Artificial Intelligence Fueling Legal Technology Sector
Dentons, the global law firm, announced, earlier this month, a collaborative effort between its’ innovation platform, NextLaw Labs, and IBM in an effort to use IBM Cloud to create a technology platform that enables startups to develop and deploy creative legal applications more quickly and efficiently.

In addition, NextLaw Labs also announced a deal with its first portfolio company, ROSS Intelligence Inc., the company responsible for the development of an artificial intelligence legal advisor application powered by IBM Watson.

From Concept to Reality

A project that began amongst a small group of University of Toronto students quickly turned into an innovative new startup. The students behind the development of ROSS were tasked with creating an artificially intelligent program to make legal research much more efficient.

While it may take even the most skilled legal expert hours, or even days, to sort through pages and pages of case law to find an applicable document, ROSS is designed to comb through millions of pages in seconds to return useful answers to even the most complex legal questions.

Although ROSS is still technically in the testing phase, Dentons isn’t the only major law firm putting the program to use. According to ROSS’ founders, the program is also being piloted at a number of elite, U.S.-based law firms and, while it’s still being refined, its’ current knowledge base is primarily being used to target solutions for cases pertaining to U.S. bankruptcy law.

According to co-founder Andrew Arruda, the team behind the development of ROSS is excited about the potential boost the program will receive from being connected to the world’s largest law firm. “It’s early days for sure,” says Mr. Arruda. “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.”

Encouraging Adoption of Technology

Developments in the legal technology field may eventually revolutionize the legal industry. However, as with many new technologies, the difficulty can be encouraging practicing lawyers and legal assistants to adopt the technology for everyday use.

According to Joe Andrew, the global chairman of Dentons, the company’s investment in ROSS Intelligence Inc. is precisely the type of project meant for NextLaw Labs. Andrew believes promising technologies in the legal field desperately need established firms to help them develop into something lawyers will actually make use of on a larger scale. “We all recognize that the biggest problem for technology and the law is to get lawyers to actually adopt it,” says Andrew.

Over the past decade or so, Toronto has become an epicenter for innovations in legal technology. Incubators like LegalX, a “cluster” located at the Ontario government’s MaRS Discovery District, and the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) at Ryerson University continue to push the adoption of artificial intelligence for use in legal research.

The legal startup Beagle, which has its home in the MaRS project, for example, is finding creative ways to use artificial intelligence to sift and sort through the most complex aspects of legal contracts and explain them more simply and clearly, both for lawyers and clients alike.

These technological innovations are just beginning to impact how law is practiced, both in Canada as well as abroad. According to Dan Jansen, CEO at NextLaw Labs, “Technology is now and will continue to be a real differentiator in the legal profession. The potential in companies like ROSS shows how the approach to solving client challenges is going to change. NextLaw Labs wants to be a part of transforming what is possible into a tangible offering in today’s legal market.”


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Posted by: DSR
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Tag: Legal
Business Start Ups
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