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A New Era: ROSS’s Andrew Arruda on A.I., Law, and the Bright Future of Legaltech

May 1, 2017  |  8 min read

Arruda QA 3

If artificial intelligence is the future of law, Andrew Arruda is living a few years ahead of most of us. The co-founder and CEO of ROSS Intelligence, Arruda has become a leading champion of A.I.’s ability to free up lawyers to focus on what matters — lawyering, not spending hours drafting documents or searching for the perfect caselaw. At ROSS, Arruda and others are using A.I. to simplify everything from legal research to basic drafting, to “allow human lawyers to do more than ever before possible.”

Using technology to find simple solutions that empower attorneys is something Logikcull is especially passionate about, so we reached out to Arruda to see if he wanted to chat -- about the future of A.I. and the law, how lawyers are responding to legaltech, and recent developments with ROSS. A gently edited version of our conversation is below.

Casey Sullivan, for Logikcull: When it comes to A.I. and the law, there’s a lot of talk about the potential for “robot lawyers” to replace traditional attorneys. Yet, we haven’t been seeing too many chrome-plated esquires in law firms yet. Where do you think firms are actually using A.I. today and how do you see that changing in the year or years ahead?

Andrew Arruda: There’s this idea that A.I. is the same thing as robotics, which is not the case at all. Movies like "The Terminator" planted the seed of the conscious robot bent on gaining one over on the human race in folk’s minds, which I think sets back A.I.’s acceptance at times. This being said, the tide has turned and now more and more people, especially those in law, are educating themselves about what A.I. can do -- and what it can’t! -- and moving to bring A.I. into their practice.

More and more people, especially those in law, are educating themselves about what A.I. can do.

Law firms are using A.I. today in tasks such as legal research, monitoring the law around the clock and even preparing the first draft of some documents like legal memoranda. A.I. capabilities in law will continue to build on each other and with each other. At ROSS Intelligence we are building a legal A.I. ecosystem which will allow human lawyers to do more than ever before possible.

Logikcull: What can lawyers do that A.I. can’t? What sort of human qualities are irreplaceable by tech -- at least for the moment?

Arruda: Funny enough the things that humans are particularly good at are the tasks which clients are most willing to pay for. Machines excel at data retrieval and organizational tasks while humans excel at tasks that require creativity and finding the connections between various information points.

The things that humans are particularly good at are the tasks which clients are most willing to pay for.

Humans underestimate themselves. The human brain is three pounds and runs on a tuna salad sandwich. The discussion of the singularity, the idea of conscious machines, oftentimes detracts from what is happening on the frontlines today.

Logikcull: A.I. has been embraced more rapidly outside of the legal sector -- in industries like healthcare and finance for example. How, if at all, do you see this first wave, corporate A.I. adopters changing their outside counsel’s relationship with technology?

Arruda: Our clients’ industries are undergoing tremendous changes with the emergence of A.I. and the legal industry must respond to this new technological reality. This first wave of A.I. adoption, which came in industries such as transportation, finance, and health, is providing a great example to law firms and in-house teams on how to use A.I. enabled tools to their advantage.

How can you be the GC of a company implementing A.I. into all your product lines and not understand A.I. and adopt it within the legal department? If your clients are in healthcare and you are being resistant to the very technology they are asking your legal opinion on, are you being the best advocate possible?

Our clients’ industries are undergoing tremendous changes with the emergence of A.I. and the legal industry must respond to this new technological reality.

Logikcull: Are you seeing resistance to the technological adoption in the industry today? If so, where is this strongest? What seems to be behind this resistance? Caution? Inertia? A fear of losing billable hours? None or all of the above?

Arruda: Certainly all the above and then some others. I tackled this sort of question recently on the ROSS video blog.

One thing I would add however is that not adopting new technology and resisting innovation is something that is a deep-seated psychological barrier in our profession -- but it’s also not our fault.

Our clients pay us to be pessimistic and to be risk averse.

Our clients pay us to be pessimistic and to be risk averse, so when you tell a group of lawyers they have to change and be innovative you are asking lawyers to do much more than just buy new technology and use it – you are asking lawyers to change the very way they think, which, as we all know in our personal endeavors, is not an easy task.

Logikcull: Outside of major firms and corporate legal departments, how do you see A.I. transforming legal practice? What’s the place of A.I. in a public defender’s office or a small boutique practice?

Arruda: We are proud that ROSS is being used in legal organizations of all shapes and sizes. Some of our biggest advocates are those using ROSS in small boutique practices. I myself got my start at a small law firm of 5 lawyers.

Tools like ROSS can level the playing field, making outcomes center around how good you are as a lawyer and not about your access to resources, which we are very happy about.

A.I. can assist lawyers in all organizations do more but I think there’s a particular advantage to using A.I. in organizations which do not have the budget of a large firm or corporate team. Tools like ROSS can level the playing field, making outcomes center around how good you are as a lawyer and not about your access to resources, which we are very happy about.

Logikcull: What’s the role of A.I. in increasing access to justice? Is it in cost reduction, or do you envision technology going further than just helping to reduce hourly rates?

Arruda: Our view at ROSS Intelligence is that A.I. can usher in a new era of law which opens up access to legal services for the 80 percent of Americans who currently need access, but cannot afford it.

This also represents a tremendous business opportunity for lawyers who see the worth in building nimble practices, enabled by A.I. tools, which can allow them to effectively and efficiently represent the average American, and most importantly, do it at a price the average American can afford.

Logikcull: When it comes to machine learning, there’s a risk that the robots might not learn the best lessons, so to speak. For example, an algorithm that directs researchers to the most engaged-with, top-ranking caselaw might not direct them to the best caselaw for a particular matter. How can legal tech companies and lawyers safeguard against this, making sure that the best isn’t just the most popular?

Arruda: That’s a bit of a misconception, the idea that the most “popular” results would be weighed heavier than the most relevant. Choices as to how to weigh popular results are things that companies test to ensure the best information is being presented at all times. Additionally, with advances that we are seeing in natural language processing a good A.I. system, like ROSS, is able to really zero in on all the most important factors which make a result the best to display – there are some very exciting breakthroughs on the horizon.

Logikcull: ROSS continues to grow and expand, including opening ROSS North in Toronto. Can you give us a quick preview of what might be ahead for ROSS in the upcoming months or years?

Arruda: We pride ourselves in moving fast and bringing the best products to the market as possible. Our plan is to continue to move fast and lead the way for A.I. in the legal market.

Whereas other companies are now moving to add the words A.I. to their offerings, there’s a big difference between being an A.I. company and simply saying you’re an A.I. company. We will continue to expand our offerings in the upcoming months and continue to build towards ROSS being on the legal team of every lawyer in the world in the coming years.

Logikcull: Who are some other leaders in the legal tech field you admire? Who else should we be talking to and keeping our eye on?

Arruda: There would be too many for me to put here without leaving anyone out. I think that Richard Susskind is an impressive guy, a lot of people don’t know he built one of the first expert systems in law. There’s about 40 more people I could add but going with Richard is always a safe move.

The future of legaltech is brighter than ever.

It’s a great field, legaltech folks have been a pleasure to work with and the future of legaltech is brighter than ever. 

This post was authored by Casey C. Sullivan, Esq., who leads education and awareness efforts at Logikcull. You can reach him at casey.sullivan@logikcull.com