The Future of Big Law is Busy Launching a Start-up in San Francisco

By Preston Clark

What do you get when you take a former president of Harvard Law Review (’10) and a former president of Stanford Law Review (’10) and you graduate them into a legal profession that’s being completely redefined by technology?

You get a legal tech start-up, of course.

Casetext is a free, searchable legal database (no relation to lawinsider) that launched in beta just recently. The site is building a community of annotators so that lawyers reading a case see related legal documents, articles, and commentary alongside the text.

Reviews of the site can be found here and here.

What’s most fascinating about this start-up is that its founders were indeed law review presidents of Harvard and Stanford in 2010, both held prestigious clerkships and went on to land jobs in Big Law.

Jacob Heller, co-founder and CEO, was president of the Stanford Law Review and a managing editor of the Stanford Law & Policy Review. Co-founder Joanna Huey was president of the Harvard Law Review and has an M.P.P. in science and technology policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a bachelor’s degree in physics and math from Harvard College. Heller and Huey clerked together for the Honorable Judge Michael Boudin. Jacob then worked as a litigation associate at Ropes & Gray and Joanna as a business associate at Goodwin Procter.

[pullquote]I know what you’re thinking. What in the world is Big Law pedigree doing slumming it in the world of tech start-up? And that to me is the real story. When our best and brightest young attorneys start leaving Big Law for the world of tech start-up, I say the business of law is changing.[/pullquote]

I know what you’re thinking. What in the world is Big Law pedigree doing slumming it in the world of tech start-up? And that to me is the real story. When our best and brightest young attorneys start leaving Big Law for the world of tech start-up, I say the business of law is changing.

Here’s what Joanna had to say about that:

“We chose to leave law firms because we’re excited about the opportunity to build Casetext. We’re especially motivated by being able to make legal resources freely available — we believe in increasing access to public documents. Also, we had a great time clerking, so we were eager to work together again.”

“Our goal is to create a more informative and convenient legal research site that’s also affordable. With Casetext, a lawyer will be able to see the most relevant resources immediately, and the annotations provided by the community of users will be more insightful than s

Jake Heller

tandard headnotes. We’ve already made great progress: before we launched, we automated the addition of certain sources, and we’ve also started gathering expert commentary (for example, Professor Rick Hasen, a leading expert on election law, has added his thoughts to Shelby County, and Professor Alex Reinert has commented on Iqbal, a case that he argued before the Supreme Court). We’ll keep building the site until it’s a comprehensive tool for finding the law and putting it in context.”

So let’s get this straight. Two HIGHLY accomplished lawyers launched a service to improve the access to legal resources–  instead of staying the course as Big Law associates.

My opinion is that whether or not you believe that Big Law is dying (or dead), when your best and brightest are pursuing a tech start up 3 years out of law school, I’d say that’s writing on the wall.

What’s your opinion? Do you think this is a sign of the times?

Please share via G+ and comment below.

I also encourage you to take Casetext.com for a spin and provide any feedback directly to Joanna (Joanna@casetext.com).

About Preston Clark

Preston Clark has been writing about legal tech since 2010. He's currently the CRO for a leading legal tech SaaS company in the San Francisco Bay Area. Preston was formerly in-house counsel for the University of Miami and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Central America. In his free time, Preston enjoys building world-class sales teams, reading about SaaS, playing pick-up basketball and planning adventures with his son.

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