On December 13, 2019, Fastcase and Ross Intelligence, two innovative and leading companies in the legal research space, announced a new partnership. By sharing their respective technology tools and data, these two companies are aiming to facilitate rapid innovation to better serve their customers. On his first episode as co-host of Law Technology Now, Daniel Rodriguez sits down with Fastcase’s Ed Walters and Ross Intelligence’s Andrew Arruda to discuss what this new partnership means for their respective companies and customers, how technology will continue to give attorneys better access to the information they need, and how the innovations they are pursuing can increase access to justice.
Ed Walters is CEO and co-founder of Fastcase.
Andrew Arruda is chief executive officer and co-founder of ROSS Intelligence.
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Law Technology Now
The Partnership of Fastcase and Ross Intelligence
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Hello and welcome to Law Technology Now. My name is Dan Rodriguez. I’m the Harold Washington professor and former dean at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
If you’re a regular Legal Talk Network listener which I highly recommend, you might remember me from Planet Lex, which is a co-production between this network and Northwestern’s Law School. Today’s show is brought to you by our sponsors.
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And now on to the show. I am happy, indeed I’m thrilled to be here today. I’ve been recently added to the ranks of co-hosts for this show along with Dan Linna and Ralph Baxter, who will continue hosting upcoming episodes. And to kick off my hosting duties, it’s my distinct pleasure to welcome two distinguished guests, longtime friends and entrepreneurs and leaders in the law tech community.
Andrew Arruda, Co-Founder and CEO of ROSS Intelligence and Ed Walters, CEO at Fastcase. Welcome to the show gentlemen.
Ed Walters: Thanks Dan.
Andrew Arruda: Great to be here.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Let me give what will be a totally unworthy introduction to two folks of great distinction. Ed is the CEO and Co-Founder of Fastcase as I mentioned, an online legal research software company based in Washington DC. Under Ed’s leadership, Fastcase has grown to be one of the world’s largest legal publishers, currently serving more than 900,000 subscribers from around the world.
He’s an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and a Cornell Tech, where he teaches the law of robots, a class about the frontiers of law and technology and also the law of autonomous vehicles.
Before founding Fastcase, Ed worked at Covington & Burling in Washington D.C. and Brussels, where he advised Microsoft, Merck, SmithKline, the Business Software Alliance, the NFL, the National Hockey League.
He also worked in the White House from 1991 to 1993 in the Office of Media Affairs and Office of Presidential Speechwriting.
Andrew Arruda is Canadian entrepreneur and attorney. He is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of the artificial intelligence company ROSS Intelligence, a leader in the legal technology industry. Arruda speaks internationally in the subjects of AI, legal technology and entrepreneurship and has been featured in a wide variety of publications.
He’s given TED Talks and is a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 Class of 2017. Prior to co-founding ROSS Intelligence, Andrew worked at a Toronto litigation boutique and with a Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development in Lisbon, Portugal.
Welcome to both of you.
Now Ed will remember this, I’m not sure Andrew will, although not trying to be ageist in all this. There’s a vintage commercial from the 1980s I think I believe it is from REESE’S and it’s two folks walking down the street and they bump into each other and the two of them look up, one guy says you’ve put my chocolate in your peanut butter and the other person says you put my peanut butter in the chocolate.
And of course, they live happily ever after, they say the great tagline is these two great tastes now taste great together, which is an awkward segue to this wonderful collaboration, that the two of you on behalf of your respective companies just announced commingling of two companies with separate strengths into a company whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts or at least so sayeth the press release.
But I want to ask both of you maybe began with Ed and move on to Andrew, to say a bit about how this — what this collaboration is about and how it was forged?
Ed Walters: Well, first thank you Dan, that’s a very flattering comparison. REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups are the best candy on earth.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: They are not a sponsor Ed, so you don’t have to worry about.
