US Law Firm hires IBM’s Legal Artificial Intelligence Machine – Ross

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An announcement that a major US law firm has hired a new AI to conduct part of its practice might sound like something out of a bad John Grisham novel. But in fact, truth can be stranger than fiction.

Cleveland-based US law firm Baker & Hostetler, a practice with more than 800 lawyers and ranked as the 35th largest law firm in the United States, has hired IBM’s Ross to conduct legal research. This piece of news would not have otherwise surprised anyone, save for the fact that Ross is a machine. Built on the foundations of Watson, an artificial intelligence platform created by IBM to learn and process information in natural language, Ross allows the lawyers at Baker & Hostetler’s Bankruptcy, Restructuring and Creditors’ Rights team to ask it to answer legal research questions much in the same way they would a human legal associate.

Unlike any other legal associate, Ross has the capability to trawl through an entire legal database in a fraction of the time taken by even the fastest speed reader. And unlike predecessor technologies that mainly perform keyword searches, Ross’s artificial intelligence does some of the thinking through analysis and inference. The same backbone  technology which allowed Watson to beat some of the best human players at Jeopardy.

With the support of Watson’s cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities, lawyers ask ROSS their research question in natural language, as they would a person, then ROSS reads through the law, gathers evidence, draws inferences and returns highly relevant, evidence-based candidate answers. – PRNewswire 

It has yet to be determined if IBM will enable law firms the full legal associate experience by equipping Ross with the capability to gripe about working hours, give snarky comebacks and face existential mid-life crises.

While many may fear that the end of the world is nigh, like any other tool human intelligence and ingenuity has created, how we utilise AI may well determine our own future.