Harvey, who uses AI to answer legal questions, receives cash from OpenAI • TechCrunch
Harvey, a startup building a so-called “Copilot for Lawyers,” emerged today with $5 million from the cloak being led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, the tranche through which OpenAI and its partners in AI companies in early-stage investing that tackle big problems. Also joining the panel was Jeff Dean, the head of Google AI, Google’s AI research arm. and Elad Gil, co-founder of Mixer Labs, among other Angel supporters.
Harvey was founded by Winston Weinberg, a former securities and antitrust litigator at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, and Gabriel Pereyra, previously a research scientist at DeepMind, Google Brain (another Google AI group), and Meta AI. Weinberg and Pereyra are roommates – Pereyra demonstrated 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 to their existing legal processes,” Pereyra said in an email interview with TechCrunch. “Rather than manually editing legal documents or conducting legal research, Harvey allows attorneys to describe the task they want to perform in simple instructions and receive the result generated. To make this possible, Harvey leverages large language models to both understand user intent and generate the right output.”
More specifically, Harvey can answer questions asked in natural language, such as “Tell me what the differences are between an employee and an independent contractor in the Fourth Circuit” and “Tell me whether this clause in a lease violates California law violates it, and if it does, rewrite it so it no longer violates him.” On first reading, it almost seems as if Harvey could replace attorneys, generate legal arguments, and submit drafts on the fly. But Pereyra insists that is not the case.
“We want Harvey to act as a liaison between technology and law, a natural language interface to the law,” he said. “Harvey will make lawyers more efficient so they can produce better quality work and spend more time on the valuable parts of their work. Harvey provides a consistent and intuitive user interface for all legal workflows, allowing lawyers to describe tasks in plain English rather than using a complex and specialized set of tools for niche tasks.”
In theory, it’s powerful stuff. But it’s also full. Given the highly sensitive nature of most litigation, attorneys and law firms might be reluctant to give a tool like Harvey access to case documents. There is also the question of the propensity of language models to spread toxicity and made-up facts that would be particularly badly received – if not sworn – in court.
For this reason, 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 attorneys.
In terms of privacy, Pereyra says Harvey strives to meet customers’ compliance needs, anonymizing user data and deleting data after a set time. Users can delete data at any time upon request, he says, taking comfort in the knowledge that Harvey doesn’t “cross-contaminate” data between clients.
It is still early. But already, Pereyra says Harvey is used “by users across the legal landscape,” from law firms to legal aid organizations.
It faces some competition. Casetext uses AI, primarily GPT-3, to find legal cases and assist with general legal research and executive summaries. More surgical tools like Klarity use AI to remove drudgery from contract review. At one point, startup Augrented even looked for ways to use GPT-3 to summarize legal notices or other sources in plain English to help renters defend their rights.
For one, Brad Lightcap, CCO of OpenAI and manager of the OpenAI Startup Fund, believes Harvey is sufficiently differentiated. It will also benefit from the relationship with OpenAI; In addition to capital, participants in the OpenAI Startup Fund receive early access to new OpenAI systems and Azure resources from Microsoft.
“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 created the OpenAI Startup Fund to support companies using powerful AI to make impact at societal levels, and Harvey’s vision of how AI can improve access to legal services and improve outcomes aligns perfectly with ours Mission.”
Harvey has a team of five, and Pereyra expects that number to grow to between five and 10 by the end of the year. When asked about the sales figures, he did not want to answer.