Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, has partnered with Ross Intelligence Inc. with the hopes of creating a user friendly legal research application unlike anything the legal profession has seen before. The Ross application is a legal research tool powered by IBM’s Watson technology and is used to scan millions of pages of legal documents, statutes and case law in mere seconds, and then produce answers to legal questions. The Watson technology became most famous when it won Jeopardy! in 2011. Ross’s founders analogize its research technology to that of iPhone’s Siri, but for lawyers. Ross will have access to and use Dentons’ NextLaw Labs, a project developed to create new legal technology.
The legal profession is not known for embracing developments in technology. Many older lawyers hang on to their tried and true dictaphones, legal pads and library cards. Dentons, however, seeks to drive legal research methods into the future by using technology like Ross to answer questions rather than having a low-level associate grind out hours of research to produce the same answers. Global chairman of Dentons, Joe Andrew, stated aptly that, “We all recognize that the biggest problem for technology and the law is to get lawyers to actually adopt it.” He further points out that the legal profession is “ripe for disruption” and ready to experience a “tidal wave” of change.
Ross is still in its testing phase and Dentons and other elite law firms are trying out the technology. The program is presently focused primarily on United States bankruptcy law but will expand its knowledge database to incorporate several other areas of law. Ross founder Andrew Arruda acknowledges that being linked to the world’s largest law firm definitely gives the program credibility. The main goal of Ross is to develop the product into something that can be readily accessed by lawyers everywhere. Arruda stated that, “It’s early days for sure. But 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.”