AltaML and Compass Law launch joint venture focused on legal AI

Edmonton-based AltaML and Ottawa's Compass Law have teamed up to launch Jurisage AI, a new venture combining their strengths in legal innovation and artificial intelligence.

Jurisage CEO Colin Lachance, who lives in Ottawa but attended law school at the University of Alberta, said AI is particularly beneficial for the legal sector because of the "sheer volume of legal information" and its complexity.

"The volume speaks to how AI can support professionals, and complexity goes to how AI can help the law become more accessible to the public at large," said Lachance, who has been working in legal information and publishing for more than a decade.

He told Taproot that the cross-country collaboration AltaML and Compass Law have set up is significant because of the opportunity available in legal innovation.

"AI isn't an exclusively a local development activity. It's a national capacity-building thing. And what I love about Edmonton specifically is that the AI talent level is as high ... as Montreal, Waterloo, Silicon Valley. It's world-class talent," Lachance said. Edmonton is also home to legal innovation startups like dealcloser and PainWorth.

The first product Jurisage plans to launch is called MyJr. The concept is based on how senior lawyers typically hand off work to junior lawyers to continue research, so the system will aim to provide information to lawyers when they need it.

"A court judgment might have 20 pages and 5,000 words and a dozen issues and a whole lot of other stuff. So we want to help the lawyer understand the contents of that case in 30 seconds to a minute rather than in 10 to 15 minutes," Lachance explained, adding that to do that, they're building a "knowledge graph" to understand how data relates to other data points.

Juliano Rabelo is AltaML's director of data science, and his expertise includes knowledge graphs, in addition to legal information extraction and entailment. As the technical expert on the project, Rabelo has studied techniques that can be applied to any kind of freeform text.

"Our first step is to develop MyJr, but the company has an overarching goal, which is to democratize access to justice. We are already discussing other ideas and what we could do next," Rabelo told Taproot. "The ultimate goal would be to be able to answer any legal question that someone would have."

Colin Lachance

Colin Lachance is the CEO of Compass Law and the newly formed Jurisage AI. (Supplied)

MyJr is an extension of work AltaML completed last year in building legal assistant prototypes and case law natural language processing (NLP) models that can classify sentences into facts, issues, law, analysis, or conclusions.

The upcoming product is still in development after working with law firms to determine what was missing from their workflow, and early testers will be based in both Canada and the U.S.

Lachance said the level of legal innovation at Jurisage is only possible because of the data available, adding that there are only four organizations in Canada with a case law collection like the one Compass provides. He explained that the data tends not to be available, and the Alberta courts don't publish decisions on their own website.

"We're essentially building on 50-year relationships with legal public, with courts, in order to develop the collection that all this AI is built off of. So that is very unique," he said.

Jurisage joins AltaML's portfolio of sector-specific AI companies, including AlphaLayer in investment management; BlueMarvel.AI in industrial operations; System3 in executive recruitment; and in pet health.