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Before coming up with a good idea for an Internet business, Chaka Patterson had a couple of misfires. Says Patterson, “Everydaylaw.com was going to provide legal advice on ordinary issues, such as what to do when the cleaners ruin your favorite shirt.” Then the 31-year-old former associate at Chicago’s Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott discovered that lawstreet.com already was doling out that type of advice. Maybe an affordable research service, tailored to small firms and sole practitioners? “That wall was just not scalable,” says Patterson, “because it was a law firm for all intents and purposes.” This triggered his final, and finally realizable, plan: a research service, but on a more realistic scale. Specifically, “a database with briefs and pleadings from the most litigated practice areas.” And Juritas was born. There are many Internet law libraries of varying types, but what makes Juritas unique is the people behind it. Started and owned by people of color, the Juritas team knows how to succeed in the largely white world of the law. Now they are pioneers in the largely white world of Internet startups. Once Patterson had nailed the idea, he gathered together two other founders: Carlton Odim, a sole practitioner, and Andre Reynolds, a former financial consultant at Andersen Consulting. The threesome knew they needed a topnotch chief technology officer. Over beers one night, Patterson recruited Jason Parkman, then the director of legal technology development at Bartlit Beck. Parkman and Patterson had built technology tools, including a database, for a major antitrust case for E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Co. Patterson’s career was flourishing when he decided to flee the law. Last December, he was in his partnership year and had just received a raise meant to discourage lawyers from flocking to dot-coms. He was also engaged. But after receiving $600,000 in venture financing, he quit. “I had some explaining to do to my fianc�e, who is now my wife,” says Patterson. “Also the firm,” he adds. Bartlit Beck, however, was founded by attorneys who had left Chicago’s Kirkland & Ellis, so they were familiar with Patterson’s impulse to leave the nest. Juritas also lured partner Martin Castro away from the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie. The Hispanic lawyer, now Juritas’ vice president and managing director of global business, also was doing well in the law. He was a hiring partner and was in charge of the firm’s national diversity efforts. “As a litigator, the concept at Juritas was appealing to me,” says Castro, speaking from Los Angeles, where he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and deputy whip of the Illinois delegation. “To help build something in the new economy was very appealing to me. The icing on the cake was Juritas being minority-owned. It is an extremely rare thing. When you look at the landscape of the new economy, some would say there is an even greater lack of diversity than the traditional economy.” Juritas plans to launch in the fall. It won’t be the only brief bank on the Web. A site called briefreporter.com offers a similar service, also available through Lexis-Nexis. Apart from competitive rates, Patterson hopes to win customers with edited docket sheets that present the relevant documents in an orderly fashion. Juritas also plans to make available trial documents from jurisdictions outside the United States. Initially, Juritas will cover cases in 16 practice areas from 30 federal court jurisdictions. Juritas gets the briefs from the courts without asking permission from the authors, who hold a copyright interest in them. So far, says Patterson, there have been no complaints from lawyers. Then again, the system is not yet live. With about $5 million in the bank, Patterson says, the company will be solvent until the first quarter of 2001. By then, he hopes to be generating revenues and have enough of a record to seek another round of financing. Patterson is grateful to other minority Internet businessmen who are paving the way for aspiring minority entrepreneurs like himself. His first investor, Angel Interactive, was co-founded by Joseph Argilagos. Another of Juritas’ investors is Tim Cobb, an African-American who co-founded RelevantKnowledge, which was bought by Media Metrix. Yet Patterson, like Castro, is not ready to say that the new economy is a utopian meritocracy where the only color people care about is green. Patterson muses that the business world, like the rest of the world, is far from perfect. “To the extent that there has historically been resistance to minorities and women, it’s unlikely that the new economy has totally eviscerated that,” he says. Juritas will offer a new, searchable database of briefs, pleadings and other documents to lawyers in the fall. Its Web site is located at www.juritas.com.

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