Legal technology company CodeLex is a developer of legaltech projects as part of the Irbis Ventures (formerly ‘M Lab’) ecosystem. Incorporated in Mongolia and Singapore, and with a core team based in Ulaanbaatar, Singapore and Tokyo, CodeLex projects aim to streamline and add value to the practice of law and delivery of legal services. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, CodeLex Founders Zolzaya Mundur and Maizorig Janchivdorj explain the inspiration for the founding the company, their future plans, how they help lawyers streamline their practices and what inspired them to pursue careers in legal tech.
What is Codelex and what inspired its’ founding?
Maizorig: Codelex is a developer of Legal Tech projects founded in Mongolia in 2018. We are the first Legal Tech company in Mongolia. Codelex’s founding is inspired by future possibilities presented in the books Tomorrow’s lawyer by Richard Susskind and The Fourth Industrial revolution by Klaus Schwab. Having witnessed an increase in the “more for less” challenge as a practicing lawyer, I truly believe in the idea that current legal industry needs to and will transform itself utilizing and leveraging innovation and possibilities brought by IT. Our projects aim at adding value to this transformation of the legal industry which will result in enhanced access to justice and more efficient legal service and practice of law.
The experiences of other industries show that you can either disrupt or be disrupted. Unless lawyers with the knowledge of how the industry operates take action, then disruption will come from elsewhere. I was afraid the industry will be disrupted by some ‘nerds’ who do not have a clear insight into the essence of legal service, and in doing so possibly damaging core legal professional values.
Also, I should note that technological innovations enable everyone with computer and access to the internet to play at global scale despite their nationality or location. This advantage encouraged me to try and develop something, which could be in need of thousands of lawyers around the globe like myself. Why not from Mongolia?
Zolzaya: As of now, Codelex is implementing 3 Legal Tech projects· eLawyer, Lexub, and Codelex. First of our projects is eLawyer – a law practice management software developed for the Mongolian market. eLawyer was launched in March 2019. By saving time spent on repetitive tasks and providing procedural guidelines and first-ever conflict check feature under Mongolian law, eLawyer’s goal is to help lawyers to become a better lawyer and practice more efficiently. In the future, we envision eLawyer as a professional platform where lawyers manage their practice and share their knowledge and insights.
Another project on its pre-launch stage that we are planning to launch in September is Lexub, lawyer-to-lawyer legal document marketplace. Lexub enables monetization of legal document examples and templates and facilitates the sharing of situational insight and approach. By doing so, lawyers will be able to commoditize their legal documents which we see as a perfect example of adopting the sharing economy in the legal industry.
Based on eLawyer and Lexub, we further aim to develop Al-assisted contract drafting tool, Codelex. Codelex is currently on its ideation and research stage and is expected to launch its alpha version early 2021. CodeLex aims at reducing human error, time, and cost associated with drafting complicated contracts.
How does Codelex help law firms and lawyers?
Maizorig: The unifying goal of CodeLex projects is to contribute to the next generation of the legal industry. Like any other practice management software, eLawyer seeks to help lawyers and law firms by assisting them to manage their practice efficiently. In addition to this general benefit, other eLawyer innovations include a lawyer/law firm website creator, conflict check feature, and procedural guidance under the Mongolian law. For example, many solo practitioners and small law firms fail at spending resources on building/maintaining a proper website that is capable of attracting clients. With eLawyer’s built-in web/profile creator, lawyers and law firms can build their website in 6 simple steps for only US$20 a year. eLawyer also provides its users with local law compliant reminders or instructions when they track their time. In short, through these sorts of features, eLawyer helps lawyers and law firms to work smarter and better.
As for Lexub, we aim at solving two separate problems faced by lawyers. On one hand, it is common for lawyers who are drafting unfamiliar types of contract to look for example contracts or templates early in the thinking process. In this case, lawyers practicing solo or working at a job where there is no internal knowledge database, such as small law firms or enterprises tend to ask a peer for an example contract or go online. While on the other hand, many lawyers own contracts or other legal documents they’ve spent a lot of time drafting but no longer able to make use of. Lexub matches these two interests so that lawyers can buy or freely download contract examples they need while the others can monetize their contracts.
