robo attorney

A legal firm just hired an artificially intelligent Robo-Attorney—and it could change everything…

A lawyer is, quite simply, a representative whom you hire to increase the amount of certainty in your life, in moments of grave uncertainty. Property, injury, marriage, divorce. Where do you stand? You don’t know! So you hire one of these clowns. Thing is, all of them bill by the hour and therefore they are specifically charging you by the volume of their own uncertainty.

The more they have, the more you pay.

Checking and rechecking old cases. Looking up the letter of the most recent law. These things take time. Luckily (for them, never you) they bill by the hour. It’s a system that begs for a tech disrupt. And now one law firm, BakerHostetler is doing just that, bringing in an artificially intelligent lawyer to handle its bankruptcy practice, a job currently done by nearly 50 attorneys.

A.I. ROSS brings us just a little bit closer to what Doc Brown promised in Back to the Future 2: “The justice system works swiftly in the future now that they’ve abolished all lawyers.”

Chief Information Officer Bob Craig explains the shift thusly: “At BakerHostetler, we believe that emerging technologies like cognitive computing and other forms of machine learning can help enhance the services we deliver to our clients.” The most exciting part, though, seems to be how all of life’s horrible, emotionally charged moments—pre-nups, bankruptcies—can soon be handled by a humorless machine.

The platform—doesn’t that sound like an epithet now?— known as A.I. ROSS is based on IBM’s cognitive Watson system. It’s breezy, fast and best of all conclusive, meaning clients can get an answer with as much certainty as possible within minutes.

This brings us just a little bit closer to what Doc Brown promised in Back to the Future 2: “The justice system works swiftly in the future now that they’ve abolished all lawyers.”

The promise of the Watson system is that it cannot only “think” but eventually “teach” from what it has learned in the past. Currently with A.I. like Siri, the system can’t help making the same mistakes over and over again. ROSS would therefore soon enter a feedback loop in which the law began to reflect court cases made with his input. Within just a few months it’s possible that you could not only see what ROSS would recommend as your legal action, but to see how that outcome played out in his last case.

Even better than the legal help there is the reduction in sleepless nights you’d spend with the uncertainty of a legal case hanging over your head.

The quiet revolution of the past 15 years has put an end to many dour moments. Rarely do we hail a cab in the rain, wait on hold to order a pizza or even leave the house to find a stranger to make out with. Why should something as horrible as filing for bankruptcy be any less convenient than checking your banking app to see how much you drank last night?

What we haven’t yet learned is what firm is likely to do with all its now seemingly superfluous bankruptcy lawyers. My mother is always on my case about how I should have gone to law school. But imagine being 30, living with crushing student debt and getting replaced by Siri’s life partner?

Maybe this isn’t the week for telling old Woody Allen jokes but this reminds me of a classic…

Woody tells the audience how his father lost his job after being replaced by a tiny gadget that was able to do everything Marty did, only more efficiently. Punchline? “The depressing thing is that my mother ran out and bought one.”

So maybe if my mom still wants a lawyer in the family, we can get her one next Mother’s Day.