Juris: Year One

We haven’t talked much, because we’ve been learning, and building things: the team, the roadmap, tools. In a whirlwind year, it was time to put our heads down.

If you gave us your email address, I promised not to spam you. — I hope an update once a year isn’t too much to bear 😎 But, shortly we will have more regular updates (and a podcast) as we move into beta testing. (Bring on the feedback! Reach us through the on-site chat.)

A lot has happened in the year since our whitepaper release, but of greatest importance at this stage in a project, we put together a killer team.

Our Team:

I have known, and worked with, our CTO, Konstantin Brazhnik for fifteen years. We learned “how to digital” together through the lens of video and interactive production. First, in a pack of nerds without a film department in undergrad, and then doing more of the same for five years, but for money, at my first company. He is a coder and a physics major with an MFA in interactive media. He is a founder in his own right, having run his own businesses in software design/development, and real estate. As we have moved through our education and careers, he has consistently been on my “If I could just get them to drop whatever cooler project they’re hacking on” speed-dial.

The release of the whitepaper was followed by the release of our e-book: “How a Blockchain Works and What it Can Do (in plain english)” written by our General Counsel, Ethan Mackay. Ethan, came onboard in the spring after completing his JD/MBA at Columbia University, where he spent a lot of time writing about blockchain. (Hence the ebook.) He decided to dedicate his work to legal tech after realizing its potential to raise the standard of living for millions of people around the world. During graduate school he summered at Fenwick & West and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Before graduate school he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and City Year.

Saul Kerpelman, a career civil rights attorney, came onboard as chairman, making Juris the focus of his fellowship at Harvard through their Advanced Leadership Initiative. Saul founded his own law firm in 1986 and, over 35 years, grew it into the nation’s leading firm in the representation of children suffering from lead poisoning. Over that time, he secured over $300 million for more than 4,000 families. He also drove many policy initiatives to eradicate lead paint and close loopholes for repeat offenders.

Our work at Harvard provided focus for the Juris Project Mission, connected us with an invaluable network of advisors, and guided us in the creation of our first tool: Juris.Legal, launching in beta soon, and our second tool which we can’t talk about yet 😉

Finally, in early 2019, at the completion of the ALI fellowship, we brought Randy Cohen onboard as an official Senior Advisor. Randy is a widely published professor at Harvard Business School with a PhD in Finance. Through the ALI program we were able to take part in a semester of his renowned Field X course. The course is, in essence, a Harvard Business School run startup incubator. We spent a lot of time talking to Randy, and we wanted an excuse to keep it up. He brings an invaluable network and experience to the team.

Our Progress:

We spent this year building the backbone technologies and methodologies for the kind of problems we intend to take on. The law is important and the impact it has on everyone’s lives is undeniable. As we introduce increasingly advanced technology into the legal world it serves to take our time. To do our research. To build with intention.

We spent the year deep in the un-sexy part of the code, learning the new things, and testing the old. As we learned the limits and the possibilities, and explored the potential markets, our roadmap has taken shape. But first, blockchain.

It is undeniable that Juris started life as a blockchain project. And it remains a blockchain project at its core. The year since the release of our whitepaper has only increased our belief in the merits of blockchain technology. Blockchain is here, it has a purpose, and we will use it because its fundamental strengths bear significant overlap with our fundamental mission.

It has become clear, as the roadmap takes shape, that the first steps of our journey with Juris do not yet look like the smart contracts and token eco-systems of which our whitepaper dreamed. As other teams “#buidl” the landscape is taking shape. The backbone structures of our system take the possibilities into account. Functionally, our beta is Ethereum ready. And we are watching the eco-system carefully.

In coming weeks, in California and New York, we will begin beta testing our first legal tool: Juris.Legal. For the average citizen of these states, it will be a place to seek legal advice from verified, state bar licensed, lawyers. For the lawyers, this is a window into our vision of the future of legal practice. Here we have started building a system able to solve for the most good done, instead of the most hours billed.

There are, of course, many other balls rolling as we speak. In the coming year we will have new tools to launch, to test, and to develop, and we hope to announce a number of exciting partnerships on both business and social impact fronts. If you’re still here, and still excited, please reach out. The Intercom chat on Juris is a good place to start, or you can email as us here: team@jurisproject.io.

Thank you for being part of our work so far, and we hope you’ll jump in as beta testing gets underway very soon.

Adam Kerpelman

Co-Founder, CEO, Juris

There’s a Gold Rush of Legal Work Coming. Be Ready.

Where’s the Rush?

The law is notoriously slow. Sometimes that’s okay–no one wants a hasty murder trial. Because its business is the law, the legal profession is also notoriously slow, both in operation and adaptation. But, software is eating the world and this means that the law and lawyers must adapt. Not because “disruption” is popular, but because law and order are critical to society.

