The Legal Innovation Defense (LID) Fund

§ October 16th, 2014 § Filed under Projects § 5 Comments

For some time, I’ve been talking to people about how to resolve a systemic issue in the legal technology industry, what you might call “The Uncertainty Loop.” It identifies at least one factor that inhibits the rise of innovative startups in the space, and contributes to the general state of inertia in modernizing legal practice.

“The Uncertainty Loop” is a simple idea – it works like this:

  1. legal uncertainty in the doctrine around unauthorized practice of law (UPL) exists, mostly as a result of unclear regulations and sometimes even less clear judicial decisions,
  2. this uncertainty creates risks for would-be entrepreneurs in the space, and also hinders the ability for those entrepreneurs to acquire capital to pursue innovative ideas,
  3. this creates a relatively weak field of underdeveloped tools, which hinders adoption within the legal industry,
  4. lack of adoption prevents momentum from gathering within the profession to clarify UPL rules and permit increased innovation activity, which starts the Uncertainty Loop again

The Uncertainty Loop is real: I’ve seen it hamper businesses built around amazing technology, block talent from entering the space, and suffocate in the crib numerous great ideas emerging in the community. While it doesn’t fully explain all of the systemic problems in cultivating a vibrant ecosystem of innovation in the legal industry, it is certainly an important part of it.

I was intrigued by a point made by LegalZoom co-founder Eddie Hartman at FutureLaw 2014 earlier this year. On a panel that largely centered around UPL issues, he noted that the landscape of legal technology is much better than what it was even a decade or so ago because successful legal technology companies have slowly gained the financial capital to challenge and fight UPL actions nationwide. The willingness to go into the ring on these cases has created a better balance of power between the bar associations and companies, and helped to force crystallization around the boundaries of UPL.

Everyone in legal technology interested in real change – companies, public interest activists, and lawyers themselves – have a collective interest in ensuring that UPL is not a barrier to continued innovation. UPL doctrines are intensely vague, and professional interest in keeping them that way drives the Uncertainty Loop. The issue is: how do we create effective shields that provide the critical balance of power with bar associations to all people working in legal technology, regardless of size or access to financial resources?

Today, I want to propose an idea I’ve been working on for awhile, and finally ready to push forwards. I call it The Legal Innovation Defense (LID) Fund. The idea is simple: the LID Fund will create a collective insurance program that provides a defense system against the low probability, high impact possibility that a new technology in the legal space will be later discovered to have engaged in UPL.

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January BALT Meetup: Fenwick & West

§ January 19th, 2014 § Filed under Events § No Comments

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Happy 2014! Our first Bay Area Legal Tech (BALT) meetup of the year will be a bit different this time: we’re bringing together members of the community to share a series of short talks about what they’ve been working on and their schemes for the new year. Should be awesome.

We are being hosted by the good people of Fenwick & West LLP — details here:

January 21, 2014 – 6 – 8 PM
Fenwick & West LLP – Mountain View
801 California Street 94041

Talks to include experiments in the automated parsing of legal documents to make them more machine readable, the quantification of legal performance through public data, and much more!

In order to get into the building, you’ll need to provide names in advance so we can give a guest list to security. Drop a line if you’d like to attend to tim@robotandhwang.com. See you there!

November SF/SV Legal Tech Meetup: The Patio!

§ October 28th, 2013 § Filed under Events § No Comments

Hello everyone! As promised, we’re back to our usual meetup schedule:

Our November meetup will be on November 19th down at The Patio in Palo Alto, going from 7 PM to around 9ish.

As per usual, keep an eye out on @RobotandHwang for any updates on the day-of, and you can always stay posted on future get-togethers by joining our e-mail list. See you there!

October SF/SV Legal Tech Meetup

§ October 7th, 2013 § Filed under Events § No Comments

(I’ve received some suggestions to start posting dates/locations of the informal legal tech meetups that we’ve been doing publicly up here on the RR&H blog, so here we are)

People of Legal Technology! We’ll be meeting up at the cavernous but comfortable Southern Pacific in the Mission next Tuesday (10/15) for our usual monthly meetup.

It will be going from 7 PM to approximately 9 PM — super casual, come as you are and feel free to bring along any friends who nerd out about this sort of thing. We should be a pretty obvious group, but if not, keep an eye out for updates over @RobotandHwang on Twitter.

And: if you’d like to stay informed about future meetups, be sure to join our list over on Google Groups.

(image courtesy Mission Mission)

Three Updates

§ October 2nd, 2013 § Filed under Announcement § No Comments

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We’ve been relatively quiet up here on the Robot, Robot & Hwang blog – but it’s largely been because we’ve been deep in a summer of coding and scheming for the upcoming Fall. Today, we’re thrilled to make three big announcements:

  • FIRST – As of this week, RR&H is collaborating with the wonderful Ron Dolin and Margaret Hagan on a regular weekly series of open office hours at Stanford Design School for anyone that wants to come to talk law, technology, and design (in any order). We’re hoping it’ll be a way to expand the community of people interested about these issues, and keep a regular standing discussion for folks working in the space going.
  • SECOND - After meeting the inimitable Monica Bay, RR&H has been given the terrific opportunity to be a regular contributor to the venerable Law Technology News - which (I’ll check) officially smashes the ceiling for robot lawyers in journalism. We’ll be appearing monthly starting in October, and covering a whole range of issues both big and small in the space.

