Are the Robots Taking Over? Legal Research in the Future

May 27, 2016

Links from this article: Ross. one of the growing trends for 2016. University of Toronto incubators Baker & Hostetler

Who ever thought we would live to see robots being hired as lawyers! The time has come, and one robot in particular has arrived to fulfill your legal needs. ‘His’ name is Ross. Not Ross Geller. Just Ross.

Welcome Ross:

Ross is the latest artificial intelligence creation to enter the legal tech sphere, and has been noted as one of the growing trends for 2016.

Ross, an artificially intelligent robot attorney currently being developed in University of Toronto incubators, is your friendly local attorney ‘who’ provides direct answers to various legal questions, with a current focus on bankruptcy law. Ross is gaining recognition, after being licensed by Baker & Hostetler and pilot-tested by Dentons.

With the help of IBM Watson computing, rather than providing a ‘siri’-type generated list of links to possible solutions to your legal question, Ross has been trained to provide well-thought out answers. Just the way an actual lawyer would. ‘He’ also provides citations for where his legal answer was derived from, along with additional readings on the topic.

Is Ross Replacing Lawyers?

If you’re a lawyer, you may be thinking the end of the legal profession has arrived. If Ross can provide solid legal advice to clients based on highly developed algorithms, then what’s the need for lawyers charging rates as much as $500 an hour?

It is true that Ross is similar to an average junior level associate, able to conduct legal research at a high-level, providing a list of citations, and a generated legal response thanks to machine learning. It is also true that Ross may be able to provide this research at a lower cost than an average junior level associate. Ross can also perform this service with minimal support from human lawyers. Although this is true, in order for Ross to be successful he still needs you, the human lawyer!

Does Ross need Lawyers?

While some lawyers may be thinking ‘they’re out for our jobs’, many other lawyers may argue that as much as the legal industry needs high-level technology, such as Ross, ‘he’ too needs the legal profession, and human lawyers in particular.

The legal profession is changing, and it’s not only because of Ross. Many clients are now demanding legal work to be completed more efficiently and for less cost. The hourly rate service provided by lawyers is slowly fading, while many innovative law firms are offering fixed-fee legal services. Prices are decreasing, while the demand for faster services is increasing. Lawyers need the high-level technology to help support the growing demand for more efficient services. But these high-level technology services also need lawyers.

Without lawyers, Ross will not live up to the high standards that the legal profession demands. Like any law graduate, Ross needs training and guidance in order to perform to the highest standards.

CEO, Andrew Arruda, has stressed that Ross is not a replacement to lawyers, but is trained to enhance lawyers’ work. Ross will contribute additional value to work that lawyers already perform, by providing legal responses in complex and demanding cases. Ross can take on the legal research that usually holds lawyers back from giving value to the client.


For instance, while Ross conducts the legal research to solve legal issues, junior level lawyers can draft the memos which use the legal responses generated, and more quickly complete the work that brought to light the legal issues (for example, litigation or transactional service). This will make it easier to keep on top of business development by ensuring that their clients are satisfied with the level of service they are providing.


A new trend is developing - where professionals start fearing for their job security once a new innovation disrupts their industry. One thing that is certain, technology is not going to slow down - so we must not either! Professionals in any given industry are at a stage where they need to learn to utilize these disruptive innovations to their benefit. This can be done by making room for technology in a supportive role. By utilizing highly innovative products/services as an enhancement to services professionals are already providing, professionals will have more efficient outcomes with much less stress.

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