Legally Inc., a startup founded by Osgoode students John Wu, Nathan Lev and Richard James that is dedicated to improving access to justice through innovative technology, has placed second in the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General’s Access to Justice Challenge.
The Legally Inc. team was one of six finalists in the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge who participated in a “Demo Day” event in November that resulted in second place.
The award comes with seed money of $15,000 and an additional four-month residency at Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone, where Legally Inc. is now housed. (In addition, the team recently received a $120,000 award through Microsoft’s BizSpark program.)
Legally Inc.’s first initiative is Winston – a chatbot designed to empower self-represented litigants by providing free, open-access legal information about traffic ticket-fighting.
“From booking their trial to arguing their case before a judge, Winston’s job is to guide the user through every step of the traffic court process,” Wu said. “Since inception, Winston has evolved from an excel spreadsheet to a functioning AI. While he is admittedly still a little dimwitted, he is learning how to provide better services every day.”
Wu said the team’s progress has been exponential, and support from the community has been “staggering”. Indeed, the law school has approved the Legally Inc. project as an Osgoode Public Interest Requirement (OPIR) opportunity, which means that JD students can apply to assist Legally Inc. (under the supervision of Jonathan Hurter ’15 of Legally Inc.) as part of their 40-hour public interest graduation requirement.
Legally Inc.’s success is “not unique”, according to Wu.
“Legal tech is booming across the country,” he said. “People are realizing how much can be done to improve access to justice. For too long, the law has been too expensive and too inaccessible, often neglecting those who need it the most. As we have learned, it doesn’t take a genius to help change things – just someone willing to try something different.”