Jurify has an ambitious goal to improve access to legal research and convince non-lawyers and lawyers alike to offload their expertise into a database of free or cheap information. And it’s launching today.
Think of it as a Wikipedia for the law. By crowdsourcing the curation and information-gathering process, the startup plans to slash subscription fees for legal research.
The founders, Erik and Nicole Lopez (husband and wife, who are both graduates of law school), don’t buy into the evil lawyer stereotype. In fact, they are hedging their careers on the community’s willingness to improve access to justice. Nicole is a former attorney and left her steady job in January 2011. They developed the site on evenings and weekends for several years and launched the beta this October.
On the site, attorneys are rewarded with recognition through direct attribution as well as placement in a practice-specific list of the top attorneys. “Jurify gives content creators more bang for their buck in the form of potential business and a boost to their careers,” said Nicole, the company’s COO.
To ensure that information is factually accurate, submissions will be vetted by credible attorneys — “they aren’t compensated with money but with recognition,” added Erik.
The Lopezes plan to deliver this legal information to lawyers and the public-at-large at little or no cost. It is organized by topic (“according to the way that people think,” the founders explained) and is designed to make sense of the abundant legal resources that are already available on the web from statutes, regulations, cases, white papers, and articles.
To succeed, the founders will need to reach a critical mass of users. It seems somewhat implausible that a lawyer, or any professional for that matter, would donate their time and hard-earned expertise to a research project. However, lawyers from the growing number of small practices may get on board if it proves to be a means to reach potential clients.
In addition, the founding team have tapped into their network to sign-up members from prestigious law firms, such as Baker & McKenzie, Jones Day, Wilson, Sonsini, Weil Gotshal, and Kirkland & Ellis. According to the founders, lawyers from Silicon Valley tech behemoths like Oracle and Yahoo will also offer their expertise — no doubt, the information they provide will prove useful to entrepreneurs.
This isn’t the first attempt to disrupt the legal research space. Premium services LexisNexis and Westlaw dominate the market, but are highly expensive, deeply technical, and are not often used by non-lawyers. The information on these sites has been extensively reviewed by armies of well-paid attorneys.
Legal-tech companies like AttorneyFee, which is slowly dismantling the monopoly of the white-shoe law firms, LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, both online legal document providers, are paving the way for young startups in this space. With a goal to democratize the law, Jurify, BriefMine and MyRight have all launched in the past three months.
However, as VentureBeat reported, the market is a tough nut to crack. Venture capital funding is scarce, and few founders have the legal and technology domain expertise that is typically required.
Jurify, a Dallas-based company, has raised a small funding found from angel investors based in Chicago.