Harvey, which uses AI to answer legal questions, receives cash from OpenAI

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Harvey, a startup building what he describes as a “co-pilot for lawyers,” today emerged from stealth with $5 million in funding led by the OpenAI Startup Fund, through which OpenAI and its partners are building early-stage AI Investing in companies that are tackling major issues. Problem. Participating in the round was Jeff Dean, head of Google AI, Google’s AI research division. And Elad Gill, co-founder of Mixer Labs, are among other angel supporters.

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Harvey was founded by Winston Weinberg, a former securities and antitrust litigator at the law firm O’Melveney & Myers, and Gabriel Pereira, a former research executive at DeepMind, Google Brain (one of Google’s AI groups), and Meta AI. He was a scientist. Weinberg and Pereira are roommates – Pereira showed Weinberg OpenAI’s GPT-3 text-generating system and Weinberg realized it could be used to improve legal workflow.

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“Our product provides lawyers with a natural language interface to their existing legal workflows,” Pereira told TechCrunch in an email interview. “Instead of manually editing legal documents or conducting legal research, Harvey enables attorneys to describe the work they want to accomplish in simple instructions and get the results generated. To enable this, Harvey leverages the large language model to understand users’ intent and generate the correct output.

More concretely, Harvey can respond in natural language to questions such as “Tell me what are the differences between an employee and an independent contractor in the Fourth Circuit” and “Tell me whether this clause in the lease violates California law.” is, and if so, rewrite it so that it is no longer infringing.” On first reading, it seems as if Harvey can substitute lawyers, create legal arguments and draft filings at a moment’s notice. But Pereira insists that is not the case.

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“We want Harvey to serve as an intermediary between technology and lawyers, as a natural language interface for the law,” he said. “Harvey will make attorneys more efficient, allowing them to produce higher quality work and spend more time on the high-value parts of their work. Harvey provides a unified and intuitive interface for all legal workflows, allowing attorneys to This allows users 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’s also full. Given the highly sensitive nature of most legal disputes, lawyers and law firms may be reluctant to give tools like Harvey access to any case documents. There is also the matter of the propensity of language models to spew toxicity and fabricated facts, which would be particularly poorly-received – if not wrong – in a court of law.

That’s why Harvey, which is currently in beta, has a disclaimer attached to it: The tool is not intended to provide legal advice to non-lawyers and should be used under the supervision of licensed attorneys.

On the issue of data privacy, Pereira says Harvey takes pains to meet customers’ compliance requirements, anonymizing user data and deleting data after a predetermined amount of time. Users can delete data at any time upon request, he says, and take comfort in the fact that Harvey doesn’t “cross-contaminate” data between clients.

It’s early days. But already, Pereira says, Harvey is being 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 tasks and concise drafting. More surgical tools like Clarity use AI to take the hard work out of contract review. At one point, the startup was also exploring ways to leverage GPT-3 to summarize legal notices or other sources in plain English to help authorized tenants protect their rights.

For one, Brad Lightkapp, CCO of OpenAI and manager of the OpenAI Startup Fund, believes Harvey is different enough. It would also benefit from a relationship with OpenAI; OpenAI Startup Fund participants get 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 high-quality legal services to more clients,” Lightkapp said via email. “We launched the OpenAI Startup Fund to support companies using powerful AI to drive social-level impact, and Harvey’s vision for how AI can increase access to legal services and improve outcomes The approach fits perfectly within our mission.”

Harvey has a team of five people, and Pereira hopes to grow that number to five to ten employees by the end of the year. He did not respond when asked about the revenue figures.

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