Legal startup Judicata today announced a $2 million investment round from Peter Thiel, David Lee, Keith Rabois and Box founders Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith. The company wants to build better research and analytics tools for lawyers, in a way that dramatically changes the landscape of legal software, which Judicata founder Blake Masters describes as “notoriously inefficient and outdated” in a blog post announcing the news.
Judicata’s mission is ambitious, which is likely why it hasn’t been undertaken in quite the same way before. Masters argues that previous attempts have only addressed symptoms and offshoots of the problems facing legal software and how it works for lawyers. Instead, the startup wants to take the mass of unstructured data represented by the body of case law that exists, and turn it into something structured, searchable and fully, properly indexed for targeted use. Judicata’s mission involves what it calls “mapping the legal genome,” which is a fancy way of saying it hopes to combine algorithmic, machine learning approaches to ingesting the mass of legal data and turning out something useful with careful human review to guarantee the accuracy of results.
Masters uses Palantir as an analog, comparing that software’s ability to parse data to identify patterns that can help a human analyst make informed decisions to what its software can do for practicing lawyers. So it’s not a magic bullet, or an infallible virtual lawyer bot, but instead a refined tool that goes beyond clumsy approaches like full-text keyword search of archived PDF versions of paper decisions. Judicata will help lawyers by providing them with reasonable expectations about how, given the history of precedent available, decisions could or likely will go, and what they can do to sway the course of that probable ruling to make it more in line with their own desired outcome.
The Judicata team, besides having some big-name early investors on board, also boasts impressively-skilled co-founders including Itai Gurari who helped build Google Scholar’s legal search. It’s still keeping product under wraps, but the fact that it has raised this funding without even a shipping product reflects the size and potential of the problem it aims to address.
Judicata is mapping the legal genome—i.e. using highly specialized case law parsing and algorithmically assisted human review to turn unstructured court opinions into structured data. We can leverage that data to build legal research and analytics tools that are an order of magnitude better than existing offerings.