More from ILTACON 2015: “Watson, I Need You!” Augmented Intelligence for Law Firms

Topics: Client Relations, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Talent Development

practice innovations

LAS VEGAS—If you were to imagine the researching aspect of a law firm of the future, what would that look like? Kyla Moran from the IBM Watson Group led a discussion down the path of what we could expect at the International Legal Technology Association Conference (ILTACON) going on in Las Vegas, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3.

In what seemed like a shock to many in the room, Moran described an office similar to today, with one difference: Watson will work in tandem with lawyers, listening to queries and providing natural language feedback with an enhanced ability to understand the tone of the question or conversation. Moran termed this augmented knowledge or intelligence, noting this service will be your personal savant, ever-ready to assist with a wealth of knowledge.

What started as a million dollar investment, IBM Watson now has the ability to process 700 million pages of data in one second. As the system continues to develop, it is likely that in the future many, if not all decisions, will be influenced by cognitive computing.

Moran also spoke about the pivotal moment that shifted the cognitive computing industry. The game show Jeopardy! thrust IBM onto center stage with the computer beating the best two players of all time. Moran said that the company learned some valuable lessons from that experience. First was the importance of memory. Watson had a treasure trove of information and metadata, but new in this sphere was the ability to enhance and understand contextual information. Watson could interpret Jeopardy’s tricky language like, “Chicks Can Dig Me,” a category on the show about female archeologists. Lastly, Watson could see not just black or white, but rather an array of a thousand shades of gray. This important nuance allows the system to rank possible answers rather than a single answer. Ultimately these learnings have allowed augmented intelligence to now aid in human decision making.


What started as a million dollar investment, IBM Watson now has the ability to process 700 million pages of data in one second. As the system continues to develop, it is likely that in the future many, if not all decisions, will be influenced by cognitive computing.


While Watson has made much hay outside of legal market, medical, financial and now cooking; where does Moran see it helping law firms?

Moran said that one-third of an associate’s time is typically spent on research with 52% of associates conducting a free web search as the first step in their research process. She insinuated that this is one huge area that she expects augmented intelligence to assist with. She also mentioned that this will accelerate the vacuums of law where 80% of Americans who need legal services are unable to acquire or afford it, while large numbers of lawyers are unable to find clients. This mixture is primed for the use of augmented intelligence to assist.

While the current state of legal adoption of IBM Watson is relatively low, there is no question that such technologies are set to explode over the coming years. With the rapid expansion of both structured and unstructured data, these tools will have to be utilized to better understand the enormous data surrounding legal professionals.

For more coverage of ILTACON 2015’s session panels and speeches, provided by Legal Current’s Andrew McLennan-Murray, see below:

Don’t Just Implement. Adopt!

“Don’t Just Implement. Adopt!” panelists from Perkins Coie LLP, Shearman & Sterling LLP, and Kaye Scholer LLP gathered at ILTACON to discuss the pain of software that wasn’t adequately adopted by their firms.

The Need for Speed: Rapid-Fire Problem-Solving in a Time-Starved World

During the ITLACON session “The Need for Speed: Rapid-Fire Problem-Solving in a Time-Starved World,” attendees hoped to learn to make better, faster decisions with their teams. The session was structured as a workshop in which more than 200 attendees were split into small teams and prompted to make quick decisions on complex challenges such as: “Your team is responsible for building technology for a firm recently merged with three other firms. You will have one year to roll out the infrastructure. What do you do?”

(republished with permission from Legal Current)