Monday, February 8, 2016

Kira and Robbie the Robot: Another Frustrated Attorney Founds a Startup to Streamline "Mind Numbing" Legal Work

I have seem a LOT of product tie-ins in my day, but Kira is the first legal technology product I have ever come across to develop a child's "board book" as a marketing tool. Not only did Noah Waisberg found a tech startup but he authored a kids book on AI:"Robbie the Robot Learns to Read."

It is a slick way to give a prospective client a tutorial on machine learning during  storytime with their kids. I confess it provided an explanation even I could understand:

“(Robbie) built vast language models
Including word patterns, order, position
He worked day and night
being literate was his mission
Robbie learned , after studying heaps
that you can know a  word from the company it keeps.”

Machine Learning and AI

Artificial Intelligence comes in two flavors. Either you figure out all the rules in advance and program the computer to follow the rules or your program the computer with algorithms which can discern the based rules when given a limited amount of data. Kira is a machine learning system..

"Up All Night" -- Another Frustrated Lawyer Start Up

 I recently spoke with Noel Waisberg the co-founder of Kira. I asked Waisberg how he had come to develop Kira technology. Like many 21st-century legal entrepreneurs, Waisberg spent time in the "big law" trenches performing "due diligence" work the old-fashioned way. He was an M&A lawyer at Weil Gotschal. He spent  years performing and supervising contract review  as part of standard  Merger & Acquisition due diligence. Like many of his peer innovators he came to believe “there had to be a better way.” Due diligence contract review was time consuming and could represent 80% of the bill for an M&A transaction.  More importantly, he believed that the combination of stress, high stakes, tight deadlines and boring and repetitive work was a formula for human error. He also observed that due diligence involves a lot of repetitive common tasks which made it perfect for machine learning.

The company was founded in January 2011 when Waisberg began collaborating with co-founder Alex Hudek  a PhD technologist. The product was originally called the Diligence Engine because
they were focused on large scale due diligence projects.They began examining the due diligence process which often involves the review of thousands of document -- including many poor quality scanned documents. They started with the assumption that machine learning was the approach best suited to dealing with massive volumes of unfamiliar content. It took them six months to develop the first version of their software. At that point the software could find "governing law" but it couldn’t identify ” change of control” clauses.

 Waisberg spent a year reading documents and identifying clauses.  He read every contract he could get his hands on, no matter how badly it was drafted, no matter how specialized its focus. His goal was for the system to understand both the content and the context of each clause. He believes he may have been the only person to ever read many of these contracts. He read everything from grain supply contracts to aluminum distribution contracts. But after a year, the system was still not learning! In mid-2013 they had a “lightbulb” moment. The quality of the review jumped from mediocre to reasonably accurate. Today Waisberg  reports that law firm subscribers confirm that Kira offers equal or better accuracy than the work done by experienced reviewers. They boast that the system can learn to analyze a large document set after reviewing about 10 sample documents.

 How it works
Kira searches and analyzes text in contracts. It can  review and extract relevant provisions from contracts in any format. The software can handle nonstandard forms and provisions and generates summaries of each document. The product includes a workflow platform and allows lawyers to assign responsibility and track progress in the review of documents.

Kira Workflow

ROI Data
One of the things I’ve always asked vendors to provide is some metric which describes the time savings or efficiencies delivered by the product. Although Kira is new to the market they have already created marketing materials which quantify the efficiencies delivered through use of the product.

Kira's ROI 

From Diligence Engine to Kira

The big change is that Kira's executives began recognizing that the diligence engine could also assist other kinds of document review. The company began to add features at the request of customers. They soon realized that they needed to rebrand product because the name was restricting their appeal in the marketplace. When he decided to rebrand Noah (who we know  does not shy reading large volumes of data) began reading dictionaries in search of the perfect name. He  read an Iriquois dictionary, a Sumarian dictionary and finally found the new conmpany name in a  Sanskrit dictionary. ”  Kira" means “ray of light.”

Expanding Suite of Offerings.

Today Kira is used  for contract obligation management, contract obligation, contracting management, cost recovery, compliance, knowledge management and other use cases where visibility into contract provisions is critical.

Several Amlaw 100 firms are already using their product and they are in late stage discussions with several more.And obviously Waisberg and Hoduk are hoping that more law firms “see the light.”

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