As part of our Hot New Companies series we talked to Cian O’Sullivan, founder of Beagle – a Canadian start-up that uses artificial intelligence to automatically read and highlight the important details of legal contracts, coupled with an advanced collaborative environment for reviewing them.
Cian, a qualified lawyer and contract negotiator, founded the company after a tedious weekend spent reading through a 90-page contract as a favour for a friend, at which point he realised there had to be a better way. The software seems to be working well – 70% of businesses that try the demo go on to become customers according to the company. Beagle recently graduated from the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program in Seattle, and is based in Kitchener, Ontario.
Beagle’s target audience is currently small and medium sized businesses, of which Cian notes only 8% currently have their contracts checked over by legal professionals, with the other 92% balking at the cost of hiring a lawyer. Instead of a lawyer spending several expensive hours trawling through a contract, companies can use Beagle’s software to quickly identify any clauses that might require further attention and then easily pass them on to their legal counsel.
Cian explains that there are “four legs” to Beagle’s offering: AI-backed analysis of the contract, clear visualisation of the responsibilities, liabilities, and get-out clauses on less than one page, a real-time collaborative platform for discussing and editing the contract, and a smart AI system that caters to your behaviours, preferences and priorities.
According to Beagle, the current version of the software is over 95% accurate on some contract elements. Asked if he was worried about the remaining 5%, Cian points out that the software already has an incredible advantage in terms of speed, and that it doesn’t have to be perfect – it just needs to be as good as a human. The subtleties and nuances of contract jargon mean that even human lawyers might disagree about the interpretation of certain clauses, so 100% accuracy is an unrealistic goal. Beagle is really about automating the “low-hanging fruit” of contract review as quickly and accurately as possible.
Cian is quick to allay any fears that Beagle intends to lay waste to the legal profession. Although a minority of lawyers have reacted negatively claiming that the software is reducing their billable hours, by simultaneously reducing the cost of legal advice for SME’s Beagle is actually opening up a new market for lawyers. Beagle is definitely disrupting the legal industry, but arguably in a positive way for both customers and the industry; as Cian rightly points out, under the current system lawyers are charging for inefficiency.
The first version of Beagle was written by Cian in Visual Basic over the course of a weekend, but the current beta phase has a team of three artificial intelligence experts working on the back-end, accompanied by two front-end developers from Wilfrid Laurier University.
The final product should be available in November of this year. However users can register for a 30 day free trial by going to beta.beagle.ai and using the access code DEMODAY.