Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

BakerHostetler Hires Robot Lawyer 'Ross', Ushers In Legal Jobs Apocalypse

Built on Top of Watson, IBM's Cognitive Computer

Sputnik News, Law School Scam? $200,000 in Student Debt, Replaced by Job-Killing Robot:

Law school, the default location for America’s brightest unemployed Liberal Arts graduates and the worst decision a 20-something can make in the modern era just became an even worse bargain, if that’s possible. ...

The world’s first "artificial-intelligence attorney," touted as the newest member of white-shoe law firm BakerHostetler, threatens to spark a job-killing trend in a vocation where career prospects already frighten a terrorized workforce.

ROSS, an AI attorney created using technology from IBM’s Watson, reads and draws inferences from existing law to answer questions about specific cases or guidelines, which BakerHostetler says will save time for lawyers who have to master a huge, growing body of legal literature.

The firm does not mention that nearly all of their 900 attorneys are paid for their time on an hourly basis, a pay basis on which BakerHostetler has generously offered to relieve them of. The firm suggests that their staff of attorneys are excited about ROSS, a piece of machine-language software aiming to cut into paychecks and potentially render most of the employees obsolete. ...

If you dedicate seven years of your life to studying meaningless rubbish for the ‘privilege’ of entering a field that promises no gainful employment and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous penury, do not blame BakerHostetler.

It turns out, according to Andrew Arruda, the CEO of ROSS Intelligence, that the law firm is not the only shop employing soulless automatons, they are just the first to do it publicly.

Legal Education | Permalink


@Overhype, That's what all management says before the layoffs and RIF's. They don't want the most talented to strike out on their own. At least not before management pulls the plug.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | May 20, 2016 9:10:57 AM

Hi Rob,

Always nice to read your substance-free insults; it lets me know how seriously I should take your commentary. Anyhoo, that's a pretty lonely island you share with a few law professors whose 1-2 year work holidays as junior associates in the recent to deep past gives them no more insights into the health or management of law firms than possessed by my dog. On the other hand, here is an abridged list of the legal observers who have explicitly written that the legal profession (and/or entry-level legal hiring more specifically) are undergoing structural change: the three big industry observers (Altman Weil, Thomson Reuters, Citi), senior law firm partners across the country, the ABA, the NALP, the Christensen Institute, Richard Susskind, pretty much every economist who has written a book on the future of white collar automation in the last five years. No one outside of the legal academy denies structural change in the legal profession, but hey - it's impossible to get a man to believe something that his job requires him to deny (Upton Sinclair). I'm sure the local Longshoremen's Union avers that containerization is a fad and that there is a boom market for stevedores coming any old day now.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 19, 2016 11:31:06 PM

"and that there are indeed permanent, structural changes in the profession? "

As I have pointed out to UNE before, it takes a little longer than a less-than-a decade old downturn to declare with certainty that a permanent structural change has occurred, but this particular Chicken Little just doesn't seem to get it. There may indeed be such a change afoot, and lawyers and law students present and future are wise to be wary, but to assert it as a proven fact, as UNE habitually does, is merely fatuous.

Posted by: Rob T. | May 19, 2016 1:35:28 PM


Should prospective law students be worried by all of the Altman Weil, Thomson Reuters, and Citi industry reports on law firms over the last several years that all conclude that law firms have too much capacity, in-house departments are farming out less and less work, and that there are indeed permanent, structural changes in the profession? Or should we just assume that 2013, I mean 2016, I mean, uh, 2018? will have a shortage of law school graduates and law firms will be offering the sun and the moon?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 19, 2016 10:08:38 AM

But should human lawyers be worried about their jobs being replaced by robots? BakerHostetler stressed that this is not the case. “ROSS is not a way to replace our attorneys – it is a supplemental tool to help them move faster, learn faster, and continually improve,” said Bob Craig, chief information officer of BakerHostetler.

Posted by: Overhype | May 19, 2016 9:25:00 AM

If you get past all the hype, this is just a search tool like google or westlaw or lexis.

Posted by: Overhype | May 19, 2016 9:21:44 AM

@ruralcounsel. I agree there is a degree of difference between the two, but your initial remark made no such distinction.

Posted by: Daniel | May 18, 2016 11:46:57 AM

If the law were just about raw data and facts, we would have been replaced years ago by Univacs. I once tried a case when the State simply introduced Medical Records as her case in chief. She tendered no live witnesses. My argument to the court....why appointment me to represent a client? Why even have a Prosecutor? We can even replace the judge with a PC or Mac? The judge, to his credit, requested a live witness.

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | May 18, 2016 8:50:30 AM

Junior associates may just prove to be 21st century scriveners. Remember them?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 18, 2016 8:29:29 AM

Daniel, there's a significant difference between automation to do a task versus automation to replace a job. Most engineers didn't draw plans, they had draftsmen to do that work. There aren't many draftsmen anymore, but that was blue collar work. Now automation, really AI, will replace the engineers. Expert systems and advancements in AI will start replacing the "brains" part of the equation, not just the "brawn."

Posted by: ruralcounsel | May 18, 2016 8:16:27 AM

automation has been in the white collar world. engineers and architects use computers to draw plans. How many accountants/companies keep paper ledgers? Are the Big 4 still pumping out paper returns that were calculated manually? Better yet, when is the last time a lawyer that graduated in the past 15 years been in the law firm library doing research?

Posted by: Daniel | May 18, 2016 6:29:35 AM

Automation finally hits the white-collar world. It's been overdue.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | May 18, 2016 4:48:10 AM

Next will be the robot of Artificial Stupidity! (Oh, wait, ...)

Posted by: Old Ruster from JDJunkyard | May 17, 2016 6:48:59 PM

This might work for a DUI client. Input blow result, Input field sobriety test results. Input statements. Input Officer observation. Input Dash Cam Video. Then Lawyer Roboto can spit out advice on whether to plea or not. Cool!

Posted by: Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King | May 17, 2016 1:46:29 PM