The global legal publisher vLex, LLC and its Canadian partner Compass/vLex Canada are announcing today that they will support the Feb. 23-25 Global Legal Hackathon by offering up to 100 participants the use of Iceberg, an artificial intelligence platform for massive content projects that vLex initially developed to facilitate its own publishing of legal materials and then began offering commercially in 2017.

As I wrote last month, organizers of the hackathon say it will be the largest legal hackathon ever, “an intense 51-hour, six-continent sprint of legal tech education, creativity, and invention.” Organizers have solicited law firms, legal departments and law schools to participate as participants or hosts and they have invited software companies and developers to offer free access to their technology to hackathon teams.

Compass/vLex Canada is hosting the hackathon in Ottawa, CEO Colin Lachance told me, and is offering a version of Iceberg to event participants.

Iceberg was initially developed after it was announced last May that the Barcelona and Miami-based legal publisher vLex and California-based legal information company Justia would partner with and invest in Compass to launch a major Canadian legal research suite.

Iceberg was used to expedite the ingestion and normalization of the broad corpus of Canadian law and allow the launch of vLex Canada just a month later.

“In the months that followed,” Lachance said, “vLex established a machine-driven classification of Canadian legal topics, applied deep learning methodologies to create a process for dynamic recommendations of highly similar cases, developed a world-first personal research history visualization model and created an algorithmically-driven predictor for Canadian common law wrongful dismissal damages. All using Iceberg.”

vLex subsequently began licensing a commercial version of Iceberg to law firms, corporations and governments.

Iceberg is uniquely suited to projects that involve creating custom legal knowledge and analytics, Lachance said. Among its features:

  • Graph-oriented data representation that can fit any data model from document databases to analytic profiles, classification taxonomies or temporal events.
  • It can import/export structured data, connect to current databases using built-in connectors, work with imported data from crawled or public sources and from vLex’s own legal information resources.
  • It allows enterprise users to apply advanced natural language processing, machine learning and other cognitive computing techniques to extract insights and rapidly prototype applications related to internal or client information.

A modified version of Iceberg will be provided to up to 100 hackathon participants. Within the coming weeks, Lachance said, he will provide more details on the scope of functionality that will be provided, the pre-loaded content that will be included, the third-party integrations that will be available, and how event participants can register to gain access.

At a minimum, he said, functionality will include the capacity to upload a substantial amount of the user’s own data, the ability to link into vLex case law citations, certain legal-domain machine learning capabilities and well-documented Iceberg GraphQL APIs to enable users to build amazing.

One of Canada’s oldest legal publishers is about to launch what could turn out to be the country’s most cutting-edge and comprehensive legal research suite.

Last November, Maritime Law Book Ltd., a Canadian case law publisher founded in 1969, came under new ownership, led by a new CEO, Colin Lachance, the former president and CEO of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). In December, Maritime launched a new case law research platform, Compass.

Now, Compass has announced plans to launch a major new legal research suite for Canada, backed by strategic investments from two leading companies in legal information publishing, vLex, a Barcelona and Miami-based legal publisher that claims to have one of the world’s largest collections of legal information, and Justia, the California-based legal information company run by the original founders of FindLaw, CEO Tim Stanley and President Stacy Stern. Justia is among the world’s largest providers and supporters of free access to legal information.

vLex will take a substantial ownership stake in Compass and its co-founder and CEO, Luis Faus, will join the Compass board of directors. Justia will also become a Compass investor and strategic partner and Stanley will also join the Compass board of directors.

With these investments, Compass has announced, it will soon launch three new legal research services:

  • vLex Open Canada, a free tier of access to Canadian primary law.
  • vLex Canada, a professional grade suite of tools and services for lawyers, together with support for library, law society and firm-wide implementation.
  • vLex Global, featuring case law, legislation, regulations, books and journals, and other secondary materials from Canada, the United States and more than 100 countries, enhanced with legal editorial analysis and commentary, and updated daily.

“With the continued departure of small independent publishers and the nascent state of the legal tech startup market, the need for strong and innovative commercial competition to LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters in Canada has never been more pressing,” CEO Lachance said in a statement. “Building on the backbone of the historic MLB collection and the active participation of great partners who bring advanced technology and successful track records of decades of legal innovation and disruption, we will provide that competition.”

Lachance told me this morning that he expected the new platforms to launch sometime in June. He said that the services will effectively be two separate platforms, Global and Canada, with the Canada platform offering a free tier and a paid tier. While the global platform will include Canada data, he said that he expects its market to be more centered on courts, universities, government, and firms with international work, while the Canada platform’s market will be more for solo and small law firms.

Compass also announced that Canada-based legal market analyst Jordan Furlong has joined its board of directors.

[Disclosure: Justia hosts and maintains this blog and designed its template, all at no cost to me.]