Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The First Serial Legal Entrepreneur Strikes Again: Gary Sangha, Intelligize Founder Launches LexCheck: Computational Linguistics for Legal Drafting

Most of the exciting new products I have seen in the past year have offered visualization or analytics features. I shouldn't be surprised that Gurinder "Gary"  Sangha has resurfaced with a product that focuses on text rather than data. He has a decidedly contrarian history.  In an earlier post I explored  his launch of the highly successful Intelligize product at the height of the financial crisis where it was a late entry into an overcrowded market of products built around SEC filings and regulation. I nearly groaned at the prospect of seeing yet another SEC product trying to take share from 10K Wizard, Securities Mosaic and  Westlaw Business.... what could possibly crack that market? Sangha had managed to develop a product driven by algorithms which untangled and sorted and paired streams of SEC correspondence, No Action Letters and comments which were painfully unintelligible using standard Boolean keyword search or normal filters. Intelligize exposed  a web of relationships between documents and offered lawyers a "time rebate"- less time searching and sorting meant  more time for  high level analysis.

Sangha is a former AmLaw 100  associate (Shearman & Sterling and White & Case) who left the practice of law in 2007. As CEO of Intelligize he developed a product which has been adopted by most of the Amlaw 100 firms. After stepping down as Intelligize CEO in 2013 , Sangha pursued a more traditional legal dream of returning to his alma mater Penn Law to teach business law. He was recently appointed a Fellow at CodeX, The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and was profiled in Crain's New York Business 40 Under 40.

Although Sangha had been a corporate lawyer his new venture is a product called LexCheck  which was inspired by litigation. Sangha was appalled that the fate of the Affordable Care Act was being derailed by textual ambiguity. The case of King v Burwell  had  reached the US Supreme Court because of the phrase "exchanges established by the state." Did  that phrase refer only to insurance exchanges established by individual states or  did it include the exchange established by  the federal government?  This was of course not the first instance of a legislative drafting error resulting in litigation, but it was the case that launched Sangha into his next tech venture with a company called LitIQ. Sangha went around the country talking to leading computational linguists about developing a technology to remedy legal drafting errors. He assembled a team of technologists and computational linguists who came together to build a new product called LexCheck.

Diagnosing  Lawyer Errors.  Sangha wanted to solve a "big issue" in the legal sector. The "issue" he has taken on is "human error."  Sangha learned that according to the ABA 45% of malpractice claims arise from substantive errors, drafting errors. ambiguous language, language omissions or conflicting language. When a lawyer makes an error, he will face adversarial interpretations.

The Diagnostics of LexCheck

Lexcheck is a diagnostic software that detects unnecessary ambiguities, errors and inconsistencies in contracts, patents, regulations and other legal documents. LexCheck will quickly enable lawyers to diagnose errors in their own documents before they are sent to a client or counterparty. 

LexChek offers 3 main features:

1) Ambiguity detection. The English language is full of ambiguities.The "ambiguity detection" tool can identify both semantic and syntactic ambiguities.  For example: "I saw her duck" has two completely different meanings. Does "she' have a pet duck? Or did "she" take evasive action?


2. Style Manual. LexCheck incorporates the Ken Adams Manual, of Style for Contract Drafting.
Certain words always cause trouble. Instead of using  "biennial," or " biannual" the style guide recommends "every two years." The style guide can be customized with "firm specific" rules.

3. Proofreader.  Sangha knows first hand from his Intelligize experience that the average  length of a merger agreement has doubled over the past 15 years. This increases both the risk of a mistake and the "mind-numbing"pain of reviewing such documents for internal inconsistencies. Cost conscious clients don't want to pay for proofreading. Associates are terrified of "career ending" oversights.

The Value Proposition


 Sangha sums up LexChek's value proposition in a single illustration. LexChek, Saves time and money while mitigating the risk of damage to the reputation of a lawyer or the firm or damaging client relationships.




What's Next
According to Sangha LexChek is available on the market and has already been adopted by several ALM 100 firms. The cost of licenses will be scaled to the practice group size. Right now the product is ready for the transactional market. A version for litigators is under development. I can't think of any product that combines all of the features offered by LexCheck. Thomson Reuters Transactional Drafting assistant has similar proofreading capabilities but not the ambiguity detection.

Competitive Analysis in Your Future? While the primary focus is  on helping lawyers improve the quality of their own work, it is clear that this product could also have a "competitive analysis" function by identifying weaknesses in an adversaries documents or contested legislation or regulations.

Could LexCheck Have an A2J Impact?
I am a big fan of legal entrepreneurs. I  certainly wish Sangha success in his venture...  I also can't help but hope that the product is so successful, it can be adopted by every legislature in the US.  Access to justice is impaired by the sheer volume of litigation. If LexCheck were run on all legislation in the US, could this not have cumulative benefit on access to justice by reducing some volume of litigation? More importantly it could assure that  all legislation is more comprehensible to the general public -- those who can't afford lawyers to fight over common legislative drafting errors such as ambiguities,  omissions and grammatical errors which impact the interpretation of a law.









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