A law firm in New York has retained a new associate of sorts. It has no law degree but it can sort through hundreds of thousands of documents per minute in dozens of languages and knows all the new caselaw before even the largest army of articling students.
After dominating the Jeopardy and chess circuits a few years ago IBM has been developing its Watson artificial intelligence program to do more than play games. White collar workers, you are officially on notice.
“Ross,” the name of IBM’s virtual legal associate, is now up for hire. Baker & Hostetler has hired Ross to supplement its 50 bankruptcy lawyers.
Is it crazy to think that someday in the not-too-distant future you can simply ask Ross a legal question and have the likely resolution to your problem spit out with citations and a margin of error within the next few years? Will this lower costs and barriers to justice or provide an unfair advantage to well-funded litigants? Could these eventually supplant first-level decision makers and have corporeal judges relegated to appeals panels?
A lot of questions once firmly in the realm of science fiction are suddenly very relevant.
Queue up the “artificial intelligence” lawyer jokes now, but this is a very big deal.