Friday, March 13, 2015

Meet Ross: A Computer Program That May Be Your Next Lawyer

What is the future of technology in the practice of law? Will a computer program one day replace your lawyer?

Two recent articles from the National Post’s Mitch Kowalski and the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Gray have examined these questions following the invention of a computer program named "Ross" by a group of computer science students from the University of Toronto.

According to the Jeff Gray article:
In the next few years, there may be a new junior associate, called Ross working at a Bay Street law firm. He will handle legal research on big cases and the senior partners are really going to like him: He is quiet, works orders-of-magnitude faster then any other lawyer on Earth and has a steel-trap mind.
Ross will one day be much like what Siri is to an iPhone user. A lawyer would be able to ask Ross a question such as, “Can you terminate an employee without notice if they fail to meet their sales target under the employment contract?.” Within a matter of seconds Ross will understand the questions and provide the lawyer with a number of sources and readings for the lawyer to further examine. Ross will not provide a definite answer; ultimately that will continue to be the lawyers role.

As co-founder Andrew Arruda explains in the Jeff Gray article, “Basically what we built is the best legal researcher available. It’s able to do what it would take lawyers hours to do in seconds.”

While the creators of Ross are adamant on its usefulness within the legal practice there are concerns which may arise through the use of Ross with the law firm environment. Firstly, what will be the Law Society of Upper Canada’s position on the use of Ross and the reliance of artificial intelligence by lawyers when advocating for their clients? Secondly, what impact will the implementation of Ross within law firms have on the ongoing ability of lawyers to conduct their own legal research?

According to the Mitch Kowalski article, at this time the creators are not considering making Ross available to the general public for purchase. By this summer, however, Ross’ creators hopes to begin pilots with a few Toronto law firms to further analyze Ross’ practicality and usefulness.

You can learn more about Ross at

- Kenneth R. Bandeira, Associate Lawyer, Toronto

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