Codex Event @ Stanford
Last Thursday the AttorneyFee team presented at the Codex Startup Summit at Stanford Law School. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet other innovators in the legal tech space, learn about new initiatives at Codex, and update the community about the progress we've been making at AttorneyFee headquarters.
There were some pretty big names in attendance. Executives from LegalZoom and RocketLawyer were on hand. Tim Stanley, of Justia and Findlaw fame, was also present.
One of the big surprises of the event was when we discovered that Trademarkia is rebranding to LegalForce, expanding to other practice areas, and gearing up to compete head on with LegalZoom. It's a tall order, seeing as how LZ currently does about $100 million per year in revenue and just raised an enormous war chest last year, but anything is possible. What threw us for a loop, though, was when they announced that their big plan is to open a constellation of sleek retail stores that are eerily reminiscent of the Apple Store. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me why one would attempt a retail play in the automated document assembly space, but maybe that's why we're not in the automated document assembly space. An interesting distinction between LegalForce and LegalZoom is that LegalForce is actually organized as a law firm with a parallel non-lawyer entity. The non-lawyer entity provides technological services, networking, and marketing solutions to the law firm. This dual structure could theoretically prove a substantial advantage to LegalForce as it would permit it to engage in activities that are off limits to non-lawyer entities such as LegalZoom.
There were a lot of startups in the enterprise market - that is to say, cloud based services that are to be sold to large firms on a SaaS model. One of our favorite was Ridacto, which is basically like spell check on steroids for attorneys. I think this would be a very useful product, but it seems to me that it will require some serious engineering miracles, and even then, will entail a lot of liability for the founders.
There were quite a few startups trying to tackle the research space, mostly around patents and intellectual property. These included Lex Machina, which was founded by a ridiculous roster of academic allstars from Stanford, and Patentula. There is one company, though, which in my view is the most promising upstart in the legal research space. That company is called Amicus Labs, and it's run by some incredibly talented folks. I was a little saddened to see that they didn't present at the event, but it's understandable, given that they are in stealth mode right now. As someone who has seen their private demo, I can assure you that the technology they are building is amazingly cool, and guaranteed to shake things up for the Wexis duopoloy.
It was delightful to see so many brilliant people who are so excited about building disruptive technologies for the legal space. So here's my question. When will we see more of these products coming to market? I've noticed that products like these tend to peter out somewhere along the road from ideation to market. What are the obstacles that are currently holding back our generation of legal tech innovators, and what can we do as a community to help?