This fall semester I had the honour of attending CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics as part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. CodeX’s broad mission is to design technologies for a better legal system. Taking this mission in earnest I set out to develop Econo.Mine, a legal analytics platform meant to decipher a judge’s understanding of econometrics used in antitrust litigation. My desire to create Econo.Mine was in response to the rise of complex economic analyses used in antitrust arguments since the late 1990s. By tracking the rate of keywords used in antitrust cases and comparing the frequency of those keywords with appeal rates, Econo.Mine would be able to analyze cases according to their economic complexity and determine which concepts and statistical analyses were particularly difficult for judges. The overall objective of Econo.Mine is to improve the drafting of expert testimonies and judicial education in economics so that judges can make better use of the arguments presented to them when deciding cases.
Developing Econo.Mine at CodeX put me in a position that would make any legal technologist envious. Unlike many of my CodeX colleagues, I was devoid of any coding skills before coming to CodeX. However, the entrepreneurial spirit and positive energy at CodeX provided me with the flexibility and support I needed to make a serious dent in my project. Speaking with people like Itai from Judicata and Pablo from Casetext allowed me to strategize how I could automate the extraction of data from cases and filter keywords from those cases using regular expressions. I even went beyond the CodeX stratosphere by collaborating with a PhD student at SRI International to develop a code that could count the frequencies of my keywords in a document and paste those statistics to a spreadsheet. These successes may have seemed like pebbles to those who helped. To me, however, they were nothing short of milestones.
Even more rewarding was the ability to witness the burgeoning legal-tech startup community at CodeX. I regularly attended CodeX’s weekly meetings where a legal tech entrepreneur would present their technology and entertain questions from the CodeX attendees. Some of the presentations discussed fundamentally changing technology projects. These projects included Otonomos, a company that wants to digitize corporations into block-chain systems and use Bitcoin as its default online payment system.
Other presentations focused on technology that was familiar but resoundingly helpful. This included a website that improves transactions for child support payments (see here) and a plugin that shows campaign contributions of politicians who are mentioned in online news articles (see here). The growth of this legal tech startup industry was even more pronounced at the CodeX Demo Event and at the CodeX/ Thomson Reuters Summit, where several companies showcased their new technology. The positive reception to these innovative projects and the excitement surrounding their potential growth revealed that these companies were already making a dent in the way that individuals within and outside the legal community interact with the law.
What was almost more revealing from these presentations was that CodeX was the beating heart behind this legal tech community. This was clear in the way that presenters and attendees described CodeX and its bold initiatives underway, such as the Computable Contracts Initiative and the Open Data Initiative. It was also reflected in the trust that our partners bestowed upon us and their consistent eagerness to help us meet our goals. The fact that companies like Lex Machina, Ravel, LawGives, and Casetext have thrived from their relationship with CodeX is evidence of CodeX’s fundamental importance to the community.
There is an energy at CodeX that makes leaving very difficult. You sense that it is accomplishing something that no other legal technology organization in the world has accomplished and you know that it’s going to be big. For that reason I’ve decided to only leave CodeX in a physical sense. While I look forward to resuming my regular course schedule at Osgoode, I will continue to work with CodeX on my technology as well as co-manage their website. I am also working with a CodeX affiliate to help map the legal technology industry around the world. It is a hefty project but one that it is absolutely achievable thanks to the breadth of CodeX’s intellectual dedication, hard-working mentality, and inspiring entrepreneurial spirit.
Peter Neufeld is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Features Editor for the IPilogue. Peter was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.