Today vLex and Fastcase, two of the fastest-growing legal technology companies, announced that they are merging to form the world’s largest digital law library. The combined company will also have the world’s largest law firm subscriber base and resources containing more than one billion legal documents from more than 100 countries. Oakley Capital and Bain Capital Credit are investing in the combined business to expand its global reach and accelerate the Fastcase/vLex legal artificial intelligence (AI) lab, which develops AI tools that streamline research, tracking, writing, and filing documents for the legal industry.
In 2018 I wrote my first post about vLex. The title was “Can vLex Crack the U.S. Market…? Today they have officially arrived.
“The legal profession has been a late adopter of technology, but lawyers are gaining more of an appetite for artificial intelligence tools in recent years,” said vLex CEO Luís Faus. “Bringing these two highly successful businesses together will help democratize the law for legal professionals worldwide through a dynamic and robust platform that improves legal research accuracy, efficiency, and affordability.”
The parent company will be called vLex Group. The vLex product will retain the vLex brand in global markets and Fastcase will retain their suite of brands including Fastcase, Docket Alarm, Next Chapter and Full Court Press in the US. According to the press release, “ the company, which has offices in the United States, Europe, the U.K., Asia, and Latin America, will combine management teams and invest in unified global products based on the complementary strengths of both firms.” It will maintain headquarters offices in Washington, D.C., Miami, and Barcelona. JEGI CLARITY (www.jegiclarity.com), a leading M&A advisory firm for the legal, media, marketing, information and technology industries, represented Fastcase in this transaction.
The Disruptors Each company was a pioneering and disruptive innovator in their respective markets. I started writing about Fastcase in 2011. They were the first legal research platform to deliver research results a relevancy rank rather than in the traditional display paradigm in Lexis and Westlaw which displayed cases chronologically within subdivisions of high court to low court. I wrote about vLex AI enabled Vincent innovation in 2018. I noted that “Vincent is the ONLY “legal assistant” that works in multiple languages. International legal research remains a challenge in an increasingly globalized legal market. Very few products allow researchers to conduct research in English and get results in both English and the native language of a foreign document.”
Market Impact Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis and Wolters Kluwer all have a significant number of country or regional specific brands and products. These are largely siloed into separate sales and development organizations. Are any of them prepared to pivot quickly to offer a truly international platform where all of their content can be searched from one interface in a single search? Are any of them prepared to compete with vLex Vincent translation and multi-lingual search capabilities.
Here are some key facts about the combined research platform:
- The new company will reach the majority of lawyers in the U.S. (~1.1 million subscribers out of 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S.) in partnership with state bar associations and include legal materials from more than 100 countries around the world.
- The combined library contains over one billion legal documents, including judicial opinions, statutes, regulations, court rules, docket sheets, briefs, pleadings, motions, authored treatises, and legal news articles.
- vLex’s AI tools for law were named “Overall Legal Research Solution Provider of the Year” in the 2022 LegalTech Breakthrough Awards Program.
- Fastcase has twice been named New Product of the Year by the American Association of Law Libraries.
“Our missions could not be more aligned, and by combining two of the world’s most successful legal technology disruptors, we are bringing much-needed innovation to an industry ready for a scaled alternative,” said Fastcase President Phil Rosenthal. “With both companies having more than 20 years of organic growth, the strategic support and financial backing of Oakley Capital and Bain Capital Credit will dramatically accelerate our work. Our goal is to be the most frequently used, comprehensive, and trustworthy resource for law firms of all sizes in any part of the world.”
Large Language Models (LLM) and Law
Both Fastcase and vLex are prepared to compete in the Large Language Model marketplace. The companies are not newcomers to legal AI. vLex created one of the first AI assistants for legal research, called Vincent. It has long used an internal AI tool called Iceberg to generate structure in its own data and for law firms. Fastcase’s Docket Alarm product is one of the first legal tech companies to integrate OpenAI’s GPT-3.5, and both Fastcase and Docket Alarm use AI to create structure and tags in legal documents. The companies will use their combined financial strength to accelerate growth and to invest more in the frontiers of artificial intelligence in law
“With the rapid proliferation of LLM models, we are in a new era where content is king,” said Fastcase CEO Ed Walters. “With the merger of vLex and Fastcase, nobody has a more extensive global law library than we do. This is the biggest legal data corpus ever assembled, including highly valuable structured data with industry-standard tags and analytics. The combined library is the crown jewel of LLMs and the ultimate training data set for legal AI.”