Innovation

What Makes Contracts Easier to Understand

Beagle uses artificial intelligence to clarify legal documents. How founder Cian O'Sullivan came up with the idea and how it could help you

Written by As told to Murad Hemmadi

A lawyer by training, Cian O’Sullivan spent several years as a contract negotiator before founding Beagle in 2014. The Kitchener, Ont. startup’s product uses artificial intelligence to analyze contracts and facilitates real-time collaboration and review of documents.

Cian_OSullivan-Beagle-P_Robert_Caruso-Change_Agent_March_2016-300x450Beagle founder Cian O’Sullivan. Photo: Roberto Caruso

A friend was bidding on a construction job. He asked me on a Friday to take a quick look at the contract.

He sent it over, and it was 90 pages long. By Saturday afternoon, I was on page number 40 and my fourth beer and I had a eureka moment: What does “quick look” mean? If I put 10 lawyers or contract experts in a room with highlighters and said, “You’ve got a quick look and 10 minutes,” there are common things that they would all identify.

It’s simple things: Who’s responsible for what? How do you get out of it? What happens if things go south? I thought, “There has to be a way that we can automate that.” So I wrote a program that weekend to pull out key things that my friend needed to know. He ended up getting the construction job he was bidding on, because he understood the contract.

According to the American Bar Association, 93% of small- and medium-sized businesses don’t use a lawyer for commercial activity.

I spent months showing people the concept, to really flush out exactly what the value was for the business that has a monster contract but not the time or the resources to hire a lawyer to draw out every single detail.

Beagle uses artificial intelligence to scan a contract automatically for you, highlighting key areas like responsibilities, liabilities and termination rights. By doing that in seconds—instead of hours or days—we give a lot of power to the individual business decision-maker to ensure they know what steps to take next. And there are machine learning-driven sharing, review, and collaboration tools, so you can review a particular section or clause with colleagues or lawyers. As you collaborate, the system learns and automatically improves.

We certainly don’t think it should replace individual due diligence. We don’t tell you whether it’s legal or not, or whether it’s good or bad—that’s up to you.

This article is from the March 2016 issue of Canadian BusinessSubscribe now!

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com