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Are AI Legal Programs Beagle and ROSS Ready to Replace Attorneys?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Artificial intelligence is finally jumping off the pages of sci-fi novels and into reality -- and we're not just talking about the Roomba. Tech companies are starting to make real advances into AI, really quickly. Now, some of them are applying those advances to the legal industry, in IBM's ROSS platform and the Microsoft-backed contract reviewing software, Beagle.

So... The robots are coming? The robots are coming!

Getting Smart About Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been around for awhile, but in rudimentary forms. (AI programs were solving high school math problems, on their own, in the 60's and computer programs were defeating chess masters in the late 80's.) But only recently have artificial intelligence developments gotten close to really aiding, and possibly replacing, professionals like attorneys.

One of the recent revolutions in AI is the proliferation of successful machine learning. Machine learning allows computer programs to develop independently, through observing, evaluating, and deciding over and over and over again -- getting better each time. IBM's Watson technology, for example, can learn what tastes you enjoy and create brand new recipes based on those.

AI in the Legal Sphere

IBM has taken its Watson technology and applied it to the law through ROSS. (ROSS doesn't actually stand for anything.) ROSS is essentially a super-smart legal research platform, allowing users to ask natural questions and get pinpointed answers, instead of reams of statutes or caselaw.

Meet Beagle

ROSS isn't the only robot on the market, though. Beagle, a start up recently backed by Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, wants to bring "advanced intelligence" to contract review. Its motto: "We sniff out the fine print so you don't have to." According to the company:

Beagle reads your contract in seconds and highlights who the parties are, their responsibilities, their liabilities, how to get out of the contract and more... Beagle can be trained to sniff for information important to your business. Over time, as contracts are edited, tagged and collaborated on, Beagle learns and begins highlighting information that's important to you.

Ready to Replace Lawyers?

No, of course not. No smart consumer would toss their attorney aside for a computer program -- at least not yet. But ROSS and Beagle are starting to make inroads. Beagle claims that it can help cut down on $30,000 small and medium-sized businesses spend annual on contracts -- cash that could have been going to attorneys. ROSS too, promises, to eat into attorney work. A partnership between IBM and Dentons is already allowing the firm to handover simple tasks to ROSS -- the sort of boring work that would previously be handled by associates.

The smarter lawyers will find ways to get out ahead of the trend. The rest may be left behind.

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