Fostering Greater Understanding of Legal Contracts
Legal terminology can be very difficult for many to wrap their head around. For lawyers, helping their clients understand important legal phrases in layman’s terms can be one of the greatest challenges associated with practicing law.

Legal terminology can be very difficult for many to wrap their head around. For lawyers, helping their clients understand important legal phrases in layman’s terms can be one of the greatest challenges associated with practicing law.

Fortunately, there is a new startup based out of Kitchener that’s coming to the rescue. Beagle, as it’s called, aims at helping clients zero in on understanding the most important aspects of their legal contract, rather than getting caught up in trying to decipher what often amounts to an illegible monster for many.

“Contracts suck,” says Beagle founder Cian O’Sullivan, “And everyone knows it and everyone has to deal with it. The purpose of Beagle is to increase your comprehension of an agreement very quickly, to be able to carve through all the language that is not necessary to what you need to do.”

Beagle’s Birth

O’Sullivan, who attended law school in Ireland, first began considering the need for a tool like Beagle when he worked as the principle negotiator for a Kitchener software company, Desire2Learn. O’Sullivan was asked to perform a quick ‘once-over’ of a 90-page contract, which wound up costing him his entire weekend.

O’Sullivan recalls his experience, “I kind of was looking over it at the weekend and I said ‘There’s got to be a better way to be able to do this. I mean, we put people into space.’” “If I had Beagle at the time,” he continues, “that would have taken me two and a half hours.”

While Beagle will technically be conducting beta trials through November, the startup already has a few clients in the Waterloo region, as well as two based in Australia. The startup was born from the Microsoft Digital Work Accelerator program in Seattle and was one of just fourteen out of about 600 startups accepted for the program’s most recent cohort.

How to Use Beagle

The company’s online site functions as a platform where users can upload their legal contract. Beagle then scans the document, combing through each page in less than a second, and provides the user with results in the form of an easy-to-comprehend infographic.

In essence, the results highlight the most important aspects of the contract pertaining to liability, such as which parties are most liable and in which areas. The program doesn’t go so far as to express an opinion on the validity or legality of the contract, but it does give users an efficiency was to understand how their contract is set up, who is responsible for what, and what loopholes may exist to help you get out of the contract if the need arises.

According to O’Sullivan, Beagle also gives users the ability to collaborate with other users to make real-time changes to documents that can help save time for everyone involved. “That’s the good thing about the legal language is that in order for those clauses in a contract to be enforceable they have to be objective,” he explains. “In order to be written objectively, that kind of narrows down the number of ways you can construct that sentence from an English perspective.”

Clients are often taken advantage of by complicated legal language in important contracts, and a tool like Beagle can do a lot to help alleviate contract confusion. The company’s next step will be to attract investors to help them maintain and expand their unique service.

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Posted by: DSR
Monday, August 3, 2015
Tag: Legal
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