However, I am a little concerned about the viability of this concept in terms of producing a valuable analysis. A true analysis considers the context of a document. For instance, a one-year term is a common residential lease clause. However, what if the tenant was under a 6 month employment contract and needed to change locations? The algorithm would not know this and would not flag the clause. Or what if the tenant was 17 years old and couldn't legally sign contracts in the first place?
Sometimes interpretation of a contract comes down to the exact wording of a contract. Most boilerplate language is the result of years of evolution and precedent. A summary might subtly change or obscure the meaning.
Finally, you are getting very close, if not into, the unauthorized practice of law. I recommend contacting your state bar association for feedback.
That being said, I input my email address into your website and look forward to monitoring your progress.
I have to disagree with you re: viability. Not only does most of our work lend itself well to automation (discovery, researching precedent, and predicting case outcomes), but this particular startup is aimed squarely at the most obvious domain where humans mostly aren't needed anymore: formulating contracts. Translating boilerplate legalese into natural language and running both parties through checklists of essential elements seems like an obvious solution to an expensive problem. I really don't see why 99% of contracts can't be automated outside of high-level practice.
Nor do I really understand your examples. I can't recall the last time anyone I know hired a lawyer to sign a rental agreement, nor do I see any reason why contract software wouldn't first check that both parties are legally competent.
Finally, I'm pretty uncomfortable with the idea that "if you automate our profession, our protectionist guild will go after you." You're not wrong, and it would be wise for LawGeex to stay wary -- of all trades, the lawyers are going to fight tooth and nail to stay relevant -- but startups like LawGeex or RocketLawyer are clearly far more in the public interest than our ludicrously expensive middleman services. We may as well ban self-driving cars because the Teamsters want to keep dangerous, error-prone human truckers.
As a member of the State Bar of California, I can only wish it acted as a guild protecting my interests. Quite the contrary, it has an adversarial relationship with its members from overseeing the attorney discipline system to enforcing continuing education rules. It is more about consumer protection than attorney protection. I see your point, though.
I know the OP was talking about residential leases; however, in the span of ~3 years I would say I have been retained ~100 times to review/negotiate/revise commercial lease (rental) agreements.
The real value would be comparing the results of LawGeex with a lawyer's legal opinion for the same contract. Even then, it is easy enough to say one could compare 2 attorney legal opinions of a contract and have drastically different opinions, or that while a LawGeex contract review may be identical to an attorney on one contract, it may not on another.
Don't want to give the necessary 30-60min? Don't write so long of a contract, or figure out a way to do without.
 20% is to remove any margin of error in the calculation; the exact amount is configurable
It seems like something that is never taught yet is an ever present part of our lives. It also seems like one would have a hard time accomplishing anything today because there are contracts for everything, many with clauses one would otherwise not want to accept.
1) The language itself.
Contracts are written in English (at least in the U.S.), so anyone with a strong understanding of English can read one top to bottom and comprehend what it is saying.
Experience in analyzing writing (like from a few college English courses) can help a lot, both in learning to quickly parse sentences, and in learning to infer motivations from the language on the page. You always want to be able to answer "why did they write it this way? What are they trying to get?"
2) What is typical and standard in contracts.
You can only get this from experience--from reading a lot of contracts--because it's often industry-specific.
For example, many software contracts, even 6 figure enterprise deals, include an ALL CAPS DISCLAIMER OF LIABILITY. THIS SOFTWARE IS OFFERED AS-IS AND WITHOUT WARRANTY. WE DON'T GUARANTEE THIS WILL WORK FOR YOUR PURPOSES, OR INDEED, WORK AT ALL.
I'm exaggerating, but not by much. This is a totally standard clause in the software industry, so whether or not you like it, you generally just have to swallow it if you want to do the deal
Likewise, most EULAs are very similar to one another. Once you've carefully read a few of them, you can quickly skim for the important bits (copyright, liability, data sharing) on new ones.
3) What the law says.
Contracts can't break the law. For example a contract that contains lies would be fraudulent. A contract that says you need to speed or drive drunk is not enforceable. A contract that says you can commit murder would not protect you from prosecution.
This is probably the hardest area to build knowledge, without going to law school. For me, it has helped to read news stories and good forums like HN. For example, I know that non-compete clauses in employment contracts are unenforceable in California, because so many people have said so.
