Canada now has its first legal incubator.
Created by Chris Bentley and Hersh Perlis, and billed as a space to develop innovative solutions to make Canada’s legal system and services “smarter, faster, and better,” the Ryerson Legal Innovation Zone (“LIZ”) brought an enthusiastic group of innovators, public servants, academics, and students together in celebrating its launch yesterday.
Sheldon Levy, President of Ryerson University, described the contribution that the LIZ can make to today’s changing economy: “It’s about giving young people a chance not just to be the employees, but to be the employers,” he said in his opening remarks. “Young people will listen intently to people’s problems and develop solutions to them. Those solutions may disturb some old people,” he said, to some chuckles from the crowd, “but young people can’t be stopped.”
The young legal entrepreneurs in the room surely knew what Levy was referring to when he commented on resistance to new ideas. But Noah Waisberg of Kira, a provider of contract review and analysis tools and Shelby Austin of ATD Legal, Deloitte’s document review branch, and Sahil Zaman of Closing Folders also understand the rewards that are garnered by disruptive new processes and technologies. Their presence at the launch was demonstrative of the growing community of legal innovators in Toronto, who now have a place to exchange stories and ideas, and to connect with young entrepreneurs in need of mentorship and resources.
Carla Goldstein, formerly of Seyfarth Lean and now Director of Strategic Initiatives and Associate General Counsel at BMO Financial Group, spoke to the crowd about feeling like she “went into a box” when she started her legal career in a traditional law firm. “Can the right brain exist in a left-brained system?” she asked the attendees. No spoilers here; it can, but making change in a conservative profession is a challenge. This is why Goldstein is supporting the LIZ as a place where people who want to create solutions can really let their minds go, or as she said somewhat teasingly, stand on your head, rather than sitting at a desk trying without success to create something new.
I was chatting with Peter Carayiannis of Conduit Law, who was characterising the LIZ as a potential ``centre of gravity`` for legal innovation in Toronto, when he exclaimed, ``I`ve just launched a new app!`` Pulling out his cell phone, he walked me through the operations of StandIn, a location-based app that matches lawyers with other lawyers, agents, and legal professionals for court appearances. It`s slick and easy to use, but also clearly meets the needs of certain communities within our bar, i.e. the busy criminal defence bar. His co-founder, Andrew Johnston, had developed the idea through Reinvent Law while a law student at the Michigan State University College of Law. Reinvent Law is widely known as a smart and effective ecosystem for creating legal innovations. Andrew wondered if he would have been able to come up with this idea had he not been at Reinvent Law, commenting that ``I wish there were more spaces like Reinvent Law here in Canada.” Judging by who was in that room, and the enthusiasm they brought to the launch, it`s clear that LIZ will be that space – and that is worth a great celebration. Congratulations, LIZ!
Photo: From left to right, Noah Waisberg, Shelby Austin, Peter Caryannis, and Andrew Johnston, co-founder of StandIn.