Stanford, Sights Set on Legal: Part 3 – School Projects Create Significant Companies

by Joseph Raczynski

The Legal Lessons Learned from Stanford Series


Stanford University is fully embracing the legal industry, a historically cautious mover, as a focal point of its innovative solutions.  The industry is primed to evolve through more transformative processes by pairing inventive thought and applied technological advancement to solve niche legal process issues.  Recently at the Emerging Legal Technology Forum, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Stanford University, we learned how and what the school has developed to further advance the legal space.


Lex Machina Blazes a path:

As I mentioned in the previous post, not too long ago Stanford decided to coalesce departments across its graduate campuses.  This meant combining groups that had always been housed in separate buildings.  Once they started this project, the nascent ideas emerged.


Lex Machina - one of the first and most successful of the emerging projects, started with a mashup of the university's law school and computer science department’s collaborating.  It is an IP litigation research company which creates legal analytics data and software.  It began as a project on campus under the broad and supportive limbs of Stanford’s incubator environment before being spun off into what it is today, a full-fledged company based in Menlo Park, CA.  This exemplifies the university’s core, to intertwine siloed departments, leverage strengths, and thus seek out whitespace.  In this instance they were able to leverage computer algorithms from the CS department with the publically available legal data to produce visualization of IP litigation data and predictive outcomes.  Never before had these two disparate groups collaborated.


Securities Litigation Analytics is a similar type of project still sitting inside of Stanford.  In a similar way SLA is an analytics based legal platform focused on federal shareholder lawsuits.  It allows a user to query a database of over 2,000 federal shareholder lawsuits across hundreds of variables and see the statistics for outcome, settlement size and resolution.  Like Lex Machina there is an ability to display the results of your search through interactive graphics.1


What is remarkable about these projects is that it took comingling of two different cultures and philosophies into one venture to produce them.  One surprise during their discussions was the realization that both Michael Klausner CEO of SLA and Josh Becker CEO of Lex Machina did not know the other existed and yet they were a few floors apart working on their respective projects in a similar field.  Given the advanced and innovative approach that Stanford is taking, I was rather surprised to hear them say they did not know about each other.


Ultimately Stanford is pushing into the legal space with the hopes of engaging the industry, its respected schools and technology.  They are actively establishing an ecosystem of innovation by driving experimentation and promoting new ways of working within the legal space.  Based on the projects evolving into established companies, we know their imaginative processes are creating a furtile ground for pushing legal forward.