We have noted previously in this space that lawyers today face
the erosion of their services as clients restrict their legal
budgets and as paralegals and other non-lawyer providers step up
their forays into traditional legal services. Lawyers Alert
contributor Gerry Riskin notes the impact of such non-lawyer
providers on how firms must view their futures in the industry
["Illuminating the Future,"]. Some new tech
tools appear poised to delve even further into that crossover.
A new start-up based in Waterloo, Ontario, Beagle is an online
software system that uses artificial intelligence to automatically
review legal contracts and identify potentially important and/or
problematic terms. In essence, Beagle seeks to distil at least the
preliminary stages of legal analysis down into what the company
calls "easy-to-read graphs and charts." The system
identifies the relevant parties and highlights their
responsibilities and liabilities, termination clauses, and other
With commercial contracts ranging in length from dozens to
hundreds of pages, one key advantage is that Beagle provides its
results in moments, rather than the hours, days or even weeks
typically required for a lawyer to physically read, research and
report on a contract.
Critics of the new system argue that AI can never be
"intelligent" enough to identify the deepest legal
nuances of a complex contract. Not fully understanding such aspects
can be fatal in commercial relationships. Beagle's principals
respond that the AI can be at least as reliable as human
involvement. They further argue that lawyers remain an important
part of the contract review process; clients should still review
their contracts with their lawyers, they will just have a better
– and quicker – understanding of the key terms before
they do. Beagle purportedly seeks to do away with only the
(allegedly) inefficient portions of a lawyer's billable
Beagle is in the late stages of beta testing, with a final
product expected sometime in November 2015. However, demonstrations
are available at the Beagle website and the company says it already
has several customers in Ontario and Australia. It remains to be
seen where Beagle will ultimately fall within the existing legal
Instant legal advice in your pocket
Another new crossover service is already in action. Legalswipe
is a free mobile app that provides instant legal guidance for
people during encounters with police. The app's primary aim is
to inform people of their rights and help them understand the
process during questioning, detainment or arrest. The app refers to
specific sections of relevant Canadian and U.S. legislation and
will even suggest precise wording to be used in response to common
police questions. Users tap and swipe their way through a
relatively intuitive interface to receive the real-time
The app can use a phone's video camera to record encounters,
uploading and/or emailing files as desired. It can also be
formatted to send a personalized message to a user's contacts,
identifying the user's location.
Legalswipe was designed by a recent graduate of the University
of Ottawa's law school after he experienced some frustrating
interactions with police.
Police forces so far appear to be cautiously supportive of
Legalswipe. Certainly, citizens being better informed of their
rights and obligations during interactions with police should be a
positive, so long as the person's actual use of the app and/or
the mobile device does not interfere with police performing their
Legalswipe is currently available for iOS and Android
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Software license agreements generally require the customer to pay fees for the software license and related services, which fees are usually based upon the duration of the license and the manner in which the customer is allowed to use the software, together with applicable taxes and withholdings.
In less than nine months, on July 1, 2017, persons affected by a contravention of Canada's anti-spam legislation will be able to invoke a private right of action to sue for compensation and potentially substantial statutory damages.
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