Attorneys often have their heads buried in massive amounts of legal documentation. But a new Seattle area startup called GreenLine Legal wants to help lawyers sort through the clutter more efficiently.
Started by 31-year-old attorney Ehren Brav, GreenLine Legal is attempting to apply text analytics to legal language in order to help lawyers find what they need. Quickly.
The first application, which is being launched today in conjunction with Seattle law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, allows entrepreneurs and early-stage investors to analyze a term sheet and instantly compare it provision-by-provision against market standards.
“It gives you a much clearer sense of whether the proposed terms in your deal conform to the widely-accepted models out there and we’re hoping it will find wide use among entrepreneurs, investors and their legal counsel,” says Brav.
There aren’t many attorneys who’ve made the leap from a legal career to software development. (We’re aware of HiveBrain’s Michael Schneider who switched to iPhone app development, but few others). We chatted with Brav about that transition and to get a better sense of what GreenLine Legal is all about.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “GreenLine is Web-based software that searches for, recognizes, extracts and analyzes legal provisions in contracts, making it easy to see how an agreement compares to market standards or what terms a company has agreed to in the past.”
Inspiration hit us when: “I started my career as an associate in a large New York law firm. There were so many times, always for some reason late on Friday night, when I’d need to find a certain provision from a big stack of agreements. This would happen again and again – either you needed to review the contracts to see if any would be implicated in a transaction or you were drafting something and needed to find the right model. I would have killed to get something like GreenLine. It just makes this task so much easier, so you can focus on the critical legal issues. This is good both for lawyers and for clients.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We’re self-funded to date, but plan on raising an angel round.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We’ve developed a machine learning algorithm to reliably recognize thousands of legal provisions. Legal text is almost always based on precedents, so it tends to be quite consistent over time. We combine this new technology with a deep understanding of the problems lawyers face every day in their work.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “By far, it’s been engaging the right partners and mentors.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Starting out, I was trying to do too much by myself. It’s so important to find the right people, delegate real responsibility to them and trust and support their work. Not only does that multiply your productivity, it ensures the team is motivated and challenged by what they do.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos. I’m amazed at Amazon’s ability to enter new lines of business before anyone else and execute on that vision. We want to start with one big idea and then opportunistically expand into additional lines of business that leverage that idea – there are just so many applications or this tech. I’d love to have Bezos advising us on that process.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “Redlining (or diff-ing for all you software geeks) is something transactional lawyers do every day. When greenlining becomes just as ubiquitous, we’ll have accomplished our vision.”
Rivals should fear us because: “Our product is easy-to-use, cost-effective and solves a painful problem. It takes about 30 seconds to get started using it, which is a big contrast to much of the other legal tech software out there.”
We are truly unique because: “I don’t think there are many attorneys who are also software developers (let me know if there are any out there…I’d love to talk!). After I founded the company, I did the bulk of the initial development myself. Usually you don’t have a domain expert who also does a lot of the coding – that’s great since there is no gap between the business requirements and the technical implementation.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Getting the technology to work – getting computers to recognize text is hard. This took many, many experiments and a lot of patience.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “You’re in it for the long term. Everything will be harder, take longer and be more expensive than you’d expected, even if you’ve already factored this into your calculations.”