February 13, 2018 / by Munib Rahim / In Publications

Opportunity Innovation Disruption The Future Of 21st Century Law


  • What innovation is and how to get it for all organisations.
  • Solutions to the biggest game changer in history in the legal industry.
  • Strategies for legal firms to consider when dealing with and profiting from this market change.
  • Potential applications of cognitive computing for further innovation
  • The most important learning taken away from an innovation C-Level roundtable in London, in February 2018 hosted by the excellent Anna Purna and facilitated by Simplicity Itself’s Chief Scientist, Russ Miles, consisting of industry leaders in the UK from government, defence, technology, insurance, legal and finance.
  • Advances in cognitive computing AI and how it can disruptively affect any industry including yours.


https://www.thettn.tv/ - Technology Transformation Network https://www.annapurnarecruitment.com/ - Anna Purna https://www.simplicityitself.id/ - Simplicity Itself

Opportunity, Innovation & Disruption: The Future of 21st Century Law

What is Innovation & How do we get it?

Driverless cars, Smarter Homes, Voice activated cognitive computing search. It is all already here. The disruption of industries and markets we have already seen this century will pale in comparison to what is coming.

Simplicity Itself recently facilitated a roundtable on innovation, with the renowned Anna Purna as part of the Technical Transformation Network.

Industry leaders discussed innovation, how to get it, what it is and the cases from their own industries and practice. As some of the most amazing technologies, problems and cases in interesting industries were discussed, the main learning from the evening was that innovation needs connection.

Connection to people, to ideas, to customers, to technology, to data, to processes; every innovation is different in its impact, source and use. They all come from being connected. Evolving as the environment does. Innovation has to be useful too. There has to be payoff for the interested stakeholders. They must gain value from the innovation – a tangible value or it is next to useless.

Every Organisation wants and needs innovation. It is on a scale from Incremental to Disruptive. Not every organisation’s activities and culture can foster the innovation required in today’s world.

One participant raised the point of an imminent technology- led disruption in the legal industry and here we present the case and offer strategies to deal with one of the biggest disruptions/opportunities to the legal profession in 100 years.

The Next Generation of Innovation: Meet Watson, Cognitive computing

All professionals need a new approach to deal with the huge volumes of data they interact with on a daily basis in order to derive value from it. This process serves to enhance human expertise.

IBM’s Watson is an AI cognitive computer that enables professionals to create a new kind of value; finding answers and insights locked away in huge volumes of data.

Watson and its cognitive capabilities mirror some of the key cognitive elements of human expertise. A system that reasons about problems like a human does.

IBM’s Watson has the ability to sift through billions of pages of data in seconds for use in any area. Once a human professional has “taught” it, the machine can use its power in a smarter way becoming the ultimate assistant.

For example a medical application processes mountains of medical research for doctors helping cancer patients, even offering recommended treatments.

The Legal Disruption that should be embraced

A group of University of Toronto students given access to Watson have built the best legal researcher available. Meet Ross.

Ross is able to do what it would take lawyers hours to do in seconds.

Simply by asking Ross a legal question.

You ask it a legal question, and it spits out an answer, citing a legal case, providing relevant readings and a percentage indicating how confident Ross is he got it right. If a new case that might be relevant to the question comes into the database, Ross knows right away and alerts you on your smartphone, perhaps as you are heading to court.

The results mean lawyers have instant access to relevant research materials in seconds not hours. Cognitive computing in the legal world, while under way, is not yet as advanced as for veterinarians.

The goal is not to replace lawyers, but to help them do better work.

It is the most significant technology to come to law. Cognitive computing improves and offers even better, more relevant and accurate results the more it is used.

Instead of feeding Watson a diet of general knowledge the creators trained its powers on a body of Ontario corporate law decisions and statutes. They are connected to technology and that section of the world’s law, combining them into an innovation.

The entire legal profession is about to be digitised and combined with cognitive computing (built around microservices). Every area of law, in every geography in the world over the next decade will feel its effect. Every lawyer will be able to have the best information - faster than ever before.

Law Firms can teach their own cognitive computing systems better than IBM can ever train theirs.

Without any doubt, Firms can do it faster too. Knowledge and experience = Wisdom.

IBM cannot compete with the wisdom of a Law Firm. Technology is not an insurmountable gap, yet.

The technology connection is missing. It is possible for Firms to create it quickly and with minimum investment or the right technology partners.

Law Firms Opportunities and Disruptions with Ross

Ross won $100,000 in seed money and continued access to Watson, based on its use of the technology and its business plan. The important tangible value for the stakeholder is clearly demonstrated. Legal Researchers can be legitimately augmented.

Taking the strategy of McDonalds, Unilever, Disney and many other giants; investing in owned and enabled VC Firms or acquiring/partnering with the right firms with objectives to foster and create the right conditions for teams of tech and legal creatives to beat IBM to an inevitable punch seems like a good strategy for all Law Firms.

IBM are defining the future of law in the 21st century at the moment, they are shifting the balance of power. Smart firms can shift the balance back, because the data and processes that Firms hold is the card; and they are the ones with it in their hand.

The Legal Profession is highly respected and produces leaders in our societies. The people running the profession, like many, are understandably not technologists. All have technologists working for them. That may not be enough.

The Innovation required for this evolution will require a different environment than that of a firm with different skills and management styles; however there will be a deeper connection.

Ross’s creators were technologists and law students, post grads and early professionals. They did it in a university style environment with a lifestyle and management style to match.

In our experience, fostering the right conditions for using the power demonstrated by Ross, means creating teams outside that have links inside. A University of Saskatchewan law graduate who is articling at a Toronto law firm was on the team, along with gifted technologists.

These tools will make legal firms operate better than ever before possible.

Firms must invest in companies and incubate teams; looking for the realistic accountable, smart teams. The ones Firms feel in touch with, who explain well and ask good questions. After all, they have to get to know the Firm and its activity very well.

Achieving the right balance of trusted teams in companies that the Firms have a stake in is the key. This company has to have its own unique culture not like a firm, but with a connection and a passion for law and the application of computing.

Simplicity Itself facilitates the use of cognitive computing for our clients. We recommend Legal Firms begin to build capability through collaborative efforts with firms and universities, innovation networks and technologists that have access to cognitive computing systems and knowledge.

Legal Firms have all the data they need to connect to the smart computer that can search that data immensely better than they can.

Having access to the smartest data source ever created and kept within the history of the legal profession will lead to an imponderable shift in the ingenious practice of law.

What could be done with all those extra hours? What Justice can be served? How much better will it get and; what is yet to come?

Having better information to make better decisions and more time to do the important things is a tantalising thought.

It is after all elementary my dear Watson.

Munib Rahman
Simplicity Itself Research Director


  • https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/the-law-page/university-of-torontos-next-lawyer-a-computer-program-named-ross/article22054688/
  • https://www.psfk.com/2018/01/ross-ibm-watson-powered-lawyer-legal-research.html
  • https://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/wbmd

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