Ed Walters: But it’s my favorite. Peanut butter and chocolate are two of my great passions and I would like to think that Fastcase and ROSS Intelligence working together is just as sweet. It’s a pretty cool partnership. Our team at Fastcase has admired Andrew and Jimoh and the whole ROSS Intelligence team since their very early days.
Andrew, I don’t know if you remember this, but like when you guys first got started we recognized you in the Fastcase 50 before ROSS Intelligence was a global phenomenon that is today. And so it was really special for us to have the opportunity to work closely together hand-in-hand with ROSS Intelligence.
And I would say this collaboration really has two sides. On the one hand, we are working together to — I think complete the data set for ROSS Intelligence, at least among US law for case law, statutes and regulations that make up the core of primary law in the United States; the kind of corpus that you really need to do complete legal research.
And on the flip side, we are working together in collaboration to build new tools with ROSS Intelligence’s kind of groundbreaking legal research methodologies with natural language processing and machine learning to really create new categories of legal information products.
And so I think that’s really exciting for a number of reasons we can go into, but I think from the — from the high level it’s really special for the Fastcase team to work very closely with Andrew and Jimoh and the ROSS Intelligence team.
Andrew Arruda: Yeah and I guess I would hop in there and say, it was really exciting. I think Dan that was a really wonderful way to put it. That commercial is funny, and I think if you look at what REESE’S logo is lately, which is or slogan there’s no wrong way to eat a REESE’S. I think there’s no wrong way to do legal research when you’re working with Fastcase and ROSS.
So I think it was one of those situations where Ed and I obviously — we always would make jokes that we were conference spouses because we would see each other and be on similar panels and we’re both really and ROSS and Fastcase are all about innovating within the space and I think we saw a tremendous opportunity that we both could partner up and accomplish a lot more together.
There’s that old African proverb that if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together and I think that’s what we see with our partnership. And as Ed laid out, I think what’s most exciting is what’s coming down the pipeline and I know that our teams are already have a few things in motion which will be very exciting and something that the market desperately needs.
But I also think it really importantly the market desperately wants which is the most important.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: I want to dive right into that and keep the show from descending into too much of a Kumbaya moment. Since there are some interesting, interesting challenges and provocative representations, let’s say that are made in connection with this collaboration. But let me just ask a quick question about timing, why now?
Did one or both of your companies hear footsteps from other companies, the big group in town being LexisNexis and Westlaw and others or was this just the result sort of serendipitous result of long, long-standing conversations that would naturally lead to this kind of partnership?
Ed Walters: Well, I can say it from our side on the Fastcase side, we’ve been doing a lot of work with regulations recently. We’re really into regulations research and the kind of business intelligence that is baked into regulations. And as we were kind of examining the frontiers of research products around regulations, we work pretty closely with ROSS Intelligence before this and we knew that Andrew and Jimoh were working on some technologies that would be really useful in pushing that frontier forward.
And so we’ve been looking for good ways to work together for a couple of years now and so this really presented an interesting opportunity. It wasn’t at all a competitive response to somebody else, it was a project that we were really involved in and that we really care a lot about and so that really provided a good frame for us to renew that conversation with ROSS.
Andrew Arruda: Yeah, I think from our end similarly it was something that was organic and for, well the way we saw it, was I think we’ve done a really great job at ROSS in kind of iterating on our product and getting better and I think at the earlier stages when we were still working out some of the kinks within our offering, I think it would have been a bit earlier, too early for us to necessarily have partnered.
So I think it was just that, that right time our platform has been delivering some tremendous value to people and I think once we started swapping notes and having conversations because we’ve been working as Ed mentioned, we’ve been actually working with each other for some time.
But I think as we started swapping more and more notes with each other, we started to realize that there may be things that we are duplicating efforts on and more importantly, we started to swap notes and say, what does the future of legal research look like and our visions started to just kind of align in our conversation.
So we said hey, I think this makes a lot of sense.
Ed Walters: Dan, can I give a concrete example?
