BlackBoiler, an automated contract markup technology provider, today announced it has secured $3.2 million in funding from strategic investors, including agreement cloud company DocuSign. BlackBoiler plans to use the funds to further develop its patented software capabilities and accelerate team growth.
Dan Broderick, BlackBoiler’s CEO and founder, and his team must be congratulated for this significant new funding. But after recently talking to Dan and Varun Mehta, CEO of Factor (see my recent post), I’m beginning to wonder whether this lasting legal disruption brought about by Covid that everyone keeps talking about is really happening.
Blackboiler is an innovative high volume contract review tool that uses artificial intelligence and human interfaces to create, edit, and negotiate similar contracts more efficiently and better. With offices in Washington D.C. and New York City, BlackBoiler is a National Science Foundation-backed software company focused on contract review automation.
I caught up with BlackBoiler’s founder, Dan Broderick, recently, and asked him what BlackBoiler planned to do with the funding. Dan is an interesting guy. He practiced at Thompson Hine and Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton and while toiling away in the ranks as an associate negotiating and preparing repetitive contracts. Like so many in the legal tech world, he had an idea that would make his job easier (and, of course, reduce billable hours, which isn’t exactly the path to partnership at many firms).
Dan concluded that trying to read through every word of a contract to determine where standard language might be called for, find the right clause(s) and make sure the language was applied correctly in the specific context—is inefficient and error-prone. Not to mention the time haggling with the other side over mostly irrelevant terms similar to those that appear in a number of previously negotiated contracts. But of course, that’s just what lawyers traditionally did.
Broderick’s idea was to use artificial intelligence to find terms that aren’t in issue so the lawyers can focus on what’s really important
Broderick’s idea was to use artificial intelligence to find terms that aren’t in issue so the lawyers can focus on what’s really important. Hence BlackBoiler.
I wrote a post on Blackboiler some time ago and predicted that it would expand its efforts to use AI on any repetitive negotiation type tasks that lawyers perform. And that’s precisely how BlackBoiler plans to use the investment: to expand into areas like insurance, regulatory filings, and even written discovery. Broderick estimates that some 75% of negotiations can be automated.
There are a few innovative law firms but not many, even in today’s times.
Of course, that doesn’t make BlackBoiler and Broderick popular with a lot of law firms. Broderick told me that the only law firms using BlackBoiler at this point are those whose clients say they won’t pay them to do what BlackBoiler can do. Once the firms see this repetitive work as a subtraction from billable hours instead of an addition, they embrace Broderick as a savior. But those firms (and clients) are few and far between: Broderick observed that there are a few innovative law firms but not many, even in today’s times. So BlackBoiler plans to partner more with alternative legal service providers.
Is it possible that the legal revolution begins and ends with remote work and Zoom calls?
Broderick also told me that the firms that do use BlackBoiler often fail to understand its value. We all know that the AI and human combination yields results better than AI only or humans only. Which is, of course, Blackboiler’s value. It maximizes human AI interaction, and it lets the human focus on what’s important. But too many firms use the AI component of Blackboiler (and other AI platform) and then wonder why it doesn’t work as they thought. Perhaps this is because the lawyers are in a rush to reduce nonbillable work, or maybe it reflects a lack of understanding of what the technology can and cannot do and how best to use it,
I’m happy for BlackBoiler and Broderick, who is a genuinely good guy. But as I said, his comments and those of Varun Mehta, who I also recently talked to and who thinks legal has simply been unwilling to adopt technology in a way to improve the overall practice and what lawyers do makes me wonder. Is all the talk about Covid really causing legal to change and innovate is just that: more talk than walk. Is it possible that the legal revolution begins and ends with remote work and Zoom calls–things many of us and the rest of the world have been doing for some time?