongst the venture capitalists and angel investors responsible for its $2.5 million fundraising efforts.
LawGeex is an online contract review platform with an implied goal: to “out-lawyer” the lawyers. LawGeex enables users to upload a legal contract into its platform and receive a detailed report of the positive, negative, and missed points in the contract. How can this technology accomplish this task within 24 hours? Through its use of algorithms (i.e., automated machine-learning technology), text analytics, and crowd-sourced data, LawGeex will compare a client’s contract against an extensive database of similar contracts. After LawGeex’s team of lawyers conduct a “final quality check,” the deliverable is a plain English explanation of the contractual clauses the program deems problematic, misleading, or missing.
As of now, the free component of the service is only available for personal use, which they have labeled as “employment contracts.” Commercial contracts, such as Non-Disclosure Agreements, start at $20. They also offer paid subscriptions for freelancers, small businesses, and larger companies ranging from $79/month to $599/month. To me, this sounds like a Shark Tank pitch waiting to happen.
While the service is limited in scope given the startup nature of the LawGeex, it may seem like an ingenious idea to many. You simply upload your contract and receive free/inexpensive legal feedback without the legal jargon. Given that LawGeex claims it does not provide legal advice, the service resembles a computerized version of law students putting in their pro bono hours (e.g., reading over contracts for local businesses) or contract work often conducted by legal interns.
From a legal standpoint, there are issues that could go wrong with the service—as is the case with many services. A consumer might interpret LawGeex as legal advice and then engage in a business transaction without the use of a lawyer. Who will that consumer sue when realizing that he/she could have avoided costs and received a better deal with a real lawyer who understands the nature of the consumer’s business? Legal services often involve gray areas of the law because lawyers deal with specific fact patterns and timing issues. For example, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer regarding the law; in fact, “it depends” is a more accurate answer in the legal field. Why? The law involves judicial discretion and legal interpretation. It seems like LawGeex might interrupt the process of receiving quality legal services from trained professionals, and make clients think that they have the necessary tools to take the place of an attorney. Given these considerations, LawGeex could potentially cause more legal problems than it seeks to solve.
Marissa is a Staff Member on the Journal of High Technology Law. She is a 3L at Suffolk University Law School with a concentration in Business Law. Marissa holds a B.A. in Political Science from Providence College.