There are some lawyers who post here--grellas for example--and AMAs from lawyers on Reddit are helpful too.
If I affirm a statement, it is generally understood to be me agreeing with/supporting the statement. But if I affirm an appeal, I am supporting the original ruling that was appealed, which is in a very basic sense the opposite of what affirming an appeal would be seen as to most people using the English definition.
4) What is enforceable? What contractual violations will either party invest in enforcing? Enforcement may require too much time or money (e.g., it's not worth suing over $1,000), or it may disrupt valuable relationships (e.g., if the contract is with a customer who accounts for 50% of sales, you are unlikely to sue them).
If you don't have the confidence to ask for time to consider or seek advice about a contract you've been asked to sign, that is a different problem.
 In some jurisdictions there is a statutory 'cooling off' period for particular classes of contract (eg five business days for the sale of residential property) during which the purchaser can decide not to proceed, but there is no such need in relation to commercial transactions generally.
We encounter too many of these on a daily basis, on things required simply to participate in modern life, to read/understand the vast majority of them.
I also only referred to contracts that are signed. Signatures are important: as a general rule, you are taken to have read and understood the terms of any contract you have signed. If you agree to the terms of a contract without signing (eg many of the examples you mention, or oral acceptance, or clicking a button) there is generally no such assumption. Whether that will afford you any greater measure of relief if you later want to get out of the contract depends on the individual case, but there are circumstances in which it will.
As for the rest of contract law, this very thread exists because of the problem of people not actually reading contracts. We can't make people read them, and we can't make sure that people understand what a contract contains.
What we can do is show that one of the requirements for a contract hasn't been met.
I'm totally fine with skipping this requirement if it is the 2nd or later time you've signed the contract. I would also say that a business that wrote the contract has obviously met the time requirement already. This types of details are flexible and open to negotiation.
I am simply suggesting that trowing a multi-page contract at someone and letting them sign it seconds later shouldn't count as a valid contract, and that we can now calculate a lower bound length of time. It would be nice if this encouraged shorter contracts in some situations or favoring common language over what most people consider obtuse legalease, but this is not required.
 but maybe we should
 the "meeting of the minds", or mutual agreement to the contents of the contract and requirements of each party
I think building in a cooling off period is not likely to incentivise people to take the time to read and understand their contracts. The experience of reading and trying to understand a contract is too unpleasant. Could the experience be made more pleasant? I don't know, but if you find a way to crack that nut, you might find a unicorn inside.
That, technically, is not what I'm proposing.
I suggest a burden on businesses or other parties that want to require a contract, in the form of a forced delay roughly proportional to the length/complexity of the contract they wish to use.
In practice, I expect businesses will find this unacceptable. They would therefor work to find some alternative solution.
It might be that there wasn't a need for contracts in some situations, or that the contract language could be made much simpler/shorter. Alternatively, maybe a handful of "well known" standard contracts could become popular, similar in style to the Creative Commons licenses.
We cannot (and should not) avoid complex contracts entirely, but we might be able to fix a lot of common "simple" situations that shouldn't use a complex contract that few people read. By setting up the time burden, I expect complex contract (that might already have a "cooling off" period) wouldn't be significantly affected, but everyday small-time stuff will be incentivised to move away from the current practice of throwing usually-one-sided legalease at everything.
 I have often heard that the reason our current credit card system hasn't been updated to something with actual security (chip+pin, one time numbers, some sort of callback system, etc) is that any of these better methods would slow down transactions, resulting in less sales. Regardless of this being true or not, I'm attempting to utilize the perception.
Should an individual be bound by an agreement they did not understand when they entered into it? Take phone contracts. Every time I've spoken with a sales person, they outright lied to me about the contract. I'm one of the only individuals who sit down and read the contract realizing where they lied to me. But friend and parents are far more trusting and have been tricked numerous times.
Given the evidence that companies are exploiting both customer's trust and customers limited understanding (especially when you consider that many below average individuals are signing these contracts), I feel these contracts should be just as valid as a contract signed by a 7 year old.
It's a lower bound. Failure to satisfy that bound can then be seen as prima facie evidence that the has not been a "meeting of the minds", due to one party being given sufficient time to even read the contract.