There is a reason that we have “the right to speak to an attorney” upon arrest in the United States: laws are complicated. We, quite literally, do not expect the average citizen to understand them fully. And so we have lawyers, “officers of the court,” meant to counsel anyone dealing with that system which maintains order. And for cases important enough to life and liberty, you have a right to a lawyer.

Yet, as software keeps on eating, lawyers are falling further behind. This is a problem, because people aren’t getting help, and because lawyers don’t have the time to help if they wanted to. And this is not the kind of problem that can be solved by “going paperless.” Incremental improvements won’t do. We need a full perspective shift, because this isn’t a problem of old dogs and new tricks. This is a problem of scale.

To meet the scale of the coming need for legal help, we need to think about legal work more like the prospectors of old thought of mining. An apt analogy if we consider that the coming gold rush of legal work is born at the frontier of technology. But lawyers are here to help clients, not dig for gold. So, let’s help more people.

But first, let’s talk about “scale,” because we’ll need it to understand “where’s the rush?”

Will it Scale?

There is a reason that people in tech circles are obsessed with the notion of “scale.” The question “will it scale?” is asking this: will a way of doing things hold together as numbers increase? Can an idea, a service, tool, whatever, still function when a thousand people are using it every day? What about a million? What about a billion? Facebook and Amazon deal with problems in the Billions. (And governments deal in trillions!) You don’t have to do things to that scale, but scale does exist. Especially in digital.

The reason for this obsession with scale goes beyond the fact that more users = money. The obsession has to do with what it means to be eaten by software. When a service is digitized it is suddenly, at least technologically, possible to deliver that service to billions. Think about how many people you used to know personally who worked as taxi drivers. Now think if you’ve ever wondered to yourself “should I sign up for Uber to make an extra buck?”

Digital tools are built to let people do more stuff. Doing more stuff means more interaction, and collaboration, and buying, and selling. The power to do all of this stuff is instantly available to anyone with a smartphone, and doing it is still guided by laws. You have rights. But they are not always easy to enforce. There are also things you’re not supposed to do. Sometimes the things you are not supposed to do are outlined by a government, sometimes they are outlined in a “terms of service” contract. Which is actually a contract whether anyone in their right mind reads the whole thing before signing up, or not.

Regardless of how this makes you feel, more people are doing more stuff, and human stuff results in conflicts, and confusion. In court, this is why you get a lawyer. This is why people worry about “access to justice.” Talking to lawyers matters, and there are already millions of people who don’t get to do this because the system is broken.

And thus the need for full blown perspective shift. The problem is not that the legal profession needs to “go paperless” or get on Slack. The problem is the growing explosion of people who need their help, and the fact that there are only so many “billable hours” in a day and only so many lawyers. Current models simply cannot scale up to meet the need. Where there is such a mismatch, there is gold. When there is a coming explosion, there is a rush.

Mining for Good

The term “mining” has taken on a slightly different meaning in tech circles in the last few years thanks largely to Bitcoin, but that’s not what I mean here. I’m talking about pulling gold out of the ground kind of mining. The thing that drew so many dreamers west in the early days of the United States. And here’s where it lines up with the needed perspective shift for lawyers… none of the prospectors staking claim to a patch of land, hoping to strike gold, were thinking of the world in terms of billable hours. These prospectors, breaking ground in the frontier, were thinking of the world in terms of how much gold can we get out of the ground in any given hour. Not how many hours will it take to get “the usual” amount of gold out of the ground. No one even knew what the usual amount of gold was. But they knew that when they found it they held value in their hand.

The value in our hand is now abstracted into the notion of money, filtered through layers of paychecks and banks. In this system: we do work, we get paid. Lawyers get paid, a lot. Because the service they provide is important. But, a vast majority of the time, that service boils down to this: giving advice. In giving advice, there is gold.

As it happens, the same tools that let us build the Internet are really useful for allowing people to give other people advice. In some cases it looks like Twitter, in some cases it looks like Stack Overflow, or GitHub, which are both examples of places where programmers have found ways to work together and help one another with remarkable effectiveness.

At Juris, we’re learning from the tools programmers use, and building tools for lawyers to help more people, and help one another. (Picks and shovels anyone?) And we want lawyers to feel more like miners. These tools do not require that we charge by the hour. They do not require that we double bill. They do not require that we rent an office with a fancy conference room. And by breaking this dynamic we are able to incentivize a system to solve for the most help provided, and not the most time spent on a problem. And this is where we hold gold in our hands. This is mining. But we’re digging for the amount of help we can provide, not gold.

Make sense? Join us. Get digging.

~ Adam