UniCourt Influencer Q&A with Jamie Wodetzki of Catylex

on Topics: Future Law | Influencer Q&A | Legal Tech

UniCourt Influencer Q&A with Jamie Wodetzki of Catylex

Jamie Wodetzki knows the startup world. After selling his first company, Exari, Jamie delved back into the CLM world with Catylex, with the aim of helping legal professionals better understand contracts through the use of Catylex’s AI-powered app and normalized legal data. 

It was great hearing from Jamie and Catylex, and we hope you enjoy Jamie’s insights as much as we did!

UniCourt: Tell us your story. What is your background, and what led you to what you are doing now?

Jamie Wodetzki: You could call me the original contract data geek, since I have probably spent more time than anyone obsessing over how to turn contract language into useful data. I started my career as a lawyer, then, in 2000, I co-founded a legal tech startup called Exari. We built Exari into a CLM leader before selling the business to Coupa in 2019 for over $200M. After a couple of years in product strategy at Coupa, I was drawn back to startup land and joined Catylex, because I was so impressed by the fresh approach to cracking contract AI.

UC: What is Catylex? What differentiates Catylex from other contract lifecycle management (CLM) tools?

JW:  Catylex is strictly contract analytics, where we focus on extracting contract data from the legal language of contract documents. Most CLM tools try to solve all pieces of the contract management puzzle, including pre-signature process needs like drafting, approvals and negotiation, and post-signature management and analysis. As a best-of-breed AI and analysis app, Catylex complements a CLM by feeding it with high quality data, but does not replace it.

UC: You recently presented at CLOC’s CGI 2022 on a panel titled “The Importance of Data to CLM Success.” What are some of the key takeaways from your presentation and why is this such an important topic for legal operations professionals? 

JW: As a veteran of the CLM market, it’s great to see so many CLM products gaining traction with so many legal ops professionals. But if you try to launch a CLM without good quality data, it’s like running a farm without enough water. The results will be disappointing. Our session aimed to steer legal ops teams through the contract data landscape and focus on solving high priority data needs without losing sight of longer-term data needs. Maybe you want operational data like expiry dates and auto-renewal to address recent revenue leakage problems. But you should also have a plan for tracking risk provisions so that you’re able to respond quickly when the next crisis or fire-drill comes along. If you want to get full value from a new CLM system, data is vital.

UC: Data normalization is a topic UniCourt talks about frequently in the context of litigation data. What are some of the core challenges connected to normalizing contract data and how does Catylex overcome those hurdles?

JW: This is a great question. Normalization is what makes contract data so valuable. Without a normalized data model, it’s very hard to provide meaningful insight to the business, it’s very hard to automate contract processes, and it’s impossible to build accurate contract AI. Catylex has built a normalized data model that allows us to take 100 different ways of saying “company must not” and map that to the concept of “restraint”. The same goes for obligations, rights, representations, limitations, and so on. No matter what sneaky words are used, Catylex normalizes everything to important concepts, such that risks can be tracked and measured, clauses can be consistently tagged, and the right workflows can be reliably triggered.

UC: How is the recent explosion of legal technology and the growing use of AI shaping the future of the legal industry? Are there any trends you’re tracking in the contract management space or the legal industry more broadly?

JW:  In recent years, contract AI has been at the intersection of three explosions: a boom in legal tech; a specific boom in CLM investment; and a wave of AI hype and excitement. Like most booms, some of this will go bust. But having witnessed these cycles over many years, products that solve real problems tend to survive and thrive. Even in a downturn, people will look to contracts to find ways to protect revenue and trim costs. Contract AI that works out of the box will be extremely valuable in this environment. Across legal more broadly, AI will succeed where it is applied intelligently to perform tasks faster and cheaper than humans (assuming no loss of quality). We are entering an era of applied AI, where domain-specific mastery of data will be critical to success. Lawyers who can translate their domain expertise into data-centric AI solutions will be most likely to succeed.

UC: What are some of your favorite sayings? What are some real-world examples of how you’ve seen those sayings come to life?

JW: I’ll give you two. The first is attributed to Edison and simply says that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Based on my own experience, I can say that this is probably the best lesson any startup can follow. Ideas are easy. Hard work and persistence will make all the difference in whether you succeed. My second is Einstein’s quip that “things should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.”  I’ve seen this rule broken many times over the years, typically by misapplication of the 80:20 rule. In the wrong hands, the 80:20 rule is used to oversimplify something that is actually quite complex. Bad product designers oversimplify features to the point that when complexity arises, the product is deficient. Clever product designers find a way to hide the complexity most of the time, but with the option to reveal the complex features when you really need them. 

UC: What are your goals for 2022? What projects are you working on? Are there any events in the legal tech and legal innovation space we should know about?

JW:  I am a big believer in focus. My 2022 goals are very focused on bringing Catylex contract AI to market.  We have built something that works.  2022 is about putting it to work with more customers and making them successful with new insight, lower risk, and full value captured from every contract.

UC: Where can we learn more about you and your work?

JW: That’s easy. Follow me on LinkedIn (there’s only one Jamie Wodetzki) and keep an eye on the Catylex blog: https://www.catylex.com/blog/ 

Creating a New Way to Contract

By creating a data-centric approach to contract lifecycle management, Jamie Wodetzki and the Catylex team are developing a new, easier way to understand and dissect contracts. We’re excited to see Catylex debut this year, and we can’t wait to see how they transform the CLM space!