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Casetext

Making all the world's laws free and understandable

Highlights

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50% month over month user growth
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33% week over week annotation growth
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250,000 visitors per month; 100,000 posts from 35,000 users
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$7M raised in Series A funding round
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Founded by former president of Stanford Law Review

Our Founder


Pitch

There are many people who can enumerate the problems within the legal research field, but there are few who could develop a nuts-and-bolts solution. To be sure, this was an undertaking designed for no less than the former President of the Stanford Law Review and the former President of the Harvard Law Review.

Casetext co-founders Jake Heller and Joanna Huey sprouted the roots of their powerhouse team by first becoming friends in school at Stanford and Harvard, respectively, after meeting at a conference for law review presidents sponsored by Westlaw. Ironically, this is the very legal research company they seek to first augment, and then replace with Casetext, a platform that democratizes legal information by making it free and accessible.

“People without a lot of money don’t have access to the law, and for me, it’s more of a moral than a monetary issue,” Heller said.

Heller and Huey, now best friends and business partners, recognized early that the world of legal research could be perfected. The answer was Casetext, a community-driven legal research vault that operates on a freemium model, provides analysis on top of facts and also creates a two-way street equally valuable for both contributors and researchers.

Why The Existing Model Needs To Be Changed

Casetext projects it will be able to capture $1.4 billion of the current $8 billion market dominated by Westlaw and LexisNexis, two research platforms consuming a large portion of lawyers’ time and legal firms’ budgets. The two companies are used by 83 percent of lawyers and cost large law firms an average of $3 million, Emory Law reports.

Any attorney worth their weight allocates about 30 percent of their time researching, according to LLRX, Rebooting Legal Research in a Digital Age. But digging into legal precedent and studying which rulings have been overturned takes time and costs money. A current workload flow might include an associate doing research for partners, another person making annotations, and yet another printing and organizing documents.

And that’s been the standard process until recently.

But the recession incited many clients to disavow the value of legal fees that included research and other backend costs, the Wall Street Journal reported. Casetext represents a shift in how law firms are operating in general, as less expensive tools mean lower lawyer fees.

How Casetext Works

To overturn this model and create a democratized and cost-effective platform, Casetext allows a community of users, who create a robust profile for themselves using their real names, to contribute to a research collective in a user experience much like Wikipedia or Quora.

Annotations come from a variety of experts with every incentive to participate. Lawyers, for example, are motivated by the potential for referrals and increasing their base of clients. Professors are able to assert their expertise in their fields, thereby garnering speaking invitations or press coverage. Law students, expert witnesses, law clerks, and others also contribute to this information collective.

Casetext is currently free and open to everybody. It will make money through Premium features, which include private-in-firm annotations, advanced analytics such as a heat map that shows highly searched pages and topics, and tools such as saved search history.

Casetext as a platform also fits into the larger web trend in which the value of the community supersedes that of the expert. Casetext cites as examples Wikipedia replacing Encyclopedia Britannica or Yelp filling the shoes of Zagat Review.

In just seven weeks, users added thousands of contributions to Casetext, with annotations growing by 33 percent, visits increasing by 51 percent and page views jumping 27 percent.

Notable contributors include Richard Hasen, Chancellor's Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law in Irvine, California, who added analysis to Shelby County v. Holder, the recent Voting Rights Act case. Gregory Fleischmann, Director of Marketing at Baker McKenzie, recently contributed his firm's articles and client alerts.

Heller said he eventually sees a grand vision of a platform that includes all the world's laws, free and fully explained.

"You can be in Nigeria, and you want to know the local plumbing laws, for example. All those laws that are hard to find will be instantly accessible," he said.

Why The Founders’ Backgrounds Matter

Both Heller and Huey said they are motivated not just by the desire to democratize information, but also by their own passions and interests.

Huey's background is in science and technology law, and she is interested in issues such as how patents might hamper innovation or why some diseases are allocated funding while others aren't.

Heller is passionate about voting rights and laws that curb corruption and politics, and sees information as the root of change.

The duo also possesses skills and passion many lawyers do not – they’re tech whizzes. Heller worked as a full-time web developer and Huey worked as a front-end coder and designer before launching Casetext.

Heller had originally convinced himself at a young age that startups couldn't have a great impact and that he wanted to go into policy. He interned in the White House Council Office, worked for local politicians before working as a law clerk at a litigation advocacy group.

"With all these experiences, I realized policy was really frustrating and slow and political," he said. "Things don't really happen in the best interest of people. I was kind of naive, and it was disenfranchising to see how the sausage was made."

He said he watched how Google, Reddit, Wikipedia and Quora, for example, were affecting people in a profound way. And it made him realize how much of a difference he could make.

So he melded together these platforms to create something that draws people to want to contribute to a collective body of work that was essentially helping everyone in their field -- while simultaneously building a name for themselves.

He sees Casetext as informing everyone from a critical mass on college campuses to people working in political and legal fields.

"I faced people working in politics who didn't fully understand what was going on -- just the big opinions. But when people fully understand, that's how change happens."

Overview