Utah legal innovation 'sandbox' expands to add AI contracts venture LawGeex, others

Skyline of Salt Lake City, Utah. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

(Reuters) - The Utah Supreme Court has authorized four more companies to participate in the state's "regulatory sandbox" program, which aims to promote innovative legal business models and services.

The newly approved entrants include AI-powered contracts company LegaLogic Inc, which does business as LawGeex; legal technology company Hello Divorce Inc; and real estate-focused legal services companies Mountain West Legal Protective LLC and Jordanelle Blocks Inc.

The Utah court authorized the four new entities in the past week, according to documents published on the innovation program's website. The approval documentation for each is dated April 27, which includes court orders signed on April 23 by Matthew Durrant, the chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court.

As part of the two-year pilot program approved last summer to address the "access-to-justice crisis," the Utah Supreme Court has so far authorized at least 20 entities for participation. Others that have previously been approved are online legal services company Rocket Lawyer and Law on Call, which provides clients subscription-based phone access to licensed lawyers and was recently launched by registered agent services company Northwest Registered Agent LLC.

The August 2020 order loosened rules that govern the practice of law and authorized providers to offer legal services through a variety of models in a controlled environment. Categories of newly allowed ventures include "nonlawyer provider with lawyer involvement," "lawyers sharing fees with nonlawyers," "software provider with lawyer involvement," and several others. The court's Office of Legal Services Innovation oversees the program.

LawGeex is a Tel Aviv, Israel-based legal technology company that automates contract review and management. The company plans to use its software and attorneys in the sandbox to "provide an outsourced contracts negotiation and execution team for its clients" and in March opened a "Legal Quality Assurance" hub in Utah, according to documents authorizing its participation. LawGeex, which last year secured $20 million in a funding round, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jordanelle Blocks wants to have Utah-licensed lawyers and software overseen by lawyers offer legal services in the real estate transactions space, while Mountain West will offer people buying a home the option to "purchase a plan covering their legal expenses" if a legal issue comes up out of a real estate transaction, according to the authorization documents. Hello Divorce, which currently operates in California and Colorado, offers online assistance to people seeking divorces and related legal solutions.

The new approvals in Utah come a little more than a month after the Arizona Supreme Court approved the first two entities to operate in that state as "Alternative Business Structures." There, the court authorized several reforms last year, including the new structure allowing lawyers and non-attorney professionals to co-own businesses that offer legal services. Other states are also weighing reforms.

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Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com