As I tried to imply, there are various configurable details here that would need to be negotiated; I just believe that some sort of minimum bound should be established in law. The alternative is to allow the current trend of de facto contracts of adhesion to grow.
 or whatever the length of time is calculated to be - I just made up this number
It's one thing if you have hundreds of pages of legalese in front of you - I can see the value of a service such as this, or hiring your own lawyer for such cases - but for a few pages, five minutes of your time max, I just don't understand why so many people don't take the time to do so.
One habit I've noticed in highly successful people is that they don't skim over bits of contracts (something I'm certainly guilty of); everything is read in detail.
Does anyone have any anecdotal stories about successful people not taking 10 minutes to read a contract?
1. People perceive they don't have a choice. For example when you visit the doctor and you have to sign 12 different form/contracts. Most people believe they either sign them or don't get treated.
2. Fear of not understanding. They think they wouldn't understand they legalese even if they tried, so why even bother? Personally I don't blame them. I've read contracts that were so wordy and had so much legalese in them you'd be convinced the lawyers wrote them that way just so everyone involved would need to hire as many lawyers as possible simply to understand the darn thing.
It's a habit I picked up from being in the music business for years, specifically being a concert promoter in my early 20's, where it's absolutely standard and normal practice to get a contract, red-line or change the stuff that doesn't apply or doesn't work for you, and return it. A good example would be striking language like "or for any other reason" at the end of a cancellation clause, or changing terms from perpetuity to 12 months, stuff like that.
I've since done it at doctor's offices, when renting or buying things, when signing a simple freelancing contract, and many other contexts. It's much less confrontational, after all you do sign it and hand it back to them, putting the onus on them to deal with it if it's a problem. I recommend this approach highly if you're the type to care.
Why couldn't that have been sent with the others? To pressure people into signing.
Heck, I've even had medical doctors insist that I don't need to read something before signing it, just "get the gist" so they can go ahead with the appointment.
Edit2: I almost think the world is designed around prodding you not to read the contract, by any means necessary, and then holding you personally responsible for it. Like, imagine parking garages. Try asking for a contract there and see what happens. Let's say you don't like the terms. Then what? They make everyone back out of the single lane entry while glaring at you? What about negotiating the terms? And good luck expecting them not to assert rights they can't legally get via contract.
I still find both explanations a bit strange, though. I mean, wouldn't you at least like to know whether there are any restrictions on operating a company from your rented accommodation, even if you perceive that you don't have any choice in it? Or even just where you stand in general?
I've also read some crazy legalese, but the thing is that I've read a heck of a lot more contracts that aren't legalese, and are very easy to understand.
That leaves me wondering whether it's the common introductory bits (e.g. that state "THE TENANT is John Smith") that make people give up early?
For the overwhelming majority of business interactions most individuals participate in, they're the weaker party by a large margin. The notion that any substantial portion of contracts and business agreements are being freely made between equals is a fiction. Degrees of coercion are everywhere. Consider: it's common to require candidates for low-wage jobs to take a piss test. If they say no, someone else will agree because they need the money. The business can afford to be at 98% capacity (or just overwork their employees) for another couple of days—an individual may not be able to afford an income of $0.00 for another couple of days. The job is worth more to the candidate than the (particular) candidate is to the employer. Agree, but insist your potential manager show you the results of a piss test, too? Laughed out of the room. Equals? Not even close.
Yadda yadda yadda this is the reason we have laws and don't just rely on contacts for everything. Also why unions exist (and why they must require membership, or else be largely ineffective) for employment issues specifically.
What's starting to emerge is the concept of a WiFi-only device which is usable for voice / messaging when within network range, but not otherwise.
I agree with you generally vis-a-vis power relations -- that's really a highly underappreciated element of economics, though Smith's own second discussion of wealth begins: "Wealth, as Mr Hobbes says, is power".
More generally, organizing politically to prohibit such measures is necessary.
Not merely "making them unlawful to use for discrimination", as there are plenty of other unrestricted grounds for discrimination. But prohibiting outright.
I'll note that there's discussions that happen as well. WallMart's story on HN had a substantial discussion of their mandatory drug test requirement.
It's not a particularly interesting anecdote. The anecdotes aren't interesting. Nothing ever came of not reading the contracts, but they were successful people who didn't take ten minutes to read a contract.
Also the rental companies have a an incentive to not be featured in a 60 minutes style expose.
