Discovery requests, as many lawyers know, are no fun. Preparing a response is a daunting, boring task that can monopolize time and drain resources. The hours it takes to complete a discovery request can be better utilized to help other clients. With DiscoLegal, discovery is a party… Well, it’s at least quick and painless.
As a proponent of disruption in the legal industry, I am always keeping an eye out for startups that are trying to automate processes, make law firms and lawyers more efficient, and legal services affordable and advantageous for both the lawyer and the client. DiscoLegal caught my attention.
DiscoLegal automates the discovery process. Here’s how it works: you scan in a discovery request (a PDF file), DiscoLegal’s algorithm reads the interrogatories and offers the attorney either prepopulated responses or an opportunity to type in their own. Once you select or type in your responses, DiscoLegal generates a Word document and you simply export to your desktop.
I sat down with one of the founders, Tiberiu Motoc, and asked him how he and his co-founder Madhu Raman came up with the idea. Like a lot of the best ideas that turn into successful and disruptive products, the DiscoLegal idea came to fruition right at home. Madhu’s wife is an attorney and she would frequently receive discovery requests that she found boring and draining. Madhu, trying to be helpful and speed up the response process for her, used his software engineering skills to come up with a method to automate the process. Madhu and Tiberiu were classmates at the University of Toronto, and have been friends ever since. Madhu asked Tiberiu to help him develop the product as a side project, which has now turned into a startup. Tiberiu and Madhu both have alternate day jobs, but moonlight with DiscoLegal.
DiscoLegal currently does not have any competitors (at least, none that I could find). We have all read about e-discovery tools and drafting tools, but this is different. DiscoLegal allows you to import that hard or soft copy from the opposing side into DiscoLegal, separates the questions for you, and allows you to select common answers or type your own, and export it within minutes. No more retyping of the discovery request, then spacing the answers, and spending hours copying and pasting the standard responses (not to mention the clicks and tabs to format it correctly). This is a great tool for any attorney, whether a solo practitioner, an associate at a mid-sized or big law firm.
Tiberiu stated that he is not trying to replace or eliminate the administrative staff at a law firm; he and Madhu are just helping them do their jobs more efficiently by automating a time-consuming process. He is trying to “level the playing field” by allowing small law firms to compete with the big ones. He heard horror stories of attorneys burying the other side in paperwork and discovery requests, and by allowing small and mid-sized firms to automate such a process, it would help smaller firms to better handle such situations while not drain their resources and allowing them to have a fair fight.
I personally took DiscoLegal for a test drive and uploaded one of my own old discovery requests and interrogatories. Below I detail my experience:
Signing up: easy, fill out your name, email, name of your firm and password. Took 5 seconds.
Once you are signed in, it asks you to upload the document and fill out the parties names.
I input the plaintiff, the defendant and case number. Click on “Create discodoc” and wait two seconds and magic: the questions are separated automatically, and you simply select the response. You can see a sample document I found online for example purposes below:
Once you answer all the questions, a blue “Save” button pops up and you’re ready to roll. Click Save, and wait for DiscoLegal to generate a Microsoft Word(R) document for you.
Review your answers, and as the instructions suggest, once you are satisfied, simply export the word document.
This is what the final document looks like:
Like any startup, they’re working on making their product better and would appreciate everyone’s feedback. My suggestion is to include the header; however, these look different from state to state, so generating one that can satisfy all state requirements will probably take some time. If you have the header covered, you can simply copy and paste the answers and you’re good to go.