‘Lawyer-in-the-loop’ startup Wordsmith needs to carry AI paralegals to all workers | TechCrunch


Wordsmith, a fledgling Scottish authorized tech startup, has one way or the other managed to draw the backing of two well-known enterprise capital corporations. The startup targets in-house authorized groups and regulation corporations with an AI platform that they will configure to assist different staff within the firm. This manner, anybody within the firm can solicit assist with authorized duties corresponding to reviewing contracts and answering particular questions on a doc.

Included in October final 12 months, the Edinburgh-based firm is the handiwork of former senior TravelPerk executives Ross McNairn (CEO) and Robbie Falkenthal (COO), alongside CTO Volodymyr Giginiak, who served in varied engineering roles at Microsoft, Fb, and Instagram. Six months after leaving their earlier positions, Wordsmith already claims notable clients, corresponding to Trustpilot, whereas it’s partnering with at the very least one main regulation agency — DLA Piper.

This early traction has garnered the eye of world VC agency Index Ventures, which has led a $5 million seed funding into Wordsmith alongside Normal Catalyst and Gareth Williams, founder and former CEO of Scottish tech unicorn Skyscanner.

That such a younger Scottish startup has secured the backing of two VC corporations which have collectively invested within the likes of Fb, Slack, Sonos, Airbnb, Stripe, and Snap, speaks not solely to Wordsmith’s early promise, but additionally the founders’ pedigrees. Previous to TravelPerk, McNairn based a journey administration startup known as Dorsai Journey. He bought it to Skyscanner simply 9 months after launch and have become Skyscanner’s head of product. He then joined one other unicorn, second-hand purchasing app LetGo, earlier than touchdown at TravelPerk.

On prime of this, McNairn can also be a certified lawyer, a career he left after a few years to turn out to be a software program engineer.

Legally fond

The authorized tech house is scorching. Prior to now six months alone we’ve seen a number of “co-pilot for lawyers” emerge, corresponding to Harvey AI within the U.S. and Luminance within the U.Ok. Different authorized tech startups, corresponding to Definely and Lawhive within the U.Ok., have raised first rate seed and Collection A rounds, as have Alexi (Canada) and Leya AI (Sweden).

These firms are tackling the authorized sector from varied angles and regional focal factors, however they’ve one factor in widespread: they’re all driving the generative AI wave.

As with different paperwork-heavy sectors, authorized eagles are looking for methods to automate repetitive, labor-intensive work, in order that they will concentrate on extra strategic duties. That is the place Wordsmith enters the fray, offering what it calls a “lawyer-in-the-loop” generative AI platform.

Whereas Harvey AI is focusing on attorneys themselves, Wordsmith is aimed extra at workers inside an organization, with authorized groups configuring the platform behind the scenes by connecting it to all their very own knowledge sources. Legal professionals stay accessible when wanted.

McNairn attracts comparisons to one thing like TravelPerk, which supplies SMEs a self-serve enterprise journey administration platform that permits managers to outline the insurance policies and approval processes. Workers do all their very own bookings inside these parameters.

“At TravelPerk one of the big steps [we made] was that we went from trying to speed up the travel team by selling them slightly better tooling, to basically enabling the rest of the business to self-book,” McNairn informed TechCrunch. “And then the travel team just administrated, checked, and made sure that it was calibrated correctly. And that shift of building tools just for the function, instead to building tools for the rest of the business to work more effectively, is a huge change in how you work.”

Corporations can configure Wordsmith in two core methods: as an autopilot for less complicated issues that don’t want skilled oversight, and as a co-pilot whereby a lawyer is all the time within the loop to offer their seal of approval earlier than any formal responses are supplied.

A typical workflow would possibly contain somebody in gross sales needing to scrutinize a brand new contract, or maybe procurement making an attempt to shut a deal and who wants entry to data corresponding to the corporate’s safety posture — the sorts of questions which are pretty normal and the place the responses aren’t more likely to change a lot. By querying Wordsmith, anybody can get the mandatory data.

Wordsmith question
Picture Credit: Wordsmith

Different potential use circumstances would possibly embrace somebody issuing an organization with a topic entry request (SAR), whereby companies in sure jurisdictions are legally obliged to honor requests associated to non-public knowledge entry. On this occasion, Wordsmith may very well be configured to just accept a submission and connect with an organization’s ticketing system, and reply both with the requested data, or with a template response outlining timescales and the following steps — no matter an organization’s inside pointers and processes dictate.

Mannequin habits

Wordsmith makes use of a mixture of foundational giant language fashions (LLMs), together with OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Anthropic’s Claude.

“We use the right one for the job,” McNairn mentioned. “Some are really good at analyzing things like logic within legal agreements, and some are really good at being extremely precise on helping us to change language. Claude is very good at rationalising through problems, and OpenAI (GPT-4) is just all round fantastic, with different dimensions.”

Enterprises have proven a bit trepidation at embracing generative AI, which McNairn mentioned the corporate is addressing in numerous methods. This consists of permitting firms to stipulate that their knowledge doesn’t depart the EU. It additionally guarantees to not prepare its AI on firms’ knowledge. Wordsmith configures a “private instance” for enterprises, that means it connects in to knowledge wherever it’s (e.g. Google Drive or Notion) to enhance a response utilizing an organization’s personal knowledge, however this knowledge isn’t used to coach the mannequin for different firms.

“We use a technique called RAG (retrieval augmented generation),” McNairn mentioned. “So we’re not training on their data — we’re just using it when it’s necessary. We recall it, use it to enrich the answer, and then give them a response.”

Excessive frequency

Whereas enhancing in-house authorized groups shall be Wordsmith’s core objective initially, the corporate can also be trying to work with regulation corporations, as evidenced by its early tie-up with DLA Piper. On this occasion, DLA — a world billion-dollar authorized powerhouse — is co-developing AI brokers in partnership with Wordsmith, with a view towards distributing this to its personal clients.

So in impact, they’re inputting their very own technical information to enhance Wordsmith for very particular authorized domains. It might turn out to be one thing that they will promote on as new kind of authorized service, presumably at a decrease fee.

“It’s higher frequency and lower cost to engage with firms’ knowledge in this way, rather than paying thousands of dollars an hour,” McNairn mentioned. “It’s [also] a much better way to show they are progressive and looking to adopt AI.”

This enterprise mannequin might work notably properly for small-to-midsize regulation corporations, the place Wordsmith may very well be engaged to seize larger jobs or tackle extra purchasers.

McNairns says that whereas this providing continues to be in its early design levels with DLA, Wordsmith will seemingly commercialize this quickly. “It’s just not there yet,” he mentioned.

With $5 million within the financial institution, McNairn says that Wordsmith will now speed up its hiring each in Scotland and the U.S. The corporate counts 9 workers in the present day, and whereas some are based mostly in London and/or within the technique of shifting up, McNairn says he’s eager to make Edinburgh the corporate’s heart of gravity.

“It’s the ecosystem thing I’m quite passionate about,” he mentioned. “There have been three unicorns that I’ve been part of before this, and I just want to build something cool in Scotland.”

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