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Building a Career as a Legal Entrepreneur

A Conversation with the CEO of CiteRight, Aaron Wenner.


“Why don’t we just use the software that automates this process?” was Aaron Wenner’s first thought when he learned the McGill Guide citation format in his first year legal research course. Years later, Wenner and his team at CiteRight have built a software that does just that.


CiteRight is a legal software that increases lawyers’ efficiency during the research process by creating McGill citations and a Book of Authority. A process that law students dread and takes junior lawyers hours is now automated with a Microsoft plug-in, thus freeing up time for more important tasks.


This article explains how Wenner went from noticing inefficiencies in legal research to being a legal entrepreneur behind a software that is now partnered with firms of all sizes, including a recent partnership with Borden Ladner Gervais, Bennett Jones, and Gowlings.



Noticing the Inefficiencies

In his second year of law school, Wenner was an associate editor of the McGill Law Journal. His time at the Journal allowed him to reflect on the tools that could help make the writing process easier. While articling in a large Bay Street firm, he realized there was more depth to this issue than just citations. In fact, many challenges within practice include organizing, outputting and delivering research in a compiled Book of Authority to various stakeholders.

“I realized after spending evenings on the 48th floor that there was a coordination problem. Nobody was saving the cases, so the next person couldn't find them. Since no one was saving them, all the work was lost and had to be redone.”

Given that the content was not being preserved and there was no coordination, drafting took endless hours. Wenner's motivation to build an alternative solution made him opt out of the hiring back process at the firm. From there, he proceeded to build the first iterations of the tool.


Validation

Just like in any startup, the initial stages were about mockups and validation. The first step was understanding whether this was a problem worth building a product solution. This entailed building a mockup with the flow of the user interface, sharing it with lawyers and getting their feedback to make the next iterations. After the validation phase, Wenner felt comfortable with commencing a funding round and eventually launching their product in 2019.



Showing Value in a Time of Crisis

Similar to other technology companies, 2020 was CiteRight’s breakout year. When the pandemic hit, remote work environments forced courts to suddenly switch their processes and accept digital submissions. Organizing a PDF for a judge to read on their screen was an administrative burden for lawyers but happened to describe one of CiteRight’s main features. It was an opportunity to showcase their value in a time of crisis. As lawyers began to understand the direct benefit of the product, whether it be for efficiency motives or a cost benefit analysis, adoption increased. Today, CiteRight is used across Canada from coast to coast, and counts some of Canada's largest law firms as customers, including Borden Ladner Gervais, Bennett Jones, and Gowlings. This year, CiteRight will release a version specifically adapted to Quebec, making it one of the first Canadian legal tech companies to prioritize being a true cross-Canada solution.


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The Ottawa Legal Innovation Hub (OLIH) is a student-run organization within the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa. At OLIH we believe the legal profession should evolve to reflect the realities and meet the needs of the 21st century. OLIH is committed to transforming how law is practiced by inspiring the next generation of lawyers to think outside the box.


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