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Please.
Ed Walters: Tom Bruce, the Founder of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute used to have this great example and it’s really stuck with me over the years. Tom always talks about like a dry cleaner, a small business at which there are tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands in the US and Canada.
So if you are a dry cleaner, there are hundreds of regulations that apply to your business. How do you find them all or if you’re a lawyer representing a dry cleaner, are you going to do like a multi-state survey with state and federal and local and county law to try and figure out all of the business and tax and environmental regulations that apply to you as a dry cleaner.
It’s almost impossible, right, because the way legal research is organized right now is by source. It’s organized by whether it’s a case or a statute or regulation. If it’s a regulation, it’s organized kind of by agency, you’re a part of the CFR or a part of like a state regulatory register and thinking about this from a client or a consumer perspective, it’s almost completely wrong like really backwards.
And so one thing we really try to do at Fastcase, is we try to keep the lawyers’ interest, the customers’ interest really at heart. We try to think about the things the way that that they would. And so in trying to organize law in a way that is more focused towards industries, towards sectors, towards clients, we really wanted to think about regulations in a different way, not according to source, but according to subject and according to industry.
And that’s exactly the kind of project we would love to work on in a research and development way with ROSS Intelligence. I think when you combine they’re really I mean smart team at ROSS and at Fastcase, we have just an amazing brain trust working on these issues. It’s really inspiring, and so I think if we look at the past 20 years, Fastcase just turned 20 at the end of the decade in 2019, the past 20 years have really been about matching the incumbents, feature for feature, data set for data set.
The next 10 years are really going to be about shooting out ahead, about creating new sectors, new industries, new products and I’m excited about Fastcase and ROSS making our own markets in legal information.
Andrew Arruda: And Dan, I think this will be helpful for your listeners as well. I think another area talk for some concrete examples as I know folks really want those is if you also look at — I mentioned earlier, it’s what the market demands. I think ultimately people and large law firms, small law firms, in-house teams and everyone in between continues to say, look what we want to be able to do is work and have this capability with that capability and not necessarily be locked into long multi-year deals and they’re purchasing a bunch of technology that they don’t want for a sum that they do similar to what you see and have seen with the old cable contracts.
And I think part of what we’re already seeing with our partnership is the ability to respond to law firms of all shapes and sizes, in-house teams of all shapes and sizes and start to offer some of that flexibility, they get all the power and punch they want. As Ed mentioned, we are working on products and creating a whole new class of products that I think the market will really love.
But when it comes to what they know and need we can also respond in a pretty innovative way that before our partnership just wasn’t possible and I think we’re already seeing the market be very responsive to that.
Ed Walters: Show me a law firm that is calling for more bundling, right, if you’re in a law firm, show me a law firm who is really excited about someone saying if you want to by Law360, you have to also buy the Lexis Advance product. You can’t buy them separately, you’ve got to buy the whole thing.
There’s nobody excited about that. I mean this is really like 1980s thinking. This idea that you’re trying to push people into one silo or another silo or both silos, if you want any piece of it you got to buy the whole thing. I just can’t imagine the next 10 years are going to be dominated by that kind of legacy thinking and I think ROSS and Fastcase really are aligned in the idea that the next 10 years are going to be about nimble companies, flexible companies who offer great compelling products that law firms and corporate legal departments can mix and match.
I love the idea of a law firm that subscribes to Fastcase for the legal research product or maybe legal news through Law Street Media and then subscribes to ROSS Intelligence for AI products, for brief analyzers, for predictive analytic tools. And I really can’t — I can’t imagine a future where that’s not the dominant paradigm.
This old bundled silo mode of legal information I really think as a relic and I can’t imagine that law firms with all the buying power that they have are going to continue investing in those silos.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: It seems like you’re toggling between the present and the future. So when you say show me a law firm that does that, I know that you meant that largely as a rhetorical question, but of course, we could sit here and go through lists of large and not so large law firms that continue to subscribe and in that sense embrace LexisNexis and Westlaw including not only a lot of the legacy technology but when they roll out Westlaw Edge in the case of Westlaw and some of those new features Quick Catch I think is one and the long-promised LexisNexis Research Assistant.
