Getting that first law job isn’t easy. This is especially true nowadays, in a tight job market with too few traditional jobs. But a boom in legal technology may change all that. In recent years, a crop of startups has emerged that sell software to law firms to assist with their legal tasks. So instead of working at a firm, why not work at one of those startups? By the way, they want to hire and pay talented students (and recent calls) like you. If you’re searching for an articling job or a full-time position right now, check out these top Canadian legal startups.
Before starting Beagle, founder Cian O’Sullivan worked for several years as a contract negotiator at a tech company. He spent most of his days sifting through lengthy contracts, which he felt was valuable time wasted. After a certain point, he’d had enough. “I thought, there has to be a better way to do this,” he recalls. And that’s how the Kitchener, Ontario-based legal-tech startup was born.
Beagle sells computer software that can automate contract-review work. In seconds, it can read a business contract and highlight who the parties are, as well as their responsibilities and liabilities. It also lets users search keywords and phrases, and then tag, edit and assign them to others on their team for review, making contract analysis much cheaper and more efficient.
The technology relies on a subfield of computer science called machine learning, which uses algorithms that allow the computer to learn from the data fed to it. Beagle hires law students to train its software to recognize, among other things, certain contract clauses and key concepts. Although there aren’t any young lawyers on staff right now, O’Sullivan is “always looking for more help.”
For Noah Waisberg, legal tech is a big part of the future of law. “There are lots of opportunities to do law better,” says the co-founder and CEO of the Toronto-based startup, “and I think that will spur more companies like mine.”
Like Beagle, Kira’s product is a contract-analysis software, designed to help lawyers pore over hundreds (or thousands) of documents as part of due diligence — a major part of the legal work done on any merger or acquisition. Kira helps to automate that work, saving clients both time and money.
The company hires lawyers to train its software, by feeding it certain types of clauses so it can recognize similar clauses in other contracts. “People who like it tend to care about the details of law,” says Waisberg. But if that’s not your forte, you can contribute to Kira in other ways. “One person who articled with a Seven Sisters firm joined us afterwards to work on our product team to help us decide what to build next,” he points out. There are many ways to get involved with Kira. If you’re interested, you can apply via their website.
Blue J Legal
The software created by Blue J Legal is transforming how lawyers prepare for trials. It uses machine learning to predict how the courts will rule on a given file based on all of the available precedent.
“It’s difficult for people to stay current with all areas of law all the time — that’s where the software helps,” explains Benjamin Alarie, the CEO of the Toronto-based startup, and a law professor at the University of Toronto. “Using this kind of technology can help lawyers make more accurate predictions. Our technology takes into account all decided cases and makes 90-percent accurate predictions on its own, which allows lawyers to make even more accurate predictions when they bring to bear their own experience and knowledge.”
Alarie has two summer students working at his startup now, and is always on the lookout to hire more students. The students working there help to train the software, so it can make more accurate judgments.