Meet 'Ross', Your Watson-Based Legal Researcher

A group of University of Toronto students given access to IBM's Watson computer have decided that they don't want to do the 90 hours of scut work given to newly hired lawyers. They trained it using a body of Ontario corporate law decisions and statutes.

(IBM's Watson computer is ready to do your scut work)

“Basically, what we built is a the best legal researcher available,” explains Ross co-founder Andrew Arruda, 25, a University of Saskatchewan law graduate who is articling at Toronto law firm Azevedo & Nelson. “It’s able to do what it would take lawyers hours to do in seconds.”

Here’s how Ross’s creators say it works: You ask it a legal question, and it spits out an answer, citing a legal case, providing some relevant readings and a percentage number indicating how confident Ross is he got it right. If a new case that might be relevant to your question comes into the database, Ross knows right away and alerts you on your smartphone, perhaps as you are heading to court.

“When we are short of time, we just say it is Siri for lawyers,” says Ross team software engineer Jimoh Ovbiagele, 21, referring to the Apple iPhone’s talking concierge program. He adds that “Watson is a lot smarter than Siri.”

Fans of sf know there are lots of examples of the use of robots and artificially intelligent computers in law. See Law Expert System (LEX) by Greg Egan from The Moat (1991):

Ranjit arrives a few minutes later, carrying a CD; he mimes staggering under its weight. "Latest set of amendments to the UNHCR regulations. It's going to be a long day."

I groan. "I'm having dinner with Rachel tonight. Why don't we just feed the bloody thing to LEX and ask for a summary?"

"And get disbarred at the next audit? No, thanks." The Law Society has strict rules on the use of pseudo-intelligent software - terrified of putting ninety percent of its members out of work.

See also Max Detention (Virtual Counsel) from Greg Bear's 2007 novel Quantico and the lawyer program from David Brin's 1990 novel Earth.

Via The Globe and Mail.

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