Twelve early-stage legal technology companies, including five with a core mission of expanding access to legal services, are participating this summer in the Duke Center on Law & Technology’s online pre-accelerator program, Duke Law Tech Lab.
Now in its third year, the program offers start-ups opportunities to expand their networks, learn to navigate the legal tech market, and move their business plans forward. Participants have access to an online community, mentoring, and live remote presentations by legal tech leaders, subject matter experts, and key industry players.
“It’s been great to meet and learn from other early stage legal tech founders whose companies offer innovative new services,” says Sonja Ebron, co-founder of Durham-based Courtroom5, which created an online platform with legal tools and instruction to help pro se litigants represent themselves in court.
“We’re also connecting with knowledgeable and influential people working in legal data, self-help, and regulatory spaces. Those relationships have the potential to dramatically accelerate Courtroom5’s ability to deliver access to justice to our pro se customers.”
This year’s cohort includes five start-ups focused on access to legal services: Easy Expunctions, FastVisa, Text A Lawyer, and two Triangle-based companies, Courtroom5 and Civvis. Each company received an initial $1,000 grant. They’ll showcase their services and compete for additional prize money at the program’s culmination, the Duke Law Tech Lab Demo Day on Sept. 20 in Durham.
The other seven companies, which focus on a mix of traditional legal services markets and historically underserved customers, are DataNovo, DueCourse, FirmVO, LegalMaps, PatentBots, Princeton Gavel, and Suprabook. The latter four offer legal products and services that use artificial intelligence.
Previous Tech Lab cohorts have included Hello Divorce, an online platform for do-it-yourself and assisted divorces that currently offers its services to California residents (founder Erin Levine, a California family law attorney, won the $5,000 grand prize at last year’s Demo Day) and Raleigh-based vTestify, which provides its digital testimony collection and review services free of charge to legal aid programs through the ABA Center for Innovation’s Legal Tech for a Change Project. Raleigh-based Civvis, whose platform helps public and legal organizations communicate with the court system by digitizing forms and transmitting information, is also part of that program.
Duke Law Tech Lab is supported by sponsors LexisNexis Legal & Professional, an information analytics company with a legal technology center in Raleigh, Travelers Insurance, and Latham & Watkins.
Tech Lab graduates may be eligible to move on to the LexisNexis Legal Tech Accelerator, which focuses on companies ready for market launch or in their market already. The two programs are part of a growing collaboration between Duke Law and LexisNexis to boost innovation in law and technology and create an ecosystem of support to help companies at all stages of development overcome the unique challenges of introducing a new product or service to the legal industry.
“We are eager to collaborate on our accelerator programs and to offer further support to the growing legal start-up community,” said Jeff Pfeifer, vice president and chief product officer, North America for LexisNexis. “Our organizations share a vision to build and support a dynamic start-up ecosystem that delivers innovation for the legal services market.”
Jeff Ward, associate dean for technology & innovation at Duke Law and director of the Duke Center on Law & Technology, called the Duke Law Tech Lab sponsors “true collaborators and hands-on participants who offer advice, expanded networks, and encouragement. We feel lucky to work with folks who are excited about ways that legal practice can be better for all involved.”