Law and technology enthusiasts cannot help but notice the opportunities presented by contracting. It’s long been an area ripe for innovation. Contracts are both fascinating information artifacts and frustrating business problems.

We already have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to solutions, nowadays mostly under the CLM (contract lifecycle management) banner. Investments are pouring in. Players like Agiloft, Akorda, Ironclad, Juro, and ThoughtRiver — to name just a few — have brought amazing products to the market. Shakeouts and consolidations among the hundreds of providers seem inevitable.

There have also been thousands of articles, white papers, blog posts, and…

By Bart Earle and Marc Lauritsen

HotDocs is one of the oldest and best known products in a market — legal document automation — that is growing and morphing more than ever. New players seem to emerge weekly, leapfrogging each other with dazzling interfaces and features.

The latest generation of HotDocs introduces a full-stack rewrite of the product. It includes both Author, a desktop template authoring tool, and Advance, a web-based user environment. Prospective HotDocs customers still can still license the older version, which the publisher, AbacusNext, now calls Classic HotDocs and says there are no plans to discontinue.


[A version of this article appeared in The Bottom Line, a publication of The State Bar of California Law Practice Management and Technology Section, in April 2013. Some links are broken.]

Times are tough for lawyers. How can we survive and prosper? Most would agree that effective use of technology is part of the answer. I believe that systems aimed at the core of practice are among the most important measures we can take. And that having them requires us to be more than innocent bystanders.

The march of technology in law — as in other quarters of life —…

(This is a loose reconstruction of a talk I gave to the Boston Computer Society Social Impact and Legal Interest Groups on December 5, 1990. Published in the October 1993 newsletter of Clinical Legal Education Section of the Association of American Law Schools.)

Although the lawsuit thrives as a characteristic gesture of modernity, lawyers are not exactly the darlings of popular culture these days.

We read, for instance, about the prosecution in New York of a personal injury law firm that allegedly used shrunken rulers to exaggerate the size of photographed potholes in negligence suits against the City, and maintained…

Most of us know someone who has gotten stuck on an idea. They’re convinced that the idea is not just original and important, but transformative. They find it endlessly fascinating. They can’t give up, even after years of trying.

Such people seem obsessed. They may burn thousands of hours without any realistic prospect of achieving anything. They may feel that the idea has chosen them. It’s the monkey on their back.

I’m one of those people.

Many other ideas and interests have haunted me. (Jazz, experiential education, legal knowledge automation, Shakespeare authorship, …) But one has long felt different. It…

Starting a new technology project right now may be the last thing on your mind. Change was hard enough when life was merely frenetic.

Still, you, your colleagues, and your clients are likely doing things that could be done more easily. Thoughtful automation can radically streamline many aspects of legal work, like gathering client information and instructions, structuring workflow, and generating high-quality first drafts of complex documents.

New circumstances raise new opportunities.

I’ll keep this short. And try to avoid platitudes.

Bad news, good news

In addition to all of the scary developments around public health and the general economy…

Online legal help systems have been a major force for good. Millions of people without the luxury of a personal lawyer have benefited from them. They come in many shapes and sizes, from many different worlds:

· Legal aid programs and other nonprofit legal service organizations

· Courts and government agencies

· Law schools and universities

· Commercial providers and startups

· Private law firms and departments

We have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tools, platforms, and methodologies for applications that address legal needs. The diversity is a sign of health. But there’s also a lot of…

A fractal landscape

Marc Lauritsen

(This is one of my favorite unfinished pieces, last touched in April 1990 when I was Director of Lawyering Information Systems at Harvard Law School. It later appeared in the widely read Publications 4/99 of the Judicial Academy of Northern Finland, University of Lapland.)

Summary: This article explores some of the complexities and paradoxes of routine activity in law, their implications for the possibility and desirability of certain modes of legal automation, and the ways in which perspectives suggested by theories in other fields may advance our understanding of these questions. …

Open sorcery is back in the legal tech spotlight. See e.g. and
So as an exercise in personal archaeology I thought I’d resurface the following paper from a couple years ago. (Those who would prefer watching rather than reading might enjoy the middle part of this keynote at a Center for Computer-assisted Legal Instruction conference.)

Ontologies and Openness in Law Practice Automation

A working paper for Legal Knowledge Systems in Action

Eighth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law

St. Louis, Missouri — May 2001


This paper describes the Open Practice Tools (OPT) project, an initiative begun at AmeriCounsel[1] in October 2000 to promote open…

The California State Bar’s Task Force on Access Through Innovation of Legal Services has solicited input on 16 concept options for regulatory changes.

I had hoped to think and write more expansively, but the deadline for comments is here so I will offer just a few half-baked remarks.

Short overall take: The Task Force deserves congratulations and thanks for its path-breaking work. The proposed innovations are promising. Like most policy choices, none portend unremittingly good or irremediably bad effects. The challenge is achieving a solid positive balance. It will be important to measure, to maintain a ‘before & after,’ and…

Marc Lauritsen

Legal knowledge systems architect, educator, entrepreneur, author, musician. I help people work smarter and make better decisions.

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