Harvey, a startup building what it describes as a “copilot for lawyers,” emerged from stealth today with $5 million in funding led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, the tranche through which OpenAI and its partners invest in early stage AI companies that take on problems . Google AI leader Jeff Dean and Mixer Labs co-founder Elad Gil also participated in the round.
Harvey was founded by Winston Weinberg, a former securities and antitrust litigator at law firm O’Melveny & Myers, and Gabriel Pereyra, formerly a research scientist at DeepMind, Google Brain (another of Google’s AI group), and Meta AI. Weinberg and Pereyra are roommates — Pereyra showed Weinberg OpenAI’s GPT-3 text-generating system and Weinberg realized it could be used to improve legal workflows.
“Our product provides attorneys with a natural language interface to their existing legal workflows,” Pereyra told londonbusinessblog.com in an email interview. “Instead of manually editing legal documents or conducting legal research, Harvey allows lawyers to describe the task they want to accomplish in simple instructions and receive the generated result. To make this possible, Harvey uses large language models to both understand user intent and generate the right output.”
More concretely, Harvey can answer natural language questions such as, “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 California law, and if so, rewrite it so that it no longer contradicts.” On the surface, it almost seems like Harvey could replace lawyers by coming up with legal arguments and submitting designs in the blink of an eye, but Pereyra insists that’s not the case.
“We want Harvey to act as a go-between between technology and lawyer, as a natural language interface for the law,” he said. “Harvey will make lawyers more efficient, enabling them to deliver higher quality work and spend more time on the valuable parts of their jobs. Harvey provides a unified and intuitive interface for all legal workflows, enabling attorneys to describe tasks in plain English rather than using a suite of complex and specialized tools for niche tasks.”
It’s powerful stuff in theory. But it is also fraught. Given the highly sensitive nature of most legal disputes, lawyers and law firms may be reluctant to allow a tool like Harvey to access court documents. There is also the issue of the tendency of language models to spill toxicity and fabricated factswhich would be particularly badly received – if not perjury – in court.
Therefore, Harvey, which is currently in beta, has a disclaimer: the tool is not intended to provide legal advice to non-lawyers and should be used under the supervision of licensed attorneys.
On the data privacy issue, Pereyra says Harvey goes to great lengths to meet customers’ compliance needs, anonymizing user data and deleting data after a predetermined amount of time. Users can delete data at any time upon request, he says, taking comfort in the fact that Harvey doesn’t “cross-contaminate” data between customers.
It’s early days. But Pereyra already says Harvey is being used “by users across the legal landscape,” ranging from law firms to legal aid organizations.
It has some competition. Casetext uses AI, primarily GPT-3, to find court cases and assist with general legal research tasks and brief drafting. More surgical tools, like Klarity, are using AI to get the contract review out of the way. At one point, startup Augrented even explored ways to use GPT-3 to summarize legal notices or other resources in plain English to help tenants defend their rights.
First, Brad Lightcap, the CCO of OpenAI and the manager of the OpenAI Startup Fund, believes Harvey is sufficiently differentiated. It will also benefit from its relationship with OpenAI; OpenAI Startup Fund participants will 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, empowering attorneys to more efficiently provide higher quality legal services to more clients,” Lightcap said via email. “We started the OpenAI Startup Fund to support companies using powerful AI to increase impact on society, and Harvey’s vision of how AI can increase access to legal services and improve outcomes is fully in line with our mission .”
Harvey has a five-person team and Pereyra expects that number to grow to five to ten employees by the end of the year. He declined to answer questions about sales figures.