Legal Technology

In potential job threat to associates, 'artificially intelligent attorney' gets BigLaw gig

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First came the outsourcing of legal work once done by U.S. lawyers to cheaper foreign counterparts.

Now, it appears, would-be BigLaw associates may also have to compete with artificial intelligence applications in the foreseeable future.

Megafirm Dentons and some major U.S. law firms have agreed to train Ross, a so-called artificially intelligent attorney developed by students at the University of Toronto, in U.S. bankruptcy law, reports the Globe and Mail.

Using IBM’s Watson computer, which made headlines as a winning contestant on the TV show Jeopardy! in 2011, Ross scans documents and case law and offers answers to legal research questions.

Although still under development, “what we are seeing is Ross grasping and understanding legal concepts and learning based on the questions and also getting user feedback. … Just like a human, it’s getting its experience in a law firm and being able to learn and get better,” Andrew Arruda told the newspaper.

One of the U of T students who helped develop Ross, Arruda is now chief executive officer of Ross Intelligence, which is partnering with IBM, Dentons and other companies to take Ross to the next level. Once Ross masters bankruptcy law, the plan is to expand the machine’s training into other practice areas.

Although the app won’t be able to handle the most complex legal problems, it is foreseeable that Ross will be able to perform routine legal research tasks at a lower cost than real attorneys, according to Arruda.

“It’s been great to see Ross grow up,” he told MetroNews Canada. “First we watched it go to law school and now it’s already working at a law firm. As we continue into the future, Ross will become a senior partner in every single practice area.”

Related coverage: “Watson Computer, Making ‘Jeopardy’ Debut, Could Do Associate Research, IBM GC Says”

New York Times (reg. req.): “Computer Wins on ‘Jeopardy!’: Trivial, It’s Not”

See also: “Are you smarter than a robot? Lawyers, surgeons make list of jobs being replaced by computers”

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