Using AI To Level the Legal Playing Field

This Toronto-based firm uses state-of-the-art software to help lawyers save precious time... and save their clients precious money.


In an industry with an ever-growing workload and client demands for more efficient solutions, annual investment in legal technology has skyrocketed to well over $1 billion globally. Advances in artificial intelligence are opening doors for law firms, allowing them to bypass time-consuming, laborious research work and focus instead on developing strategies and solutions to complex legal issues.

ROSS Intelligence is a Toronto-based legal tech company that uses state-of-the-art Natural Language Understanding software to answer legal research questions. What normally takes many hours of poring over case law can now be achieved in seconds.

And this isn’t merely gathering a range of sources that match a certain keyword — ROSS’s AI returns the user a curated collection of relevant cases required to create an authoritative legal position. Important variables can be applied to sharpen the query, like the time period, the jurisdiction, and other filters as the user sees fit.

Moreover, the time savings on legal research aren’t just a blessing for lawyers under pressure. Whittling down their workload also lowers the bill, so clients who would otherwise be denied services for financial reasons have more opportunities for legal aid.

“Justice shouldn’t have different price tags; more money shouldn’t equal better justice,” said co-founder and CEO Andrew Arruda in a 2016 TED Talk.

The Origins of ROSS

The inspiration for ROSS Intelligence came out of the personal experiences of co-founder and CTO, Jimoh Ovbiagele. At a young age, he witnessed the catastrophic financial consequences of his parents’ divorce, and this ultimately inspired him to level the playing field regarding the affordability and accessibility of legal services via technology.

It was in the halls of the University of Toronto that the idea began to materialize through a collaboration between three ambitious students with backgrounds in law and computer science. Ovbiagele and Arruda, along with co-founder Pargles Dall’Oglio, went on to represent the University of Toronto as their student AI team at the 2015 IBM Watson University Challenge and ranked second in the competition.

Less than a year later ,they were connected with the largest American seed fund, Y Combinator, and the company’s development rolled out from there.

Today, ROSS Intelligence has offices in both San Francisco and Toronto, and serves thousands of lawyers working in a variety of legal areas.

Ontario’s value as a tech hub

Arruda told Invest in Ontario that operating in Toronto has both personal and professional significance for the founders and the company: “The province not only produces some of the most sought-after computer science and machine learning graduates in the world, but it also has a long history of provincial governments, as well as a federal government, which actively seeks to attract, promote and grow tech ventures.

“Our deep connections to the province are one of the principal reasons for our success — and it’s also a source of envy for some of our American contemporaries,” added Arruda.

He speculates that ROSS’s full potential has a long way to go, as it is still early days in terms of development: “We are only beginning to scratch the surface of 1% of what our system will be able to do within five years”, he said in a 2019 interview.

“We look forward to changing the way legal services are delivered for everyone. It’s still early days, but all signs from the last few months have proved out this hypothesis, now that we’ve expanded to all practice areas and have allowed for self-serve registration off our website for solos and small firms.”

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.