Startup Evisort Emerges From Harvard Law And MIT To Overhaul Contract Management

It’s a shame how rarely the domains of computer science and the legal field intersect because both professions have more in common than they’ll ever know. They’re both disciplines of abstract engineering of a sort. Software is the use of symbolic engineering to create logic engines that make the computer do useful things. Contracts are the use of legal language to create responsibility engines that help companies do useful things.

The above comparison did fudge a few details, but the point is that both programming languages and legal languages try to do the same thing in different contexts. Yet it’s a rare occasion that Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni get together with Harvard Law School alumni to collaborate. That is exactly what had to happen for the company Evisort to be created. Evisort is easy to describe: It’s a software knowledge engine for the legal field.

The legal profession has been a bit underserved by the software world. Beyond simple business management and desktop office tools, it’s tough to create software that lawyers will find useful because most programmers have no idea what lawyers do. It took some curious minds from both sides, the eventual composition of the Evisort founding team, to look at what lawyers do and imagine how the field of artificial intelligence can help.

The company founders point to driverless cars as the inspiration for Evisort, reasoning that if a computer can learn to drive a car, it can learn to read a document. This business of document reading is the daily hard row to hoe for the legal profession. Before Evisort came along, a company’s contract portfolio was something it took a whole team a month to research. Evisort can scan in a document, use its deep learning algorithm trained in dozens of different contract constructions to extract all the relevant facts from said contract, and put those facts on the screen or store them in the cloud. It reduces what used to take a month down to minutes.

It is ironic that Evisort has beaten driverless cars to realization. Founded in 2016, Evisort’s staff were thrilled to attract millions in seed funding from Silicon Valley luminaries. As they made cover stories for Forbes’ magazine, they attracted clients from various sectors, including Fortune 500 corporations, AM Law 100 firms, and even the occasional sports team. The business world runs on contracts, and nearly anybody who is bound by one would like a machine-enabled way to manage them efficiently.

Not only is Evisort faster, but it can head off disasters such as accidentally breaching a contract or letting one lapse into expiration. It can also help a company operate in a more nimble fashion, by being able to make faster, savvier decisions, or pounce on opportunities that come up and depend on a good grasp of contractual obligations.

What is the common link between software and contracts? Both use a specific kind of language with strict rules. Software is programmed in a programming language, which is then fed through yet another kind of software called a “compiler,” turning our human typing into the 1s and 0s that computers understand. Likewise, the general public might scan over an End User License Agreement or a Non-Disclosure Covenant and pronounce it incomprehensible “legalese,” but the language for legal formalities is no less engineered than that of controlling computers.

Evisort has been compared to a kind of Google for contracts, with a growth in size and revenue that mirrors the early years of that company. While many more fields are awaiting their AI revolution, Evisort will likely be looked back upon as one of the first innovators in the AI knowledge work field.

Adam Hansen