They get bought, right and moreover those same firms while investing in companies like Fastcase and ROSS also double down on resources provided by Bloomberg, Ravel Law, Casetext, etc. So at what point are firms going to take a big step back from that and realize the future of legal research and technology is found in a partnership like your two companies and move away from the what are after all the behemoths in this industry; LexisNexis and Westlaw.
Ed Walters: As soon as we’re better.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: How will they measure that?
Ed Walters: So that’s what I think makes this partnership so exciting, focusing on products that don’t exist yet. Remember Blockbuster was a huge success all the way up until it went out of business. The end came very, very quickly for Blockbuster. It wasn’t like Blockbuster went out of business because it wasn’t selling. It was selling all the way up until it was completely irrelevant.
And the problem was a product market fit problem. The exact kind of problem that legacy legal information providers have today and the only thing that’s missing, the only thing that’s missing is the catalyst, the seed crystal, the collection of products that are better than one of the silos and that’s what we’re looking to build.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Let me shift to the point about technology. I don’t think I’m giving away state secrets in saying this. I remember you and I having a conversation maybe it was a couple years ago, seems like only yesterday, in which you made the bold prediction at the time that the future of ROSS’ technology would not be Watson based and that although that’s how you came into the industry, your company came into the industry that I read somewhere that you are now zero Watson, and the technology that’s developed or is truly homegrown by which I mean it’s developed in ROSS.
And first of all, is that accurate and take us through how that development has been, because again conversations three, two, even one year ago, the expectation was that most of these technological innovations would remain pretty tightly bound up with the developments from IBM and Watson.
Andrew Arruda: Yeah so a couple of things there. I think yeah, we had that conversation probably I don’t know maybe even three years ago Dan. I think the neat thing is even in our earliest pitch decks that we sent to our investors, I mean I’m talking day one of ROSS, our goal was to build out our own legal specific natural language processing kind of system that would be able to do question and answer in the legal space.
What we didn’t want to do and I think this was hard and I think legal technology in general it was at the time five years ago when we started, I think wasn’t as kind of open and iterative as you see today and so when we came out and said we’re using that now but we’re going to be essentially kind of building out our own system as we kind of progress through the years, I don’t think that was a concept that a lot of people understood, because it just hadn’t happened yet.
And I think what we ended up doing Dan to take you through the process was when you’re starting a company and you’re a couple of co-founders, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to do everything and start from scratch and so you don’t — one of the core kind of principles of computer science and engineering in general is don’t repeat yourself if you don’t have to.
And so we knew that Watson was a great general kind of NLP plug-and-play application and we were lucky to get it access to some of their more advanced tech that wasn’t even released yet when we started. But what we ended up doing is in working with our initial probably 20 large law firms is building up a very comprehensive data set which we could then use to train our own system and not only is it a matter of getting the data which is essential, we also started building just a rockstar team.
And so over the — we’ve been off of — entirely on our own architecture when it comes to the bulk of what we do from an NLP ML side for probably going on two years now and part of that I think is a testament to the amazing team we’ve built in and Ed thanks for highlighting that, because I think that that’s really the core of what we’ve been able to do and we’ve been bringing in some of the world’s best.
So Dan, what I guess the long and short of it is, it was always what we were going to do. It’s not necessarily a slight to the technology we were on before, it’s just — that was more of a general application that was really helpful at the early stages but to get the level of precision and recall that we’ve been getting, we knew that we had to build our own and that came through funding so that we could hire the right team and it also came at very importantly through getting the right data.
In machine learning, natural language processing applications, there’s a cold start problem. You need a bunch of data to add and get to that precision that you want, but in order to get to that precision and recall you need the data. So what we were able to do is think creatively and I think that’s a huge testament to Jimoh, my co-founder, who said look, let’s deploy what’s available, let’s start kind of hacking it together and then once we get to that critical mass, we can start building the right team and the right dataset to build out our own system.
And as Ed and his team I think part of our partnership was also based off of really great impressions of what we’ve built so far and like I would be a horrible co-founder and CEO if I wouldn’t encourage your listeners. We have a free trial of ROSS so if you want to see what I’m talking about go check it out.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Before we move on, we’re going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsors.
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Daniel B. Rodriguez: And we’re back. I’m here with Ed Walters and Andrew Arruda. We’re discussing this wonderful collaboration between Fastcase and ROSS. Andrew you want to say another word about ROSS.
Andrew Arruda: Well yeah. I think I guess what I would say is a part of what we’ve been really proud of lately is just what we’ve been able to put together and I think that speaks to what we were talking about just before the break in terms of building out our own architecture and I also think in terms of the transparency we have about our product is, we are one of — I think maybe and Ed, you’d let me know in terms of any other players.
One of the only players that are saying, hey if you want to try our product you can go ahead, we have a free trial. I know a lot of players say they have free trials but ours is no credit card. There’s nothing stopping you from signing up on our website and taking ROSS for a spin. I’m proud of that because it shows just how far we’ve come from day one and how proud we are and how willing we are to stand behind our product.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Andrew, I want to ask you, you used the term transparency and forgive for this but I want to press you on transparency in another sense and come back to the technology discussion we were having before the break and that’s the — let’s put it this way.
From 10,000 ft. there’s been, as you know, quite a lot of criticism, literature, stuff in the blogosphere about the transparency or the lack thereof of algorithms. So what sort of comes out of this black box of AI, Itai Gurari who you know, the founder of Judicata, puts it this way in his discussion, description of the ambition of explainable AI.
He says, I “machine learning has a transparency problem. We usually don’t know which features these algorithms are learning.” So I guess I want to press you on that is the technology that you’re using that underpins ROSS. Does that address in any way this transparency problem, is it a real problem? What should we worry about, if anything?
Andrew Arruda: Well I think it depends. I think a lot of the time when you hear issues with transparency and machine learning I think there’s a lot of really good intentions in the discussion of it. I think when it comes to legal research in particular, there’s a really easy way to know if something is better than other products.
So what I would say is even with the manual products that we have in this space like a Lexis or a Westlaw or any not to kind of pick on them but you don’t know how you’re seeing those results as well. There’s human weights being put on to that in the background just like with an ML product, it’s weighing things out as well.
And so I think the key to it all would be to ensure and that’s why we’ve ensured really the — a very easy way to try a product so you can compare and contrast because the best thing you can do is time your research, see how efficient you were using other methods and then if you’re using a machine learning product did you find the answers that you wanted, how effective was that.
And I think Itai, I don’t know if they’re still in business at Judicata but I’ve never seen their product but that’s something I think would be really awesome to open up their product for example to just let others try it because that’s the transparency I really think is most important in our industry.
Ed Walters: I would just add to that if I could. Judicata is still in business and I think Itai is a deeper thinker about this as there is and I think what he’s highlighting is really important but as Andrew said, not using machine learning doesn’t solve that problem. The problem for me is really not one about transparency, but really one about epistemology. When we’re doing legal research, how do we know what we know?
Whether it’s ranking algorithms or the way someone creates a Boolean search, there’s just so much guesswork in legal research right now.
And I think that whatever we can do to push the frontiers of understanding, whether that’s using machine learning, or whether it’s using analytics or semantic search or data visualization everything we can do to help us to know better is going to be good. And I think we should try to promote all of those technologies with as much transparency as we can but the fact that we can’t crack an ML algorithm and put it on the couch and ask it why it decides what it can decide doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it.
Anymore than the fact that we can’t do that with Boolean algorithms is an argument against Boolean. So I would just say, we have been in the dark for a long, long time. Boolean searching and keyword searching as a way of understanding the law is really primitive and I think that it’s kind of like a golden age for legal research technology in the sense that we’re really are using machine learning and algorithms, data visualization, semantic understanding of texts and analytics in these very interesting ways, citation analysis to bring all of this into the light and so I think we should try to do that as transparently as possible.
I imagine, Itai Gurari would also agree with that. It’s not an argument against machine learning on legal research. It’s an argument to try and be as transparent as possible in that process.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: So am I right to surmise that on both of your respective teams in your companies and other folks with whom you work that you’re bringing in folks who have expertise not only in the deep engineering, and computer science, and technology element and not only lawyers as happy as we are to bring lawyers into this, but folks who have expertise in the semantics and corpus linguistics and as you say, epistemology to help shed light in these really difficult questions.
Andrew Arruda: Yes and no. So Dan, one of the things that depending on what strategy you’re deploying, I think in the past you needed large teams of linguists, et cetera, to physically map different things whereas what you can do now is you can deploy different NLP techniques where you can have your system essentially be able to learn how to deal with certain complex linguistic situations to the best of its ability.
Obviously these systems are far from perfect and a long way to go to even reaching anywhere near kind of human capabilities but what the result is, is that you’re still getting overall vast improvement on the status quo and how we do research and the status quo as Ed has mentioned is that Boolean kind of approach and even when you see products in the past, like folks sometimes will say well you know, some of those incumbents have had natural language for a while.
What you continue to see is if you try those natural language products out, a lot of them are dressed up Boolean. Still there’s a lot of Boolean underneath and that’s not a slight on anyone, it’s just that’s the technology that was available.
So I think, the way I see things Dan overall is we should always try to map to status quo and I think with the new tools, you don’t necessarily have to hire a huge team of linguists in these tools and what’s exciting about them is that with deep learning and natural language processing, these systems can start to learn on their own and get better and that it’s making vast improvements on kind of where we are at from a state-of-the-art previous to where we are today.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Let me just pivot from those who are working on developing these tools to the users and the consumers. How much sophistication do users, consumers be they lawyers, and law firms, or others have to have in both the technology and also the data that goes into this in order to utilize these tools responsibly and effectively?
Andrew Arruda: Well Ed if I could hop in first I would say, part of what I love the most about the breakthroughs our team is making, the breakthroughs that Fastcase is making and the breakthroughs we will continue to make together as part of this partnership is that we take complex technology to make the product as easy to use as possible.
And so what I would say Dan is a lot of what’s happening it happens completely behind your search, whereas before, we’ve all been through that.
Legal research is a very complicated beast and a lot of that also comes from the fact that we’re using terms and connectors we’re going through, there’s a lot of noise in those platforms and other ways of doing things whereas what we’re seeing with these new ways and new approaches to legal research, which uses some traditional, some non-traditional kind of methodologies behind them is that they’re very easy to use.
You’re talking about dragging and dropping things. You’re talking about asking a question the way you would ask an attorney or a fellow kind of co-worker and so I think the beautiful thing about all this Dan is that the more complex the technology has gotten over the last, I don’t know five years, it has actually resulted in much easier to use technology when it comes to research overall. That’s my take Ed, but I’d love to hear your perspective on it too.
Ed Walters: Well let me make two points about this. The first point I’d like to make is that I think that our profession should become much more competent with data and should become much more competent with software tools.
I know a lot of lawyers who will say something like I’m what you might call technologically illiterate and they’re sort of bragging about it a little bit and they sort of think it’s funny, but clients don’t think that’s funny and clients get really irritated by it.
If you said to a client I’m what you might call telephone illiterate, they would think you’re a moron right, they would not want to go use your services if you were making that kind of a claim. And so I think that our profession should seek to become a little more sophisticated, our clients are and so I will generally make the call that lawyers should be sophisticated as well.
We’re smart people. When lawyers say I went to law school because I didn’t want to have to do math, that strikes me as absurd. A lot of these lawyers went to great colleges where they took the SAT and got a great score in math. It’s not like they’re incapable or unintelligent or not able to do math.
So I think that lawyers should embrace that. That doesn’t mean that every lawyer should be able to code or that they should be data scientists or anything else, but it does mean that we shouldn’t have a kind of a cult of unintelligence right. I think we should embrace the inner nerd and be sophisticated about the future of our profession.
My second point is just the hallmark of really good software is that it becomes much easier to use. And I think that it’s possible to knock a door down with a battering ram, but it’s a lot easier to use a key and I feel like for years, we’ve been using this battering ram. We’ve been trying to figure out with these clumsy Boolean searches ways of finding the law and synthesizing the law and strapping together a whole bunch of cases in order to write a brief.
One of the things I’m very excited about at Fastcase right now is we just acquired Docket Alarm, a service that has pulled together 350 million briefs, pleadings, motions and docket sheets from cases in state and Federal Court, probably the biggest collection of those things outside of PACER itself.
And one thing I’m excited about is in addition to doing primary legal research with Boolean keywords and queries, we might also be able to say, if you’re tracking the case in Docket Alarm, we know what’s going to happen next, we know what the next pleadings are going to be in the litigation and we can show you templates.
Now the Big law firm when I was at Covington & Burling, we would just go to the document management system and pull an exemplar. But if you’re in a small firm, there is no hundred thousand document DMS that I can go pull a motion and 00:32:49 from.
So my aspiration for this is whereas in the past a small firm lawyer might have to do a bunch of primary research, might have to go it alone, if you might have to cobble together a bunch of judicial opinions or court rules to try and figure out how to do what’s next, it’s really clumsy.
In the future, you don’t have to do as much brute force work, you might be able to use a system like Docket Alarm and say predictably here’s what’s likely to happen next, here’s a template that you can use to start your work and we know it’s been successful.
And so this is what I think Andrew and I were talking about before, we’re not talking about like 10% faster version of what the traditional legal research systems were doing 10 years ago, we’re talking about an entirely different way of doing things that is simultaneously easier and more sophisticated, not a shinier battering ram, but a more elegant key.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: So I want to — I mean we’re running down on time, but I want to ask both of you this question and Andrew it’s important to give it a shout-out to you and the work you’ve been doing. I know in California on access to justice initiatives in the State Bar, a task force that’s a whole another topic for another conversation.
And Ed, I know you’ve worked closely with me and others on the Center for Innovation. So both of you have talked the talk and walked the walk with respect to access to justice issues. So I want to push this point in connection with what you’re talking about and do you see that the possibility of projects and collaborations that grow out of this partnership really enhancing access to justice and let me follow up on my own question by saying what folks worry about and Ed you mentioned the example of PACER, is that, that on the one hand we have a cry need to democratize law in an important way, to make it more accessible to the consumer, to reduce the hegemony of lawyers and everything that’s involved in that.
But on the other, the development of a lot of these products which after all are marketed and cost money and in the case of PACER of course are protected from public access runs the risk or at least this is the question of whether it runs the risk of creating a whole another wall between information about our legal system, information in the hands of consumers could actually help them represent themselves or be represented.
Could you talk a little bit about, that about how this partnership might help facilitate the democratization of law and access to justice? I know that’s a big question, but since both of you been so passionate about that, I’d love to get your thoughts.
Andrew Arruda: Well, I would say a couple things. The term access to justice for me, I think is something that means that there is a easier democratization of access to legal services for all people and that means those who are challenged socioeconomically that includes the middle class and that also includes to me folks who are making great money as well I think.
And why I bring that up, is because one of the reasons why I chose to co-found ROSS was I remember Jimoh my co-founder telling me hey, Andrew you’re really passionate about serving the needs of people, but you should join me and start this company and I remember him saying to me, how many clients can you have any year Andrew.
And I remember at the time I pulled him my number and he said to me if we do this right, we could build a tool that can be used by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of attorneys eventually and how many folks would they be able to help more efficiently through the use of that technology.
And so that’s why I started ROSS and I think partnerships like ROSS and Fastcase are all about that building and finding that key rather than a battering ram to solve legal issues, which will in my mind and I think Ed jump in as after I finish up, but I think that’s what this is all about and I think there is no silver bullet when it comes to technology and access to justice.
There’s no tool that can be invented that’s a magic machine but I do think that getting rid of duopolies, getting rid of bundling, getting rid of the old way of doing things that takes tens of hours that those that time is billed unnecessarily on to clients is something that if you remove will lead to a heck of a lot of access to justice in my eyes.
Ed Walters: I would just add to that. I think there are people who are doing amazing things to open the legal system to consumers, to clients and I think that’s terrific. My, I think my kind of work at Fastcase is really centered around helping lawyers and law firms to reach this latent market for legal services.
And I see simultaneously like this glut of lawyers who are unemployed or underemployed, people who are trying to pay their loans and who are trying to run a business and trying to figure out where the next clients coming from and then on the other side of the ledger, 80% of people with legal problems according to the American Bar Foundation Survey who are trying to address those problems without the help of a lawyer.
And to me, it’s a product market fit problem and one of the problems of that fit is that it’s very expensive to run a law firm. It’s expensive to do these legal tasks, it’s expensive to afford legal information, it’s expensive to kind of get the guidance you need to offer that advice.
And so if working together with Fastcase and ROSS, we can make inexpensive things for law firms inexpensive, but hope is that they can offer these services at lower prices, so they can offer them in one to many sort of ways. So we can reduce the most robotic parts of practice to automation.
A good example of this is for bankruptcy filings. There’s a company called NextChapter that Fastcase just acquired at the end of 2019. We had our own product Fastcase BK that really reduced the process of filing a bankruptcy to a more turbo tax like operation for law firms, for lawyers and paralegals to help clients.
So they can do a lot of them and they can do them perfectly every time in every jurisdiction from wherever they are. That allows someone who just got out of law school to start helping people reorganize their debts and that could help pay their student loan, they could help them build their law practice, which is great for lawyers and it can help tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people get a fresh start.
And so that’s the win-win for me. If we can really take these parts of the practice of law that could go faster, that could be less expensive for law firms and allow them to offer them at higher volumes to people, you have a better product market fit for legal services, you build the business of law firms in a better way and you help so many more people.
And so I don’t pretend that that solves the whole problem, but I think that lowering the cost of providing legal services and helping people to provide them in ways that are easier and simpler and less fraught with risk allows people to build law practices and help way more people and that’s a big win for access to justice as well.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: So that’s our show for today. I want to thank our guests Ed Walters and Andrew Arruda for a most interesting conversation. Let me ask them if our listeners have questions or wish to follow up how can they reach you?
Andrew Arruda: So for me you can reach me on Twitter at @AndrewArruda. I am very active on there and what I would encourage everyone to do is get out and try ROSS, rossintelligence.com and you can get a trial there.
Ed Walters: And for me it’s on Twitter @EJWalters, where you can find out about legal information, and whiskey, and space, and robots, and autonomous cars, and baseball. You can also find Fastcase on the web at www.fastcase.com, where you can sign up for, no strings attached, 24-hour free trial of Fastcase. If you a member of one of the 33 State Bar Associations that offers Fastcase for free, you go to your State Bar’s website, you can usually log in there with your username and password and get free beer, free access to a nationwide legal research service.
Daniel B. Rodriguez: Also, thank you to our listeners for tuning in. If you liked what you heard, please rate and review us in Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.
Until next time, this is Dan Rodriguez on Law Technology Now.
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