As if the world wasn’t anxious enough about automation and artificial intelligence fleecing jobs from the working class, now even lawyers might feel a little nervous. Last week, the law firm Baker & Hostetler announced the hiring of IBM’s proprietary artificial intelligence product, Ross. Built by IBM’s own groundbreaking computing system, Watson, Ross is the world’s “first artificially intelligent attorney.”

Designed as a self-learning algorithmic tool, Ross is capable of most basic cognitive skills and possesses fine-tuned research abilities. This includes providing citations. Ross will join Baker & Hostetler’s team of 50 lawyers specializing in bankruptcy cases.*

“You ask your questions in plain English, as you would a colleague, and ROSS then reads through the entire body of law and returns a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed quickly,” the website says. “In addition, ROSS monitors the law around the clock to notify you of new court decisions that can affect your case.”

With the legal industry already oversaturated, ROSS Intelligence CEO and co-founder Andrew Arruda recently spoke at a legal conference. He stated:

“We’re standing on day one of artificial intelligence in law.”

Ross will be used primarily as a research tool, as its ability to quickly synthesize vast numbers of case files and extract relevant source material could prove invaluable.

The announcement comes in the wake of a series of startling news stories related to artificial intelligence and robots. Recently, Google revealed it had been feeding its A.I. bot thousands of romance novels and that it had started writing strange, post-modern poetry. Earlier this year, IBM partnered with the company Softbank to manufacture humanoid robots for use in retail stores.

Another strange story appeared on Gizmodo last week when computer science students at Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing learned that the teaching assistant they had been interacting with for the entire term was actually an artificial intelligence program.

The integration of Ross into a legal firm marks another development in the precarious balance we now see in humans using artificial intelligence as assistance tools. How long it will take before an artificial intelligence entity tries an actual court case remains to be seen.

*Editor’s note: According to the website of the law firm now employing Ross,

“BakerHostetler’s White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Team is among the nation’s leaders in all aspects of corporate criminal defense and enforcement-related litigation. Our team includes some of the country’s most experienced and seasoned lawyers who are dedicated to protecting businesses…”

Coincidently, one of the firm’s three original partner’s, Newton D. Baker, served as Secretary of War for Woodrow Wilson during World War I. BakerLaw.com also promises the firm will,

  • Assist clients with all aspects of internal investigations, including government inquiries and negotiations with the government.
  • Regularly represent clients in grand jury investigations and defend businesses and individuals in white collar criminal investigations and prosecutions around the globe, in parallel civil enforcement proceedings and in related third-party proceedings.
  • Defend and counsel clients in high-stakes litigation involving Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations, corporate governance issues, whistleblowing procedures, securities fraud, money laundering/asset forfeiture, criminal antitrust enforcement, public corruption, insider trading, hedge fund fraud and healthcare fraud.
  • Defend corporations, their officers, directors and employees charged with violations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice, SEC and/or FINRA.

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