Meet Ross, the IBM Watson-Powered Lawyer

University of Toronto team launches a cognitive computing application that helps lawyers conduct world-class case research

When most people think of IBM’s cognitive computer Watson, they imagine the machine as a contestant on Jeopardy, answering trivia at lightning speed. Since Watson’s television debut in 2011, the supercomputer has matured from game show celebrity into professional resource; thanks to the work of students at the University of Toronto, Watson will now aid legal cases, supporting a new law research service named Ross.

Lawyers using Ross ask a legal question, and the program sifts through thousands of legal documents, statutes, and cases to provide an answer. Ross’s responses include legal citations, suggest articles for further reading, and even calculate a confidence rating to help lawyers prepare for cases. Because Ross is a cognitive computing platform, it learns from past interactions, meaning that Ross’s responses will grow to be more accurate as lawyers continue to use its system.

Ross is the brainchild of University of Toronto students Andrew Arruda, Shuai Wang, Pargles Dall’Oglio, Jimoh Ovbiagele, and Akash Venat, who built the application as part of the 2015 Watson University Competition, which awards seed funding to student entrepreneurs building upon the Watson cloud platform. The University of Toronto team placed second in the IBM competition, and has decided to transition the project into an independent startup.

ibm watson ross the laywer

Ross is not the first computerized legal research program, but its partnership with Watson makes it one of the most comprehensive, and the first to incorporate artificial intelligence.

As Mario Grech, coordinator of entrepreneurial initiatives at the University of Toronto’s department of computer science, tells IT Business Canada:

There are applications that service the legal industry, but none that have the artificial intelligence and machine learning capability that Watson has [...] Watson is our advantage.

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