One does not require a software license in order to use it. An elevator may be controlled by software, without having to sign an EULA. I have seen Stallman using a network connection where the router ran a non-free OS and where he did not sign a license agreement in order to use it.
TBH, I was actually meaning just the software that you have to click agree to or that has the 'by signing up with an account, you agree...'. I may not have worded it fully accurate for my intention, and if so I apologize for the confusion.
I have had employers and peers ridicule me when I take my time to always read everything in the contract, and I simply dont care, I will continue to do it anyway.
If I took the time to read and comprehend each of those (while looking for changes in one I've read before, after all there's usually a "terms may change without prior notice" clause), I wouldn't have done anything else this morning.
Most EULAs have very little original content and dont require deep analysis.
Considering those 2-3 things you signed up for or agreed to meant, even insignificantly, that you have given away something of your rights, I think it absolutely behooves anyone to spend the time to decide if those random websites are worth it if they make you agree to a EULA that is pages and pages long.
The point about terms may change without prior notice is fair, I still struggle to regularly read the various changes to the TOS for things as simple as my credit card (which have way WAY shittier contracts to read compared to a EULA).
Wile I have seen some services which could provide a diff and notify you on changes, I have decided it is better to not use abusive services instead of play a game of cat and mouse with them.
Still, I see some totally one-sided (and what I believe to be unenforceable) terms sometimes and I may sign anyway. For the other party to actually get what they want requires a lot more work than just getting my signature, and I'm firmly in the "Fucking sue me" camp. Classic blog post from Pud that everyone worried about contracts should read: http://pud.com/post/10103947044/fucking-sue-me
AI lawyers giving plain language information and indicating areas where you want to get a real lawyer involved sound pretty neat.
@lawgeex: Your Headline with the Register-Button is weirdly aligned to the left in my browser (Win+FF), not sure if this is intentional. It looks wrong, as all the following sections are well centered.
I tried to upload the following as a .docx document but got the 'Unsupported document' error.
Landlord permits you to stay in the property for 6 months from 1 January 2016.
In consideration you agree to provide Landlord with your firstborn within 30 days of his/her birth, or in the absence of children prior to 1 December 2020, $1,000,000 no later than 1 January 2021.
Finally, any stats on the territory breakdown between the 60k documents that have been uploaded? Would be fascinated to see this!
Residential leases seems like one of the worst contract markets to start off with. Firstly, because what is legal and illegal to put in a lease varies from place to place. For instance, in Ontario, it is illegal to collect a security deposit (a deposit may be collected but it can only be used towards last month's rent). Secondly, what is normal and what is unusual will also vary, most likely on a much finer grained level (ie: by city/town rather than by state/province). Thirdly, you'll have to deal with leases from less-than-professional landlords (e.g. using a lease drafted according to the rather different laws of a different province/state). Fourthly, the lease will vary a lot depending on the landlord (ie: large property management company vs small property manager vs individual owner-landlord) and the accomodations (ie: house vs condo vs apartment).
Lastly, few residential leases need to be more than about 5 pages long, including all the things the landlord has added over the years after being burned by various bad tenants. If there is a problem, the landlord and tenant will either resolve it or: if the landlord wants the tenant to move out, either it is easy to evict or it is difficult to evict but nothing in the lease will change that that much and if the tenant wants to move out, they will break the lease and good luck to the landlord suing the tenant trying to get the money back (the tenant risks very little by breaking the lease if they are not going to rely on the current landlord as a reference for future landlords). I doubt there is a special clause which can be put into a residential lease which will make it more difficult for the tenant to break it.
Then again, I rarely find legalese which I can't parse (although sometimes it seems written in such a way that it will take me a full five minutes) so perhaps I'm not in the target market for this kind of service.
Great work guys!
Note: I didn't click on the link the first 3 times I saw it because (of the title) I assumed it was an article telling me I ought to read contracts ;-]
- 404 when connecting from mozilla android with China IP,
- page crashed on my netbook from chrome with China IP,
- loads fine with mozilla with Japan IP & ublock enabled.
Thanks for reporting the problem
If I disable uBlock, it works.
Not sure if that's a typo, but I like it. It's different.
Server Error in '/' Application.
The resource cannot be found.
I haven't tried registering again, the contract I wanted reviewed expires in a few hours so I picked a different method.