Legal fees ate up half of his startup investment, motivating founder to build AI tech tool Spellbook

Scott Stevenson's legal tech company recently launched an educational resource for law schools

Legal fees ate up half of his startup investment, motivating founder to build AI tech tool Spellbook
Scott Stevenson, Spellbook

A newly minted computer engineering grad from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Scott Stevenson had launched his first company. Their product was the Mune, a digital musical instrument that Stevenson designed with composer and music professor Andrew Staniland, a specialist in electroacoustic music, which Synthtopia describes as “combining the instrumentation of classical music with digital sounds and effects.”

Mune raised capital from an angel investor. “For me, it was a lot of money,” says Stevenson. But company formation, building the minute book, and dealing with the attendant intellectual property issues drained nearly half of it.

“I was really disappointed by that. I was like, there must be a way to make legal services more affordable to entrepreneurs and to businesses so that more people can start companies and more small businesses can access those services.”

Stevenson co-founded Spellbook with Daniel Di Maria and Matt Mayers. Di Maria, a lawyer, came at the issue from the other side, experiencing first-hand the “drudgery” of practice. They set out to build a workflow and document automation tool and saw the opportunity available from large language models. Operating out of the Legal Innovation Zone in Toronto, Spellbook uses generative AI to help lawyers draft and review documents in Microsoft Word.

“Our approach is kind of unique,” says Stevenson. “We call it assistive AI. It's all about kind of giving a lawyer an electric bicycle that helps them go as they're working.” As the lawyer opens a contract they are reviewing in Word, Spellbook will automatically populate suggestions on the side of the screen.

“The challenge of reviewing a 100-page contract is absurd. A lot of people know that legal fees are high, but a lot of consumers of legal services don't realize – and I didn't realize when we started this company – just how hard a lawyer’s job actually is.”

Under the timeline pressure facing lawyers, AI is good at catching issues and areas of improvement across a long contract, he says.

“At some point, it's going to be irresponsible not to use it.”

Launched at the end of June, Spellbook has also introduced a free AI access program for law schools to use to prepare students for the emerging AI technology that law firms are rapidly adopting.  

“We started this company because we really believed in the mission,” says Stevenson. “I always tell people, entrepreneurship is not worth it unless you really are motivated by the outcome, the change in the world. Otherwise, it's just an absurd amount of work and not worth it. We're very motivated by the mission of making legal services more efficient, more affordable.”

After years selling to law firms, Stevenson says he would never have imagined them adopting any technology as quickly as they’re adopting AI. That means students must prepare to work with it.

“We want to be able to support that,” he says. “We just want to accelerate how quickly this technology is adopted because we think it is a huge net positive for lawyers, paralegals, and their clients.”

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