Kitchener-based legal contract machine learning start-up Beagle won the Judge’s Choice award at the Canadian Bar Association Legal Conference’s inaugural Pitch competition, which took place in Ottawa over the weekend.
Top prize includes a two-week residency at LegalX, the legal innovation cluster at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, which co-hosted The Pitch and was only launched last June.
Finalists who participated in The Pitch were Beagle, Blue J Legal, Loom Analytics, Rangefindr and Knomos, all five of which are guaranteed an interview with the Chinese Angels Mentor Program (CAMP), where they will receive an equity investment of no less than $200,000, pending due diligence.
Each start-up had 12 minutes to make their case, seven minutes to pitch followed by a five-minute Q&A, in front of a panel of judges and the assembled membership of the Canadian Bar Association.
“In each of the pitches there was something to connect with the audience, whether they were the target audience or not,” said judge Chris Bentley, Executive Director of the Legal Innovation Zone and Law Practice Program at Ryerson University. “There was something they could all use in their practices.”
Beagle, which was launched in November 2013, provides an artificial intelligence platform to read contracts, highlighting relevant information and providing reader-friendly insights for the negotiating parties.
Citing the fact that 90% of companies do not use a lawyer when negotiating or signing contracts, Beagle CEO Cian O’Sullivan founded the company to at least provide an automated method of digesting the finer points of contract law.
“Contracts are becoming more and more complicated, commercial decisions are needed quicker. Lawyers are being pressured with driving costs lower, and providing more with less. However there is no triage service, or quick system for lawyers to identify key areas of a contract for their Clients (or prospective Clients),” said O’Sullivan to the CBA. “Beagle throws thoughtful, well executed technology at the consumption and comprehension of contracts, allowing for a very quick, and personalized review. This allows lawyers, and legal departments to triage, and understand what is being considered, allowing for pointed and accurate dialogue.”
Not to mention that companies don’t use lawyers to negotiate, or even read, contracts because a human lawyer represents hundreds of dollars per billable hour, a cost that Beagle mostly negates.
Perhaps another reason that companies don’t hire lawyers to deal with contracts is that small to medium sized businesses that do employ them end up spending $30,000 a year on average just dealing with contracts.
Then again, the cost of not hiring a lawyer and getting burned contractually is probably far greater than simply shelling out for the lawyer.
Loom Anayltics, which applies statistical analysis to legal information so that a lawyer can quickly see relevant statistics for particular cases and past performance for particular judges, won the People’s Choice award at The Pitch, voted on by audience members, the prize for which was sponsored by Gowling WLG.
The CBA Pitch competition was open to start-ups incorporated in Canada, either pre-revenue or with annual revenue under $120,000. A total of 32 companies applied before being whittled down to five finalists.