Compared to ‘big law’ law firms with multiple paralegals and associates, the majority of small law firms and solo practitioners spend a decent amount of their time for tasks that is necessary to deliver legal service, but not actually legal in nature, including word processing and drafting. Codelex will help lawyers to focus on issues that really need lawyers’ skills. We anticipate once CodeLex is live and operational, lawyers will be able to focus more on legal and commercial oriented tasks than editing, word processing, or ensuring proper expression of words used in contracts.
Where is Codelex currently operating and what are your key markets of operation?
Zolzaya: We have incorporated in Mongolia and Singapore, with the team in Ulaanbaatar, Tokyo, and Singapore. eLawyer was developed for the Mongolian market. However, we see that there is good potential for re-badging for use in other developing economies with under-served small to mid-sized legal practices.
Lexub has no jurisdiction and language restriction, which means lawyers from around the world can monetize their contract templates on any language or jurisdiction. However, the initial market development focus is ASEAN, with the Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand being targeted in the first instance. In terms of market focus, we expect the potential difference in usage varied by jurisdictions and user types. At this moment, we see that small to mid-sized firms, specialists and contracting lawyers are likely to be early adopters in terms of recognizing the potential to monetize their intellectual property and further build awareness, while on the buy/demand-side things look likely to align more broadly on a geographical supply/demand axis – weighting towards business being done cross-border. Indications to date show interested buyers will include a wider set of firms and in-house teams.
What are Codelex’s plans for the future?
Maizorig: 4 months after its launch, eLawyer has acquired 20% of its Mongolian target market. We aim at maintaining this pace of market acquisition in Mongolia. Also, we are exploring opportunities to scale the product to a number of countries in ASEAN and Central Asia. We’d be happy to discuss partnership or licensing opportunities in these regions.
After the launch, Lexub’s key focus will be on broadening its database of legal documents and becoming an online library of legal documents. So we will work closely with the potential sellers (lawyers) through spreading the awareness of Lexub’s benefits. As I mentioned earlier, Lexub’s initial region of focus is ASEAN. But our ultimate goal is to make Lexub a jurisdiction and language-free legal document marketplace. So, once we successfully build awareness and have a sufficient user base in ASEAN, we will broaden our focus to other regions.
As for CodeLex, we are in the early stages of conceptualizing an AI-assisted contract drafting tool. Steps to follow include collecting necessary data from various sources and validating the technologies to be used. Technology changes extremely fast, incomparable to the legal industry we are familiar with. A technology or solution can become useless very fast. Therefore, while we are conceptualizing Codelex, we are trying to keeping ourselves up-to-date with new developments and keeping open and engaged with the community for ideas and opportunities.
What inspired you to follow a career in legal technology?
Maizorig: I’m a partner of MDS KhanLex LLP, a Mongolian law firm. I’ve worked in the legal industry for 17 years in both public and private sector. Summer of 2017, I received a call from my client, which was negotiating multi-million dollars’ EPC contract with a potential contractor in China. I had to fly to Beijing to handle an emergency where all commercial terms of the EPC contract are negotiated but not documented properly. I went directly to a meeting room of a hotel and started to reflect final understanding and agreements into the draft contract. For straight 2 days and night, we negotiated details and reflected the agreement into the contracts. My client advised us to prepare all documents to be signed before midnight, however, the reality was we were checking bits of details here and there while parties sign the contract. The hardest part of this exercise was not a discussion and negotiation of details, rather it was to reflect such agreed understanding into the proper section of the document. So my quest to find a solution softly started then and become more and more concrete as I research further.
Zolzaya: To me, it was the notion behind Legal Tech that pulled me toward it. I worked with Maizorig at MDS KhanLex as an associate. I didn’t utilize much Legal Tech while practicing. There were many days I used to work till very late while practicing. Now looking back, I’m pretty sure many of the works involved tasks that could have been simplified using tech. After 3 years of practicing, I went to United States to get LLM. After I came back from the US, Maizorig asked me to join him on a legal tech project. Back then, I was not fully sure whether I should deviate from practice of law and get into a completely new world. However, the more I studied about legal tech, it started to appeal to me more and more. I have come to realize that legal tech solutions not only could have saved me from those late nights at work but has the potential to make the legal industry itself more efficient and accessible.