And, finally, casual monthly meetups are back in action, alternating months in SF and Silicon Valley – if you’re interested in coming with, join up on our mailing list. Next one will be October 15 in SF, hope to see you there!

Bay Area Legal Tech Meetups Are Back

§ June 10th, 2013 § Filed under Events § 1 Comment

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Back by popular demand, RR&H is glad to announce that we’re back in the saddle and doing regular legal technology meetups again in the Bay Area!

Our first will be tomorrow (6/11) at Southern Pacific Brewing (620 Treat Avenue) in the Mission, going from 6 – 9. 

We’ll be alternating between up in SF and down in the Valley over the next few months so people can make it. Keep an eye @RobotandHwang for details on where we are, if we’re still there, etc. Looking forward to seeing you all there!

(photo courtesy Inhabitat)

The Laws of (Legal) Robotics

§ June 5th, 2013 § Filed under Automated Lawyering, Firm Opinion § 2 Comments

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RR&H is thrilled to announce the publication today of “The Laws of (Legal) Robotics”, our first working paper.

The short paper provides an account of the likely future state of legal technology, and how state courts have dealt with automation in the law through unauthorized practice of law (UPL) rules. The report argues that existing approaches taken during the 1990s and 2000s are simultaneously over and underinclusive, and ultimately work to hinder innovation in the legal industry.

It proposes a new framework drawing inspiration from the problems faced by online platforms in managing third-party development through APIs. By applying similar design principles to legal automatons, it is believed that a better policy balance may be struck going forwards. Downloadable here (PDF).

FutureLaw Video Is Up!

§ May 9th, 2013 § Filed under Conference, Events § No Comments

Good news, everyone! Video from FutureLaw is officially up:

Enjoy! Let us know if there’s any problems or questions — tim@robotandhwang.com.

The Stanford Consensus: Notes from FutureLaw

§ May 2nd, 2013 § Filed under Conference, Firm Opinion § 1 Comment

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So, FutureLaw 2013 was last week. We over here at RR&H are thrilled about how it all turned out, and can’t thank everyone who came out to speak or to participate in the discussion enough. It exceeded all our expectations about what we wanted to get out of the event, and couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support.

Video is on the way: the good people over at Stanford have let me know that all the sessions will be available online in about two weeks (we’ll post here when it all goes live). In the meanwhile, a good number of people have been asking how it all went, so I figured it would be worth putting some thoughts together here for your reading pleasure.

First off, and I think this was evident to everyone in the room last Friday – big things are happening. The New and Emerging Legal Infrastructures Conference (NELIC), which was the conference that RR&H ran in 2011 on similar topics, was simply no comparison. If conferences are any indication, FutureLaw was a clear sign that the legal technology community has become far more robust in just the past two years. First, the community is significantly bigger – NELIC attracted about ~90 registered attendees, FutureLaw in comparison brought together close to ~250 attendees both in-state and from around the world. Second, the energy is much higher — attendees at FutureLaw were more often than not entrepreneurs themselves, and came packing their own ideas about the future of the law to the table. Third, a broader set of talents are part of the conversation than ever before – in addition to bringing together nerdy lawyer-technologist types, FutureLaw featured a broader set of practitioners, funders, and others than NELIC did two years ago.

But, as RR&H friend Dan Katz hammered home in his flamethrowing (and awesome) keynote closer the future is not self-executing. While there’s a ton of energy around disruptive technologies in the legal industry, there are still global challenges facing the space that will determine whether what is being worked on has the long-standing impact on the law that it seems everyone (insert: us, lawyers, the public at large) wants to see.

To that end, FutureLaw was remarkable in how much consensus there was around a few key systemwide challenges. While (as with any complex issue) there obviously remains a great deal of difference of opinion about how best to achieve these ends, a set of themes kept coming up over and over again in the panel discussions and informal conversations swirling around the conference that day. FutureLaw focused on what we build next, and I venture to say that there is some emergent agreement about what the community should set its eyes towards.

I’ve been dubbing this informal list in my head as The Stanford Consensus, a kind of working document of critical objectives that people in legal technology are working towards. They are important partially because they represent infrastructure – common resources that should be built in order for the community to thrive and for us to take things to the next level. That agenda (in no particular order), and some remarks, after the jump.

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Some Design Notes on FutureLaw 2013

§ March 4th, 2013 § Filed under Conference, Firm Opinion § 1 Comment

After a few months work under the watchful eye of my robot superiors billing hours, I’m happy to announce that we’ve largely finalized the run of show for the conference that Robot, Robot & Hwang will be curating at Stanford Law on April 26th with the Stanford Center on Legal Informatics.

FutureLaw 2013, as it is now being called — features a host of sessions I’m thrilled to be able to bring together.  You can see the latest updated schedule here.

Also: registration has officially opened, and you can pick up a pass here. Worth acting soon — registration has been humming along, and the price will rise on April 1st. We also have a limited number of comp passes for friends of the firm that we’re happy to distribute, just drop a line to tim@robotandhwang.com.

For those who are interested (and because our offices have been getting some questions from the public), I thought I would post up here some general remarks on the design of the upcoming conference, what the goals of the event are, and how the selection of topics came together into the resulting five panels and two keynotes that will be the day’s content on April 26th. More after the jump.

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