The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

CBA/ABC National

Five startups, five questions: Knomos

August 1 2016 1 August 2016

As part of a weekly series leading up to The Pitch, the first-ever legal innovation startup competition hosted by the Canadian Bar Association and LegalX, we’re asking each finalist the same 5 questions.  This week’s Q&A is with Adam La France (pictured above), co-foudner and CEO of Knomos, an outfit based in Vancouver that uses data visualization and deep machine learning to build legal research software.

CBA National: What made you realize that you wanted to build a business?

Adam La France: I didn’t set out to chase the “startup dream” but simply to solve a big problem: how to make the law easier to navigate and more accessible for all. At a certain point in my legal career I grew tired of saying "There's got to be a better way" and decided to do something about it.

We formed Knomos when we realized just how widespread the problem of accessibility is for both legal professionals and citizens alike. There’s a massive industry need for the next-generation of legal research and knowledge sharing tools that can change the way we see and understand the law.

N: What unique problem are you trying to solve?

AL: Current legal research and knowledge sharing tools aren't scalable; users are caught in a continuous research loop that’s disconnected from the knowledge of their peers and the broader legal community. Unfortunately this problem is all too common, rather it's our solution that's unique!

Knomos leverages data visualization and machine learning to augment user experience and develop a connected knowledge network for legal information. Knowledge networks are based on the idea that it’s not just what you know; that it’s who you know (and what they know).

Users benefit from an instant visual overview of how multiple legal sources relate to one another, with enhanced discoverability of key results based on contextual data from other users in their organization or the community.

N: What insight do you have about the legal marketplace that is the one thing traditional legal service providers don’t want to hear?

AL: As public legal information is increasingly being made freely available online thanks to open data initiatives, the value add of legal service providers can no longer be based on simply providing access to content alone.

For too long, the status quo of legal information technology has been limited to nothing more than a digital copy of the physical version (a static, text-heavy, linear document), hidden behind a (pay)walled garden of content.

A paradigm shift is happening in law: legal service providers must adapt from being gatekeepers of information to legal "sherpas”: trusted guides helping their clients get where they're going. The industry's core value proposition is shifting from basic access to content & assistance with a process to higher value adds of providing trusted advice and legal counsel.

N: What’s your take on the legal start-up scene?

AL: It's an exciting time to be involved in a legal tech startup. More than ever before there's a groundswell of interest from key industry stakeholders and domain experts in both the public and private sectors committed to solving the challenges faced by an evolving legal profession.

That said, legal startups still face steep odds that require dedicated mentorship, financing, and industry support in order to bring innovative solutions to market. There's a real maturation process occurring, especially in Canada, as the national legal tech community continues to grow.

N: What do you think is the best thing since sliced bread?

AL: The show Silicon Valley is a great piece of satire, making you laugh and cringe simultaneously as it hits close to home. It’s a good reminder not too take yourself too seriously even if you're serious about solving big problems.

Self-driving cars, augmented reality, and reusable rockets are pretty cool too!

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