For more than 30 years now changes and innovation in technology have impacted the practice of law. While on one hand,lawyers have been able to deliver services at faster and cheaper rates on the other the pre-recession employment opportunities have stagnated at 55,000[1]. The ABA journal in its April 2016 issue claimed that ‘artificial intelligence is changing the way lawyers think, the way they do business and the way they interact with their clients’.

Artificial intelligence may be more than just technology; it may be the next big step that will revolutionize the legal industry.


The Science behind Logic:

Today in the midst of information revolution massive growth in data (medical, utilities, manufacturing, legal, etc.) is expected.  About eighty percent of this data including Analysis Reports, Tweets, posts, E-mails, Blogs, Court Rulings, etc. are ‘invisible’ to computers and hence is of no value. Cognitive systems like IBM’s WATSONand ROSS can interact with human beings at a whole new level, extending their domain of knowledge in order to make complex decisions involving phenomenal volumes of Big Data.

 Jay Bellissimo General Manager of IBM Cognitive solutions 17’ said that ‘Cognitive systems democratize expertise by scaling knowledge’.  It fundamentally concerns itself with data handling – sensor, collect and analyze data followed by conversion to information and learning. So how differently AI work from computers?

The abilities of understanding, reasoning, and learning are specific to AI and distinguish it from traditional ‘programmed computing systems’. AI can understand just like humans, through either natural language or written format; in vocal or visual. Apart from information,it can understand ideas and sequences, i.e. it can form logical linkages between the assimilated data. Scientists claim that this reasoning ability will develop over time. In this repeated process of understanding and reasoning, AI begins to acquire ‘expertise’ over specific fields. This process is known as learning. Doctors are experts in their fields not because they answer questions correctly, rather because they are able to reason their conclusion.


Current scenario:

‘In states like Utah,about 97% of defendants show up in court without a lawyer in eviction cases’. Andrew Arruda, one of the co-founders of ROSS, in his speech expressed his discontent towards the current justice system.

The legal system is stacked against us both from the outside, as a citizen and the inside, as a lawyer. Despite your contentions,you need a lawyer at some point in time; for signing a contract, drafting a will and so on. Majority of the people who want a lawyer can’t afford one. Even if you manage to find one, due to the dynamic nature of the legal system it so happens that the lawyer requires about 25-30 hours of prior research. An average lawyer American lawyer charges about $351 per hour; you would end up spending about $9,000 even before the lawyer comes up with arguments pertinent to your case.

Andrew said that he decided to build an artificially intelligent lawyer that could democratize the justice system. He felt that today’s justice delivery varied with the socio – economic status. If one could afford a high – end lawyer then he, in turn, is accessing better skills, talent, resources and hence better justice – ‘more money meant greater justice’.

Research takes about 20% of a lawyer’s time and hence in most cases lawyer’s lookout for juniors who could do the monotonous and time-consuming work. Furthermore,lawyers have to spend hundreds of dollars every month to gain access to legal databases and even then they may fail to acquire exhaustive precedents relevant to their case. In the end with most time spent in research lawyers are unable to focus on the nuanced analysis of the issue at hand.

To better understand the issues consider this example; ABC is an exceptional lawyer with tons of clients, but he doesn’t understand artificial intelligence and probably thinks machines are going to take over the world. He is aware that in the ever -changing legal market he has to become competitive. But he is stuck in the repetitive tasks of legal research that is weighing him down with unbillable hours and hardly any time to focus on what’s most important to him, his clients. So what should he do now?


Revolution with ROSS

Jimoh Ovbiagele was a kid when his parents split.  He saw how his single mom and sister tried to make ends meet as legal bills piled up, due to expensive legal research. So in a joint effort with lawyer Andrew Arruda they went on to fulfill their dream – ‘Justice not operating differently depending on your socio-economic status’and created the world’s first Artificially Intelligent Lawyer – ROSS. More than good legal technology, the goal here is to make legal research more affordable and easier for both lawyers and clients. Since its inception in 2016 ROSS in collaboration with ‘NextLaw Labs’ managed to acquire 20 clients in the US and plans on expanding its horizon to the international legal network.

ROSS is developed based on IBM Watson’s cognitive computing. Lawyers can rely on ROSS’s natural language processing abilities to answer their research question. The answers will differ from that of a normal search engine like Google, because ROSS reads through laws, gathers pertinent evidence, draws inferences and provides answers backed by reasoning. Furthermore,ROSS acts as a watchdog of the court, notifying the user of round the clock about latest judgments affecting a case. It learns from its users, so as to provide them with better results than onwards

ROSS apart from litigation research can draft contracts, identify likely fraud or misconduct and perform diligently in corporate acquisitions. Recently Baker Hostetler, one of the largest law firms in the United States hired ROSS. It is set to act as a researcher for the 50 human lawyers in the Baker Hostetler’s bankruptcy division. The company’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Bob Craig in an interview with the NewsBeat Socialsaid that “emerging technologies like cognitive computing and other forms of machine learning can help enhance the services we deliver to our clients”.


Should Lawyers be worried?

Moving ahead from the applications of AI, we come to face the important question of ‘employment’ in the legal profession. Certain statistics in the recent past post the development of AI in Law; has left lawyers (especially fresh graduates from college) worrying.

In an analysis by Deloitte Insights, it is estimated that about 114,000 jobs in the legal profession will face the risk of automation in the next 2 decades.  This figure comprises of over 39% of jobs in the legal sector.

The near future may see a change in the nature of talent demanded by law firms. As the industry (referring to law firms in general) familiarise itself with the concepts of data mining and machine learning they begin to focus on tech – related jobs, for example,head of R&D, Coders, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts. This rapid technological progress can be attributed to offering the clients ‘value for money’.

This threat of jobs, however, isn’t even to all the strata of lawyers and may turn out to be beneficial to certain job categories as mentioned before. While the lower skilled jobs like secretaries may be lost to automation, a spur is expected in highly skilled jobs. Reports show that losses to the legal sector in terms of jobs may be about 31,000 but the economy may see an overall increase of 80,000 jobs with higher skill and greater pay.

It is probably why advocates of Artificial Intelligence claim that ‘there could actually be an increase in the sector’s labor force as the technology drives costs down and makes legal services more affordable to greater numbers of people’[2].


The future:

The question addressed here is not about ‘IF’ the Legal Industry adopts AI, it’s about ‘WHEN’ it does. It can be said without doubt that the legal profession will see a distribution of workforce and big paychecks, for those who get through, the AI wave. As far as firms are concerned, large firms with deep pockets and most foreign affiliations are most likely to get access to AI to be employed in the legal sector in India, in its early stages.  It is likely that the development that takes places among such firms’ trickles down to mid and low-tier firms who still have to address the legal requirements of the middle-income groups in India.

Majorly, AI will revolutionize the legal process by causing a reduction in the energy, resource and time inputs, thereby reducing the cost, while increasing the quality, depth, and value of services rendered by lawyers.



In entirety, the conflict of interest is between ‘employment in the legal industry’ and ‘delivery of quality services to clients’. From the Industry’s viewpoint,it is quite clear as to which interest should and will take precedence. To contemplate about the impact of AI, we must remember what impact, earlier technologies like computer and internet had on the legal industry. At their inception, they did have drastic effects, for the better or the worse, but eventually when confronted with their obvious benefits we have accepted them with open arms – Change is inevitable.



[1]Gluckman, N. (2016, November 4). Jobs Report Shows No October Surprise for Legal Sector. The Am Law Daily, p. 2.

[2]Mangan, D. (2017, February 17). Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers. Retrieved July 30, 2017 , from CNBC: