Andrew Arruda and his team built ROSS Intelligence to level the legal playing field and provide justice for all
After completing law school, Andrew Arruda was serving as a community lawyer fighting for marginalized citizens. It was there where he saw first-hand how many people opted to fight alone without legal representation due to the sky-high costs. He believes more money shouldn’t lead to better justice. With a focus on protecting the most vulnerable people in our society, he became determined to create technology to level the legal playing field and make services affordable and efficient for everyone.
Founded in 2015, ROSS Intelligence builds technology to help everyone gain access to the best legal outcomes by reducing the hours spent on legal research. ROSS’s AI-powered legal research service is the fastest way for lawyers to find all the relevant law they need for important cases, reducing research time by 50–75% and enabling them to focus on delivering excellent results to their clients.
Today, ROSS is in use at the world’s largest law firms, at mid-size and boutique firms, and in solo practices. In addition, the software is provided free of charge to lawyers on the front lines who work in neighborhood clinics and take on pro bono cases, just as Andrew provided when he was a lawyer.
What was the inspiration for creating ROSS Intelligence?
The inspiration for ROSS Intelligence came from our real personal experiences. Because the law changes often, legal research remains a core part of the process and a good chunk of the overall cost of services. As a community lawyer, I experienced how many hours were spent on tedious research because of outdated search techniques. My cofounder and our CTO, Jimoh Ovbiagele, witnessed how his parent’s divorce was exacerbated by steep lawyer costs and the justice gap — the divide between the legal needs of low income citizens and the resources available to them. Our vision was to create a new legal technology that would change how legal services were provided. We wanted to level the playing field for all because justice shouldn’t be based on your socioeconomic status.
Help us understand the traditional process of legal research.
The bulk of lawyer costs goes to legal research — a task which historically requires many hours to perform and delivers inconsistent results. You have to rely on outdated Boolean search software to pore through millions of pages of case law. Imagine having to write a line of code every single time you wanted to do a search at the library — except that the library has every single piece of case law since the beginning of the legal system. It would take a long time.
How does ROSS augment a lawyer’s research process?
ROSS’s technology increases efficiency. With ROSS, you pose your question as you would to another lawyer, and receive laser-precise answers directly from case law — giving you the exact language with which a judge (or judges) answered your question. This significantly improves the entire experience. ROSS is the only legal research software company that was built from the ground up as an AI company.
Today, ROSS is used by attorneys at the best firms across the United States, from the largest full-service corporate law firms to boutique litigation firms and sole practitioners providing affordable legal services to members of their local community. On average, our software reduces the total time spent on research by 50–75 percent. More importantly, it uncovers crucial legal concepts that even after hours of research on other systems, an expert attorney might overlook. In that way, we’ve provided an affordable, intuitive piece of SaaS tech that lets lawyers completely re-imagine their legal practice, doing more than ever before possible.
How did you and your team turn your idea into a viable business?
We started ROSS in Toronto, Canada and that wasn’t a coincidence. Canada, and particularly Toronto, was ground zero for the advancements in the area of deep learning that have enabled the AI breakthroughs we are seeing across many industries. Coming out of the University of Toronto we were fortunate to tie right into the best engineers and talent we could ask for. I’m very proud of the amazing team we have built here at ROSS and the amazing AI communities we are connected to across Canada in cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Edmonton.
Furthermore, since many of our earliest team members were practicing attorneys, our approach to product ideation and validation benefitted from a deep understanding of the problem and the drawbacks with existing solutions. As a result, we have been able to create a best-in-breed Natural Language Understanding search system.
Since our first clients were some of the world’s largest law firms, we could work alongside big organizations as we tested our deployment and pricing models. From there, as the product continued to mature, we could recruit industry leaders from several related industries who could then implement established best practices into our organization.
Now that lawyers are saving 50–75% of their research time with ROSS, what are they doing with their reclaimed time?
The answer is it depends what the attorneys want to do! For some, the additional time allows them to help more people, which is an amazing thing, especially as we work with a variety of organizations and attorneys that work in legal aid and in pro-bono capacities which ensures that more individuals are able to gain legal representation. For some the additional time allows them to focus on other aspects of their work such as finding more clients, spending more time on complex files, etc. What makes me happy is when I hear that the extra time attorneys gain is being spent on connecting more with family and friends. If ROSS can ensure an attorney makes their daughter’s baseball game or their son’s rehearsal, that, to me, is a special thing as a founder.
What do you know now through the process of building your company that you wish you knew before starting?
We had to learn quickly how to overcome distraction and shiny objects. Early in our development, we became the subject of national media coverage because of the AI hysteria and our association with IBM Watson. We were excited about the buzz. In hindsight, the press coverage actually served as a mixed blessing. It was great for awareness, but distracted us from our core objectives. We learned about staying focused on what was most important.
What was a surprising lesson you learned as you went to market with your solution?
The most surprising thing I’ve learned along the way is that nothing is a no-brainer, that is to say, no matter how amazing your software is, you still need to invest time, money, and energy into marketing it and ensuring folks hear about it. For me, that has meant traveling a lot and meeting with awesome people across the country and the globe which has been very rewarding. The other thing is how important work-life balance is. I’ve aimed to ensure that no matter how fast we keep growing at ROSS, time with my family and friends is always scheduled and blocked off — I like to say it’s a marathon, not a sprint and I’m in this for life!
Visit ROSS Intelligence to learn more about their technology.
In our Founder Spotlight series, entrepreneurs from our portfolio companies share insights about the problems they’re working to solve, how they built their companies, and advice to new entrepreneurs.
Turbocharging Lawyers with Artificial Intelligence was originally published in The Forecast on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.