When it came time to develop his legal startup’s sophomore product, Benjamin Alarie did exactly what successful entrepreneurs are supposed to do: He listened to his customers.
The Next Founders alumnus and University of Toronto law professor co-founded Blue J Legal in 2015, using machine learning algorithms to predict the likely outcomes of future tax law cases. He focused on tax law because it was his area of research expertise and represented a potentially huge market.
Then something unexpected happened.
“We would be talking to lawyers at big law firms about employee classification from a tax law perspective, and someone would ask if we could come and show the labour and employment law group,” recalls Alarie, who is the company’s CEO.
“We would say, ‘Yeah, sure we’re happy to do that. But you should know [the AI algorithms are] being trained on all the tax case law, not employment law.’”