BakerHostetler signs up with ROSS Intelligence as Dentons launches free global referral network

AmLaw 100 national law firm BakerHostetler has become one of the first to enter into a commercial partnership with IBM Watson-backed digital legal research company ROSS Intelligence.

ROSS was the first company invested in by NextLaw Labs; the innovation arm of international law firm Dentons, which has this week used the same brand to launch free online referral platform Nextlaw Global Referral Network.

BakerHostetler, which has used ROSS as a member of a test group almost since its inception, will license ROSS for use in its bankruptcy, restructuring and creditors rights team.

ROSS began out of research at the University of Toronto in 2014 and in June 2015, after receiving funding from Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, relocated from Toronto to Palo Alto, California, where it has been taught bankruptcy law. The company is in the process of teaching ROSS other practice areas.

With the support of Watson’s cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities, lawyers ask ROSS their research question in natural language. ROSS then runs through available case law and legislation, gathers evidence, draws inferences and returns evidence-based candidate answers. ROSS also monitors the law around the clock to notify users of new court decisions that can affect a case.

“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,” said Bob Craig, chief information officer at BakerHostetler, which has 940 lawyers based in 14 offices across the U.S.

ROSS co-founder and CEO Andrew Arruda added: “BakerHostetler has been using ROSS since the first days of its deployment and we are proud to partner with a true leader in the industry as we continue to develop additional AI legal assistants.”

ROSS first came to many people’s attention in August 2015, when Dentons announced that its innovation and technology investment arm NextLaw Labs had selected ROSS as its first portfolio deal.

Yesterday (9 May) Dentons announced that it has created the only free law firm referral network. Nextlaw Global Referral Network is based on a new platform that will allow member law firms to easily connect and track referrals.

It will be headed by new CEO Jeff Modisett, senior counsel in Dentons’ public policy and regulation practice, who over the past four years has also acted as chief legal officer for San Francisco financial technology startup Loyal3.

Modisett said: “Firms that are members of Nextlaw Global Referral Network are more likely to receive reciprocal referrals than from any other referral network because the technology allows all members to easily and transparently keep track of referrals and uses an algorithm that promotes reciprocal repeat referrals.”

The new network avoids the regulatory issues incurred by existing referral networks by not charging a fee for membership and by not being territorially exclusive.

“The challenge for clients with today’s referral networks is that they are ‘pay-to-play’—you do not get the right firm for the client’s particular need, just the firm willing to pay to be part of the referral network,” said Joe Andrew, Dentons global chairman. “Nextlaw Global Referral Network is different because it is free, so clients will get the best lawyers for their need, without exception.

“The advantages to member firms are equally clear. Globalization has presented many firms with a false choice: expand or die, leading some to fall into the generalist trap, exaggerating their capabilities and what they can deliver for their clients. While growth is part of our strategy, it may not be for all. Nextlaw Global Referral Network allows firms to continue to focus on what they do best, get new business because of that expertise, and grow existing business through a direct line to the largest pool of legal talent in the world—all without paying anything.”  

While the Nextlaw Network is open to any law firm that meets its quality standards, it focuses its membership primarily on small to mid-sized law firms, and firms of any size that are in one location, country or region, or that specialise in one practice area or industry sector.

The network is expected to launch in mid-2016, with Dentons lawyers using the platform immediately.