Stanford, Sights Set on Legal: Part 3 – School Projects Create Significant Companies

By Joseph Raczynski

The Legal Lessons Learned from Stanford Series

Stanford University is fully embracing the legal industry, a historically cautious mover, as a focal point of its innovative solutions.  The industry is primed to evolve through more transformative processes by pairing inventive thought and applied technological advancement to solve niche legal process issues.  Recently at the Emerging Legal Technology Forum, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Stanford University, we learned how and what the school has developed to further advance the legal space.

Lex Machina Blazes a path:

As I mentioned in the previous post, not too long ago Stanford decided to coalesce departments across its graduate campuses.  This meant combining groups that had always been housed in separate buildings.  Once they started this project, the nascent ideas emerged.

Lex Machina – one of the first and most successful of the emerging projects, started with a mashup of the university’s law school and computer science department’s collaborating.  It is an IP litigation research company which creates legal analytics data and software.  It began as a project on campus under the broad and supportive limbs of Stanford’s incubator environment before being spun off into what it is today, a full-fledged company based in Menlo Park, CA.  This exemplifies the university’s core, to intertwine siloed departments, leverage strengths, and thus seek out whitespace.  In this instance they were able to leverage computer algorithms from the CS department with the publically available legal data to produce visualization of IP litigation data and predictive outcomes.  Never before had these two disparate groups collaborated.

Securities Litigation Analytics is a similar type of project still sitting inside of Stanford.  In a similar way SLA is an analytics based legal platform focused on federal shareholder lawsuits.  It allows a user to query a database of over 2,000 federal shareholder lawsuits across hundreds of variables and see the statistics for outcome, settlement size and resolution.  Like Lex Machina there is an ability to display the results of your search through interactive graphics.1

What is remarkable about these projects is that it took comingling of two different cultures and philosophies into one venture to produce them.  One surprise during their discussions was the realization that both Michael Klausner CEO of SLA and Josh Becker CEO of Lex Machina did not know the other existed and yet they were a few floors apart working on their respective projects in a similar field.  Given the advanced and innovative approach that Stanford is taking, I was rather surprised to hear them say they did not know about each other.

Ultimately Stanford is pushing into the legal space with the hopes of engaging the industry, its respected schools and technology.  They are actively establishing an ecosystem of innovation by driving experimentation and promoting new ways of working within the legal space.  Based on the projects evolving into established companies, we know their imaginative processes are creating a furtile ground for pushing legal forward.

 

Stanford, Sights Set on Legal: Part 2 – “Designing” a Legal Industry

By Joseph Raczynski

The Legal Lessons Learned from Stanford Series

Stanford University is fully embracing the legal industry, a historically cautious mover, as a focal point of its innovative solutions.  The industry is primed to evolve through more transformative processes by pairing inventive thought and applied technological advancement to solve niche legal process issues.  Recently at the Emerging Legal Technology Forum, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Stanford University, we learned how and what the school has developed to initiate increased efficiencies in this arena.

In my last post I wrote about how Stanford’s Design School created a better process for Fidelity Investments when it came to driving more customers to create estate plans.  What was most fascinating about the talk was Margaret Hagan from the Stanford Institute of Design perspective and approach.

In her opinion, in any one of these scenarios it is all about collaboration and rapid prototyping.  She set the stage by recommending the legal industry create more “Popups” i.e. brief rapid-fire meetings that have the following:

  • Different backgrounds – people from various perspectives and specialties
  • Innovative spaces – bright, colorful, open rooms
  • Music, force people to stand, uncomfortable chairs, intimate space, white boards, pens in hands
  • Keep the conversation going by saying “Yes and…” don’t worry if this will work or not
  • Concept of “flaring” which is putting all ideas up on the board

Margaret started a Legal Design Initiative to explore new areas and draw out ideas.  Over an eight week period she set up popups with partners like Orrick.  They worked in collaboration targeting teams of JD/MBAs and d.School to come up with fresh concepts.  The goal was to be exploratory.  The benefits to this was that Stanford came away with a host of clever ideas and new projects that could eventually be elevated to the realm of a Lex Machina or SLA, which I will delve into more in the next post.

Stanford, Sights Set on Legal: Part 1 – Fidelity Investments Estate Planning

By Joseph Raczynski

The Legal Lessons Learned from Stanford Series

Stanford University is fully embracing the legal industry, a historically cautious mover, as a focal point of its innovative solutions.  The industry is primed to evolve through more transformative processes by pairing inventive thought and applied technological advancement to solve niche legal process issues.  Recently at the Emerging Legal Technology Forum, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Stanford University, we learned how and what the school has developed to initiate increased efficiencies in this arena.

Designing a Better Legal Process:

Fidelity Investments had a problem.  They have 20 million customers and 70% of them did not have an estate plan.  Being a customer centric organization they wanted to significantly lower that gap.  Fidelity reached out to Stanford and the school brought the Design School (d.School) and Law School together to collaborate.  Margaret Hagan of the Stanford Institute of Design and Philippe Mauldin of Fidelity used some of the basics of the design program to figure out how to help find a solution.  Interestingly enough, core to this process was determining what the problem was, and not focusing on the solution.  They began by visiting people’s homes to see firsthand what their customers chatted about when it came to finances.  Fidelity had a focus on how they could help people protect their assets.  What they uncovered is that the problem was education which bled into a lack of execution for their customers.  Simply stated, people did not know what they did not know and so they did nothing.

Fidelity went back to Stanford and they all collaborated on what this process of establishing a state plan would look like on fideleity.com.  Their focus was on how to help the customer prepare.  Thus they created a wizard interface with step by step templates from Stanford Law School and linking out for complex legal terms.  In addition the wizard helped guide users through a list of pertinent information assisting them in preparation about decisions that they would have to make.  Once that piece was completed the next step was to assist people in partnering with trusted attorneys.  Stanford ultimately recommended a vetted attorney for each state to keep in compliance for local jurisdictions and to review finalized documents.

 

In an effort to create a simple legal process, driving understanding and efficiency, Stanford combined their Design School with the Law School through a real world problem to create a better customer experience.  In the next post I will delve into how the d.School tactically innovates through process which I believe all industries could benefit.