AI Startup Harvey Seeking ‘All Sorts’ of Lawyers in Hiring Spree – Bloomberg Law

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Harvey, a generative artificial intelligence startup that quadrupled in value last year, has spent the first quarter of 2024 embarking on an expansion spree that shows no signs of slowing.

The privately held company, which has 82 employees, wants to double that number by year’s end, said its 29-year-old co-founder and CEO Winston Weinberg in an interview with Bloomberg Law. The San Francisco-based startup, which just opened an office in New York, is currently looking to fill nearly 50 job openings, many of them for lawyers.

“Normally, at a tech company, you hire lawyers to be in-house lawyers,” he said. “We’re looking at them to fill a unique, interdisciplinary type of role. We want them to do all sorts of different things,” Weinberg said.

Harvey, whose official name is Counsel AI Corp., derived its brand name from an “amalgamation” of things, not just the fictitious corporate lawyer Harvey Specter from the legal drama “Suits,” Weinberg said.

Whatever the moniker’s origin, Harvey quickly made a name for itself. The company was valued at $715 million in December after raising $80 million in Series B financing from investors such as the startup fund affiliated with generative artificial intelligence unicorn OpenAI and prominent venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital.

While the entire legal technology industry was valued at $23.5 billion in 2022, it’s expected to approach $50 billion by 2030, according to a recent market research report. Harvey, which straddles the larger generative artificial intelligence market, has drawn much hype by touting a time-saving technology that it and a growing number of other companies are offering to various clients.

“When you have the backing of someone like OpenAI that puts you in a different position compared to your competitors,” said legal technology expert Edward Estrada. “You’ve got super smart people with intelligence, focus, and visibility—that’s a compelling market differentiator. We’ll see if it’s a product differentiator.”

Gordon Moodie, a former corporate partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz who joined Harvey last summer as its chief product officer, is now working with Harvey’s new recruits to create what the company considers the next generation of tools to draft, revise, review, and research legal documents.

In recent weeks Harvey has brought on lawyers who have worked at firms such as Gunderson Dettmer; Katten Muchin Rosenman; Latham & Watkins; O’Melveny & Myers; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and White & Case.

Transformative Power

Ralph Baxter, a veteran legal industry innovator and former leader of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who now advises firms and legal technology companies, said how Harvey fares going forward will be a good gauge for how generative artificial intelligence applications permeate into private practice.

“The proof is in the execution,” Baxter said. “Ultimately, artificial intelligence should transform the way legal services are delivered, which will be better for clients, the law firms, and the professionals that work in them.”

Weinberg said Harvey is building models to complete legal functions.

Winston Weinberg

Winston Weinberg

“The training data for that is lawyers doing those legal processes in every single practice area,” Weinberg said. “You need to hire folks in-house to help you build that. We don’t train on anyone’s data unless they specifically ask us to.”

While some of Harvey’s clients collaborate with the company on such tasks, Weinberg said most of its systems are built by pairing a Big Law attorney with an artificial intelligence researcher. The lawyer will walk through how they would summarize an agreement or create a disclosure schedule, and the researcher maps that model onto certain systems, Weinberg said.

Much as how a partner at a firm would coordinate a team of associates performing subtasks within a broader legal matter, Harvey’s new hires are working to train specific models to perform complex multi-step legal processes, Weinberg said. Some select clients, like PricewaterhouseCoopers, get custom-built systems exclusively licensed to them based on their data and expertise.

The mission is to create a system that’s repeatable for new legal documents. The best lawyers are faster at reading and analyzing materials in their practice areas, even documents they’ve never seen before, because they know from experience where to look, Weinberg said. Harvey’s technology needs to be able to perform the same analysis, whether it’s on a merger agreement or something else.

Building a product that can perform to such standards is a labor-intensive effort that requires not just engineers from places like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, but “domain experts” who know different areas of the law, Weinberg said.

Big Law Bedfellows

Weinberg spent a year as an O’Melveny associate prior to co-founding Harvey in 2022 with Gabriel Pereyra, an artificial intelligence researcher who is now the company’s president after stints at Google and Meta Platforms Inc.

Harvey’s hiring of engineers has increased three times over from late 2023, and its business development team is also now starting to expand, although its sales organization has remained small, Weinberg said.

Many members of Harvey’s sales team are former Big Law attorneys whose familiarity with its products helps when it comes to convincing their private practice colleagues to experiment with artificial intelligence, Weinberg said.

Harvey just brought on its first chief financial officer in Alan Ghelberg and hired Andrew Hyman, a former lawyer at Google, HBO, and Apple Inc., as deputy general counsel for product and commercial. John LaBarre, another longtime former Google lawyer who had been deputy general counsel at cloud data company Snowflake Inc., joined Harvey a year ago as its general counsel.

Weinberg said Cooley—a firm known for its startup expertise that also has close ties to Snowflake—and Wachtell are Harvey’s primary legal advisers but the company expects to expand its outside counsel roster going forward. Harvey has also worked closely with Allen & Overy, a global legal giant poised to become A&O Shearman as of May 1, on developing its artificial intelligence technology.

Harvey announced last summer it was working with a handful of other firms, including Reed Smith, the UK’s Macfarlanes, and Spanish legal giant Cuatrecasas, and the company has expanded its partnerships to “dozens of firms,” many of them mid-sized outfits, Weinberg said. But Harvey isn’t yet ready to disclose them. “We want our clients to speak for us,” he said.

Weinberg said Harvey’s primary focus is law firms. Harvey isn’t working with litigation financiers and its only work with other companies has been in concert with their outside counsel. Weinberg expects more of the latter as anxiety about artificial intelligence eases and clients become more comfortable with the technology. Harvey’s pricing varies due to customizations, but it’s planning to release a “more widely available platform” later this year, Weinberg said.
“We want this technology to be affordable to as many lawyers as possible,” he said.

Gabriel Pereyra

Gabriel Pereyra

Weinberg and Pereyra, whose brother is another former O’Melveny associate now working with Harvey’s product team, were best friends and roommates when they got the idea for the startup after experimenting with ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot released by OpenAI in late 2022.

Harvey is built on OpenAI’s platform and while the investment from OpenAI helped “change the roadmap” for Harvey, the two don’t have an exclusive relationship, Weinberg said. Harvey continually tests other large language models to refine its technology, he said.

Bloomberg Law competes in this market and sells legal technology tools.

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