Harvey, a startup building what it describes as a “co-pilot for lawyers,” emerged today on the sly with $5 million in funding led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, the tranche through which OpenAI and its partners are investing in early-stage AI companies tackling big problems. Jeff Dean, head of Google AI, Google’s AI research division, also participated in the round. and Mixer Labs co-founder Elad Gil, among other angel investors.
Harvey was founded by Winston Weinberg, a former securities and antitrust litigator at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, and Gabriel Pereyra, formerly a research fellow at DeepMind, Google Brain (another of Google’s AI groups) and MetaAI. Weinberg and Pereyra are roommates — Pereyra showed Weinberg OpenAI’s GPT-3 text generation system and Weinberg realized it could be used to improve legal workflows.
“Our product provides attorneys with a natural language interface for their existing legal workflows,” Pereyra told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Instead of manually editing legal documents or performing legal research, Harvey allows lawyers to describe the task they want to accomplish in simple instructions and receive the output generated. To do this, Harvey relies on large language models to both understand user intent and generate the correct output. »
More concretely, Harvey can answer questions posed in natural language like “Tell me what the differences are between an employee and an independent contractor in the Fourth Circuit” and “Tell me if this clause in a lease violates the California law, and if so, rewrite it so it’s no longer in violation.” On first reading, it almost seems like Harvey could replace attorneys, generate legal arguments, and file drafts at any time. But Pereyra insists on the fact that it is not.
“We want Harvey to serve as the intermediary between the technology and the lawyer, as a natural language interface with the law,” he said. “Harvey will make lawyers more efficient, enabling them to produce higher quality work and spend more time on the most important aspects of their work. Harvey provides a unified, intuitive interface for all legal workflows, allowing attorneys to describe tasks in plain language instead of using a suite of complex, specialized tools for niche tasks.
It’s a powerful thing in theory. But it’s also heavy. Given the highly sensitive nature of most legal disputes, lawyers and law firms may be reluctant to give a tool like Harvey access to all case documents. There is also the question of the propensity of linguistic models to spring toxicity and made up factswhich would be particularly unwelcome — if not perjury — in court.
This is why Harvey, which is currently in beta, comes with a disclaimer: the tool is not intended to provide legal advice to non-lawyers and should be used under the supervision of licensed lawyers.
On the issue of data privacy, Pereyra says Harvey strives to meet customers’ compliance needs, by anonymizing user data and deleting data after a predetermined amount of time. Users can delete data at any time upon request, he says, and rest assured that Harvey does not “contaminate” data between customers.
It’s the beginning. But already, Pereyra says Harvey is used “by users across the legal landscape,” ranging from law firms to legal aid organizations.
It faces some competition. Casetext uses AI, primarily GPT-3, to find legal cases and help with general legal research and brief writing. More surgical tools like Clarity use AI to take the drudgery out of contract review. At one point, startup Augrented was even exploring ways to leverage GPT-3 to summarize legal opinions or other sources in plain language to help tenants defend their rights.
On the one hand, Brad Lightcap, CCO of OpenAI and manager of the OpenAI Startup Fund, believes that Harvey is sufficiently differentiated. It will also benefit from the relationship with OpenAI; OpenAI Startup Fund participants receive early access to new OpenAI systems and Azure resources from Microsoft in addition to capital.
“We believe Harvey will have a transformative impact on our legal system, enabling attorneys to more efficiently deliver higher quality legal services to more clients,” Lightcap said via email. “We launched the OpenAI Seed Fund to support companies using powerful AI to impact society, and Harvey’s vision for how AI can increase access to legal services and improve results fits perfectly with our mission.”
Harvey has a staff of five and Pereyra expects that number to grow to five to ten employees by the end of the year. He didn’t answer when asked about turnovers.