In October 2012, two longtime corporate lawyers announced the private beta launch of Jurify, which they described as the “first mass collaboration platform for lawyers and clients.” The site would focus on using crowdsourcing to enhance access to legal research. “Think of it as a Wikipedia for the law,” VentureBeat reported at the time. “By crowdsourcing the curation and information-gathering process, the startup plans to slash subscription fees for legal research.”
It was not long, however, before Jurify disappeared. The site never came out of private beta. Instead, its founders went back to the drawing board, realizing that they had promised more than they could deliver. “We fell victim to one critical mistake of first-time entrepreneurs,” cofounder Erik Lopez told me this week. “Our aspirations exceeded what we could technically achieve with our first iteration.”
Now Jurify is back. It is relaunching this week — perhaps as soon as today — with a pared-back site that will be home to a free legal-research platform that Lopez describes as unprecedented for its sophistication and functionality.
To begin, Jurify will limit its coverage to legal research materials for transactional lawyers, providing resources for corporate, securities and M&A lawyers. If that proves successful, the company will begin to build out other practice areas, beginning with other complementary areas such as secured lending and executive compensation, with the goal of eventually covering every practice area.
“By growing vertical by vertical, we’re able to deliver a highly customized interface,” Lopez said. “This enables us to build a much smarter search functionality that sees what you’re looking for and knows how to deliver it to you.”
A Focus on Tags
I have not yet had a chance to use Jurify, but Lopez gave me a demonstration earlier this week. I was impressed with what I saw.
Jurify does not create legal research material, it curates it. Generally speaking, you will not find anything here that you could not find elsewhere online. But Jurify helps you zero in on the materials that are pertinent to your search — and, Lopez says, to the most-credible or most-authoritative of those materials.
A key way it does this is through the use of tags. Jurify has created 586 tags that are tied to specific issues in corporate law. The site’s default method of search is by these tags. They allow for three levels of nesting, with the idea that you can “find what you want in three clicks.” To start a search, you might pick the tag “Governance.” From there, you select a subcategory, such as “Audits & Accounting” or “Board Committees,” and then from there a further subcategory.
Alternatively, you can start a search using the site’s glossary, which allows you to browse all the available tags, or simply search by keyword. However you search, Lopez says that the site’s use of subject-specific tagging will enable you to get far more precise results than you ever could using a generic search site and even more precise results than you would through other legal-research sites. If you are ever uncertain about the meaning of a tag, hover over it to see its definition.
Once you get your search results, Jurify provides a number of ways to filter the results. You can filter the results by keywords, tags, jurisdiction, and other facets. You can also filter by content type.
Jurify draws its content from a range of web sources. In addition to cases, statutes and regulations, content includes blog posts, journal articles, law firm client alerts, news articles, forms and training materials.
Jurify retains elements of its original plan to tap into crowdsourcing. Users are encouraged to add content of their own to the site – blog posts, articles, forms or whatever. The contributor of a resource will be identified on the resource page. Eventually, Jurify will reward contributors with greater prominence on the site.
All three of the company’s founders have worked as corporate lawyers both in-house and at major law firms. Their belief is that corporate counsel will be early adopters of this site. Their presence will serve as incentive for private-firm lawyers to contribute content and raise their own profiles in the site.
Of course, you need to get the lawyers to come to your site in the first place, Lopez acknowledges. “You need to give users a reason to come to your site. That’s what we’ve tried to do, by giving them answers far faster than anyone else can.”
Free for Research
There will be no cost to register for Jurify or to conduct research. And Lopez says it will stay that way. “All the research is free and will always be free,” he says. The site will generate revenue by offering a premium membership.
Premium members will be allowed unlimited downloads of legal forms and precedent. At launch, the site will have 1,000 forms, all prepared and formatted by Jurify. Non-paying members will be limited to 25 downloads.
As of my conversation with Lopez, pricing for premium membership was not final but he expected to offer the first 1,000 premium registrants a price of around $350 a year.
“We launched a completely different website last year, with a smaller database and different technology,” Lopez says. “We learned a lot from that, including that it wasn’t good enough. We knew we needed a smarter keyword search and a larger database.”
From what I saw during Lopez’s demonstration, going back to the drawing board was the right move for Jurify.