Login | February 19, 2019

ROSS: Big time AI for lawyers

Published: February 2, 2018

IBM’s Watson is certainly a stable genius. Watson uses cognitive computing, sometimes called “artificial intelligence (AI)” or “machine learning” to rapidly compute and learn in the way humans do such things. Watson has been used for everything from chess playing to suggesting medical decisions to helping with Africa’s developmental problems.

Wouldn’t it be cool if someone invented a way for lawyers to use Watson’s power through a natural language AI interface? Like “Siri for the law”?

Ask and it shall be done.

ROSS Intelligence, which lists Cleveland’s mega law firm Baker Hostettler among its users, is a small Canadian company founded by four aspiring college students taking a Watson class at the University of Toronto in 2014. The world’s largest law firm, Dentons, helped train ROSS. Northwestern’s law school just got ROSS hooked up, and the company is employed by numerous law firms and in-house counsel around the country.

The company just acquired over $8 million in capitalization, and the founders landed on the 2017 Forbes magazine “30 under 30” list, so things are going well for them, it seems.

BTW-- ROSS doesn’t actually stand for anything, according to the company (unlike Watson, which was named after IBM’s first CEO).

ROSS isn’t particularly designed to perform complex legal thinking functions, but rather to sort through piles of documents and perform searches in legally useful ways. To this point, ROSS has been used primarily in bankruptcy law, although the possibilities are limitless.

ROSS says on its website that, because of its natural language interface, the product requires little to no user training. It immediately and fully integrates into the law firm’s current workflow, and then learns “every day” from its interactions with its users. So rather than just a passive search interface, ROSS is designed to almost be a member of the firm (potentially taking the place of some first-year associates).

The interface is designed to simply “ask it a question and it gives you an answer”. This is far different from most legal search queries, which bring up hosts of documents or potential answers. Questions can range from citations to full legal briefs in any stored document.

ROSS is available for hire to any attorney. Check it out here: