Artificial Intelligence, ROSS and the legal industry

Artificial Intelligence, ROSS and the legal industry

Varun Marwah

According to a recent report in Futurism, US law firm Baker & Hostetler, has become the first law firm to employ the IBM Watson-powered lawyer ‘ROSS‘- the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney. ROSS will now be used in the firm’s  bankruptcy practice; with other firms making similar plans.

What does ROSS do and how does it help?

According to this blog post on the IBM website, all one has to do is ask ROSS a question as a client would to his lawyer. And instead of spending countless hours on going through voluminous documents, ROSS will use a “cognitive computing system” to go through the relevant legislations and judicial pronouncements within a matter of seconds.

Not only can ROSS can sort through more than a billion text documents each second, IBM claims that it learns from feedback and gets smarter over time.

How will ROSS affect the legal market?

There are two schools of thought on this.

  1. AI will aid legal professionals

This will certainly make the lawyer much more informed about the law. The ability to look holistically at a client’s issue and come up with strategies for solving a legal problem is an added benefit. “Manual” searches through electronic databases will be a thing of the past.

2. AI will replace legal professionals

AI has the power to step in and replace some data-based responsibilities such as transactional work, due diligence and drafting certain types of documents.

According to IBM’s General Counsel Robert Weber,

Watson could pass a multistate bar exam without a second thought‘ .

Fortune magazine has also included lawyers amongst white-collar professionals already being taken over by robots.

The most likely scenarios though, is a mix of both. Some tasks such as legal research, basic due diligence could well be handed over to ROSS or other AI-enabled technologies.

However, structuring transactions, understanding client needs, drafting legal opinion – this may be something that AI simply will not be able to provide.

Not yet.

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