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An artificially intelligent program may significantly reduce the time attorneys spend researching.

Summary: An artificially intelligent program may significantly reduce the time attorneys spend researching.

According to The Globe and Mail, a class project at the University of Toronto evolved into a startup company. The project uses IBM’s artificially intelligent Watson computer to perform legal research. According to Bloomberg, IBM agreed to grant a free year of Bluemix, a cloud platform, to companies NextLaw invests in.


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The world’s largest law firm, Dentons , has now backed Ross, which is the name of the app. Watson actually won Jeopardy! in 2011, and it is now being used to review millions of pages of case law and other legal documents in mere seconds. It is also being used to answer legal questions. The founders compare it to a smarter version of Siri. They even think it could replace some of the tedious research that low-level associates at top firms must do. According to NextLaw Labs CEO Dan Jansen, “Basically you teach Watson an area of law and you do these natural language queries and it comes back with answers,” noted. Ross is one of the latest attempts to intertwine “cognitive computing” with the legal field, which has largely been wary of new technology.

Zapproved also offers technological services to law firms.

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Dentons announced an undisclosed investment in Ross Intelligence Inc. The company will use Dentons’ NextLaw Labs, which is a project that is based in Silicon Valley. NextLaw Labs will develop new technology for legal businesses. Ross Intelligence Inc. is the first publicly disclosed startup that NextLaw Labs has signed up.

Dentons also recently announced a partnership with International Business Machines Corp. that will provide the legal startups working with NextLaw Labs access to technology using IBM’s means of cloud computing.

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Ross, though it is still in its testing phase, will be piloted at Dentons and several other prestigious law firms in the United States. The program has implemented a database that is focused mostly on bankruptcy law and is still undergoing refining.

Andrew Arruda, one of the startup’s co-founders, noted that the project will certainly be enhanced by its new partnership with Dentons. Arruda said, “It’s the early days for sure. But what we are seeing is Ross grasping and understanding legal concepts and learning based on the questions and also getting user feedback. … Just like a human, it’s getting its experience in a law firm and being able to learn and get better.”

Here are ten startup companies that are capitalizing on legal software demands.

Joe Andrew, Dentons’ global chair, said that the investment was the kind of project NextLaw Labs was destined to take on. “We all recognize that the biggest problem for technology and the law is to get lawyers to actually adopt it,” he said.

Similar legal tech incubators have emerged in the recent past. LegalX, a “cluster” in the Ontario government’s MaRS Discovery District, and Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) at Ryerson University have opened in Toronto.

A legal startup, Beagle, is under the MaRS project. Beagle uses artificial intelligence to scan and explain the important parts of complex contracts. LIZ contains two startups that create legal websites that match clients and attorneys.

Ross has also received support from Y Combinator, which is a U.S. seed fund that has backed several startups that became household names: Airbnb and Reddit.

Ross is not even a year old. Last year, it was a project launched at the University of Toronto in a contest for developing commercial applications. Ross was up against nine other schools’ teams in January. Although the University of Toronto students missed the first prize of $100,000, they kept their access to Watson, as well as support from IBM, and have been working hard to develop the program since.

Source: The Globe and Mail

Photo credit: LinkedIn




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