ROSS Intelligence has come a long way in a very short time. Their IBM Watson-powered solution, built to transform the way man-hour-heavy legal research is carried out, was first prototyped in January 2015 – 18 months later, the AI lawyer has been implemented at some of the world’s biggest global firms.
But where did ROSS come from, how did they break into the legal industry, and where are they headed next?
To find out, AI Business caught up with Andrew Arruda, CEO and Co-founder of ROSS.
Andrew Arruda of ROSS Intelligence
After graduating with a law degree from the University of Saskatchewan, Andrew identified a problem amid the legal hierarchy – by experiencing it first-hand. He explains:
“I worked at a small law firm to pay my way through university and law school. When I started out I did a lot of the grunt work that senior lawyers don’t do. Legal research takes about 30% of a lawyer’s time. Currently legal research works by inputting keywords to search a massive databases of cases – you type in a query and get thousands of results, which a lawyer has to trawl through to pick out key meanings. I was doing that, and I can tell you that it’s a mess and takes a long time”.
But it wasn’t Andrew who came up with the idea for ROSS originally.
“I became friends with Jimoh Ovbiagele after we chatted about law at a social event. Jimoh was studying computer science at the University of Toronto after transferring from the University of Texas at Austin to focus his studies on AI. When Jimoh started to build an AI legal system he called me and asked me what I thought about joining him and another computer science student, Pargles Dall’Oglio, in building the system. We named it ROSS and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Building ROSS with IBM’s Watson has enabled it to “move fast without building technology that already exists so we can focus on building technology that doesn’t”, Andrew explains.
So how did ROSS then seize their chance in the enterprise?
“Since the financial crisis in 2008, clients had been pushing back and not paying for the man hours of research that need to be done on their files. Our solution offered a departure from this, and 10 months after building ROSS in US bankruptcy law, we started introducing ROSS commercially”, Andrew explains.
One successful partnership led to another, and ROSS Intelligence is now working with a variety of firms including BakerHostetler, Latham & Watkins, and von Briesen & Roper.
“Because ROSS is built using machine learning technology including IBM’s Watson, it learns constantly from the questions it’s asked by lawyers, and is able to identify very specific case information in seconds”, Andrew explains. “But it works both ways – by cutting out the dull tasks, lawyers are engaging with the law much earlier and it therefore speeds up their learning curve”. William Caraher, CIO at von Briesen & Roper has said, “With ROSS, the associates at our firm can do on-point research much faster and then quickly drill-down on the main issues that help support the best possible outcome for our clients”.
Having achieved a great deal already, how does ROSS keep up this level of momentum in the enterprise? We asked Andrew what the next 12 to 18 months holds for the company.
“After starting with research in bankruptcy law, we are testing ROSS in other practice areas. Our goal is to build a team of AIs that assist lawyers with a variety of tasks including drafting to increase the efficiency of drawing up contracts or writing memoranda for instance. We build AIs that allow lawyers to scale their abilities allowing them to do more than ever before possible”.
Looking to the long term, Andrew wants ROSS “to be on the legal team of every lawyer in the US, and ultimately the world”. But he has nobler aspirations beyond this:
“Our overall goal is for lawyers to add AI-enabled tools to their so-called practice toolkit so they can help more people who may have not been able to otherwise afford a lawyer. 80% of Americans need lawyers but can’t afford one. And obviously it’s not that 80% don’t have any money, it’s just that legal costs are so high.
“Law is like the operating system of society, and there’s a massive opportunity here to redesign an antiquated environment and get people better access to justice. We also want to increase job opportunities for law graduates who are in masses of debt and in need of work. There are many prospects on the horizon but we have to go one step at a time”.