Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the fodder of science fiction movies. The world’s first AI lawyer, IBM’s AI Ross, has been hired by law firm Baker and Hostetler to assist with their bankruptcy practice. This is rumoured to be the first of many licenses to be signed with everyone’s new smart attorney.

Ross was built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson. He is able to read and interpret language, answer questions and generate responses supported by references and citations to back up his conclusions. Ross’ intelligence is not static. He continually learns as he engages with humans and data.

This new cloud-based technology will not replace existing legal services, but complement them. Ross’ primary function is to assist with time-consuming legal research, which cannot be billed for, leaving lawyers with the time to focus on advising their clients. What differentiates Ross as an AI tool is his ability to receive and interpret questions in plain English and connect to the latest legislation around the world.

Whether Ross or AI tools like him will become a regular fixture in law firms remains to be seen. However, the development does illustrate a positive, continuous evolution in technology to benefit firms and their clients.