It used to be that the term ‘artificial intelligence’ evoked images of anthropomorphic robots. The field of study has helped create vaguely humanlike robots, but it has also given us smarter browsers, more intuitive personal assistants, and a way for the blind to identify objects around them, among a host of other applications. To add to that growing list, artificial intelligence has now broken ground in an entirely new domain: legal research.
BakerHostetler – an Am Law 100 law firm – has announced the recruitment of its first non-human team member: an artificially intelligent legal research software called ROSS. The partnership makes ROSS the first ever AI attorney to be hired by a law firm.
Does the hire mean ROSS gets paid vacation and invitations to company retreats? Is ROSS male or female? Does he/she want to make partner some day? All good questions, but all we’re sure of right now is what ROSS’s job description is at BakerHostetler: The firm has said it is licensing the AI for use in its Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights practice. ROSS will join a team that currently comprises almost 50 attorneys, including the first Trustee for NY’s Southern District and a former U.S. Department of Justice senior trial attorney.
ROSS’s job among its illustrious colleagues will be to assist with legal research – something it can do with never-seen-before speed and accuracy, creditable to a computing backbone powered by IBM’s Watson cognitive computer. Lawyers will be able to tap into the corpus of legal data mined by ROSS and receive precise answers to their queries, replete with citations, secondary sources, and case law. The technology is a step ahead (or a few) of current research methods on a number of levels.
Thanks to Watson’s sophisticated natural language processing features, lawyers can interact with ROSS using regular speech. This means being able to do research through conversations instead of having to type long strings and remembering keywords. In response to natural language queries, the AI will always return only the most relevant answers – not pages and pages of results. Its ability to surface appropriate results will get better over time as a result of the machine learning algorithms built into Watson.
ROSS doesn’t stop at answering queries; the AI is capable of tracking amendments to laws and comprehending precedents set in latest court decisions. Consequently, lawyers who use the technology will be able to keep apace of legal developments and build better arguments for the cases on which they’re working.
The incredibly capable AI attorney is a creation of ROSS Intelligence. The startup was founded by Jimoh Ovbiagele, Akash Venkat, and Andrew Arruda out of Toronto, and was part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2015 batch.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.