In recent years, so-called venture studios have become increasingly popular vehicles for launching startups. The idea is to not only provide venture funding to a startup, but to actually play a role in creating and launching new businesses.

Now, CuroLegal, a company that designs and develops technology for the legal industry, has launched CuroStudio, a venture studio with a special focus on developing tools and services to address the access-to-justice gap and improve the delivery of legal services.

The goal is to create an environment to facilitate evaluating new product concepts and then, as warranted, spin them off into new startups, CruoLegal founder and CEO Chad Burton told me.

“For years, our work at Curo has been mostly creating custom apps for and with others and creating access-to-justice tools for very specific projects,” Burton said. “But we weren’t set up to scale. The studio model allows us to create that flexibility of evaluating our own ideas and then really be able to, as warranted, spin off new startups.”

Private Holding Company

CuroStudio isa private, for-profit holding company that also includes as partners the legal website Lawyerist, the software development company Mile Two and lawyer Billie Tarascio. The company will use its industry expertise and software development resources to identify market opportunities and launch new products.

Chad Burton

While one model of a venture studio is to focus exclusively on projects conceived internally, Burton said CuroStudio is a hybrid that will also work with outside, early-stage startups.

“In the past, we might have helped them do discovery and prototyping, then they’d go off for investment,” he said. “But now, if we can help them get farther along, then raise the money internally through the studio or externally, that allows us to continue to work with these ideas that we think are really good, without having to ship them off.”

CuroStudio’s focus will be on products and services that increase access to justice, but that also extends to products that improve the business side of law practice.

“The more we can improve the business of law, that has an effect on the access side,” Burton explained. “If we can create tools that change the way lawyers are delivering legal services in their firms, that will have an effect on the numbers of clients they can represent and maybe enable them to take on more low cost clientele.”

A Legal Industry Cryptocurrency

CuroStudio’s plans include creation of a legal cryptocurrency to be used both within the CuroStudio ecosystem and in the broader legal services market. CuroStudio is currently in the planning stages of issuing this currency and hopes to conduct an initial coin offering during the first half of this year.

The money raised from the ICO will be used to fund CuroStudio projects, with a significant percentage of the proceeds earmarked for access-to-justice projects that will be free to consumers, Burton said. Proceeds could also be used to collaborate on projects with the ABA Center for Innovation or to match technology grants made by the Legal Services Corporation.

The tokens issues as a result of the ICO could be used in a variety of ways, Burton said. Law firms might use them to pay for back-office solutions that will enhance their ability to deliver legal services more efficiently. Tokens might be donated to legal aid groups that could then provide them to consumers to be used to purchase legal services from cooperating law firms.

Initial Projects

CuroStudio has outlined the projects it plans to work on initially. In addition to the ICO, others include:

  • Serving as the Ohio venue for the Global Legal Hackathon later this month.
  • Exploring blockchain technology and its applications for improving the business of law.
  • Developing a plug-and-play approach to building the modern law firm by which lawyers can everything they need to run a practice.

Last year, CuroLegal set the “moonshot goal” of eliminating the justice gap within 10 years. CuroStudio, Burton hopes, will play a leading role in making that happen.

Catching up on a few items of interest …

In the UK, an online court will be operating by September and broadly deployed to a wide range of civil court proceedings by May 2020, Legal Futures reports. “There will be no big bang,” Sir Ernest Ryder, a Lord Justice of Appeal and the Senior President of Tribunals, told a London conference. “There will be … a gradual learning curve. Some things will not work and we should expect that, and there will not be ‘one size that fits all.'” In December 2015, a committee that reviewed the civil courts structure in the UK issued a report, written by its chair Lord Justice Briggs, judge of the Court of Appeal and deputy head of Civil Justice, recommending the formation of The Online Court, as I wrote about in more detail here.

Fastcase is now integrated into LexBlog’s publishing platform, LexBlog announced last week. Of course, if you’re a LawSites reader, you learned that back in January.

A 30-hour hackathon will seek to improve the administration of justice. CourtHack 2.0 is being held April 22 and 23 in New Brunswick, N.J. Legal technologists and entrepreneurs will work with judges, court administrators and court CIOs in an event sponsored by the National Conference of State Courts. The first Court Hack last year produced robot lawyers that help file court appeals and geo-positioning technology that alerts police when court orders are being served in their area. (H/T Court Technology Bulletin.)

And a hackathon by another name is a design sprint, one of which will take place March 20 with the goal of developing an app to assist hate-crime victims. The full-day event at Suffolk University Law School in Boston is sponsored by Suffolk and the ABA Center for Innovation, along with CuroLegal and Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab, with funding through a $25,000 grant from Cisco. Victor Li has details at the ABA Journal. The event is invitation only but I’ll be there and will report here on what happens.

And speaking of Stanford’s Legal Design Lab, its director, Margaret Hagan, has just published Law By Design, a free, online prototype of a book-in-progress that advocates for a design-driven approach to innovation in the legal system. Two other new books worth checking out: The 2017 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide, by John Simek, Michael Maschke and Sharon D. Nelson, is their annual guide to help solo and small firm lawyers find the best technology for their dollar; and Evernote as a Law Practice Tool, by Heidi S. Alexander, is a guide to using this simple and inexpensive tool to organize your law practice.

Can legal insurance help solve the nation’s access to justice problem? A new white paper from legal insurer ARAG — the company that last year introduced a direct-to-consumer legal insurance plan — makes the case. Download the white paper here.

Finally, congratulations are in order. Practice management company Clio has been named Employer of the Year at the Techvibes Canadian Startup Awards.