Founder Feature: Jacqueline Schafer
August 23, 2022
Meet Jacqueline (Jackie) Schafer, Founder & CEO of Clearbrief. She has 15 years of experience as a litigator and has served as in-house legal counsel for nonprofits, corporate counsel, and as an Assistant Attorney General at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. With her extensive experience in the field, no one can doubt that she knows her stuff. While working a case, she found an opportunity to help others in her industry. Thus, the idea of Clearbrief was born.
We interviewed Jackie to get a deep dive into her inspiration of her startup, her biggest learning opportunity, and the impact that she hopes that her startup has on her community. If you’re a budding tech entrepreneur, you won’t want to miss her advice for you too!
Tell us about your startup:
Clearbrief expands our understanding of what is possible by combining the prowess of legal professionals with the power of artificial intelligence. With Clearbrief’s revolutionary Add Fact Cite Button, lawyers, judges, and paralegals are able to select any text in a Word document and view a list of the most relevant documents from the discovery or other factual documents involved in the case. Clearbrief accomplishes this with its patented, powerful AI, which goes beyond a text search to find the relevant facts and provide a score to indicate how well supported the sentence is by the source document. A lawyer can write about a client’s injury in colloquial terms in a Word doc and simply select that sentence, and the AI can sift through thousands of pages of medical records to suggest the correct diagnostic report, even when the language is not verbatim. Then the lawyer can click a button to insert a hyperlinked, perfectly formatted citation to the pdf where that document exists in the discovery. This is but one example of how Clearbrief expands the possibilities of the legal field: not by replacing human cognition, but by working in tandem to create the strongest analysis possible.
What inspired you to start this startup?
I had a formative experience representing a young woman and her son in a pro bono asylum case (described in this ABA Legal Rebels interview) that was a huge source of inspiration for building software that can make it seamless to surface the relevant facts for the judge. And in my 15 years as a litigator, I’ve had to spend countless hours scouring thousands of pages of PDFs to find the evidence I want to highlight in a brief, motion or memo, and deal with the inevitable stress of fiddling with a Table of Authorities (like a TOC on steroids for legal docs) hours before the brief is due. It was those experiences, combined with my research for my 2020 law review article, Harnessing AI for Struggling Families, that inspired me to go out there and build the tech and the company I had always dreamed should exist.
What ONE thing would help you out the most with moving your startup to the next step?
One thing that I’m very excited about is to share publicly some of the stories about how our court system and government users are transforming their work with Clearbrief. I believe that as more courts start asking lawyers to share the Clearbrief version of their pleadings, everyone will adopt it.
What’s one thing that you wish you knew before starting your startup?
That there is no one thing that you need to know. There is no magic bullet to anything in startup life, you need to embrace that there is no playbook for your specific problem that you’re solving and you will need to apply your creativity to your project and this current moment in time.
What was your biggest mistake (aka learning opportunity) when you VERY first started?
I would say that I started out with a truly terrible pitch deck! I had no idea what I was doing and it was really amateurish and did not explain the problem I was solving very well. Thankfully, once I connected with my key mentors and early believers, they challenged me to completely redo it (several times) before I had any important meetings.
What impact on your community are you hoping that your startup has?
I truly believe that access to evidence is access to justice. When all participants in the justice system can easily view the underlying sources of evidence in a case, the focus stays on the facts and the law, minimizing bias.
Name your biggest motivator/inspiration to continue doing the work that you do.
My biggest inspiration is my family, and my children, on multiple levels. I want to create a better world for them with a more fair, modern justice system, and I want them to see that women can found and lead tech companies.
One piece of advice that you would give to a budding tech startup entrepreneur.
In the earliest days when you have a seedling of an idea that is grounded in an area where you have TONS of background and experience, don’t listen to the people who are not experts in your domain who may try to discourage you. You really do know things that they don’t. It’s your first test in learning to listen to feedback and take what’s valuable from it, and leave the rest. Some people just won’t get it in the early days, and it’s important to ignore them and not let it crush your spirit!.
Anything else that you’d like to share with the Find Ventures and tech startup community? (Promote an event, a partnership, new employee, a press release, ANYTHING!)We are launching an incredible new FREE paralegal training program for legal writing with Clearbrief.
Anyone who might be interested in a career as a paralegal should check it out! As long as you have Microsoft Word, you can complete the certification program and be eligible to get connected with firms across the country looking for paralegal support.
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