UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Law launched its new Legal-Tech Virtual Lab on April 17 with a pop-up event in University Park with legal-tech company ROSS Intelligence. The event, co-sponsored by the College of Engineering and Penn State Information Technology, trained Penn State students on EVA, ROSS Intelligence’s new free, publicly accessible artificial-intelligence-powered legal research tool.
Thomas Hamilton, vice president of strategy and operations at ROSS Intelligence, provided a public, hands-on demonstration of EVA and then invited Penn State students to attend one of several small-group demos later in the afternoon.
Hamilton’s public remarks included a brief history of AI and its uses in various fields, beginning with the story of Gary Kasparov, the chess grandmaster who was eventually defeated by IBM’s supercomputer, Deep Blue. Over time, Hamilton said, AI has evolved and developed into something capable of learning and revolutionizing complex fields of work.
“AI has gone from niche to mainstream in just a few years,” he said. “This shift is happening because smaller companies can now research and develop without having a huge budget. There is significant growth in algorithms. The possibilities are limitless.”
Hamilton went on to discuss the pillars of AI: machine-learning, speech recognition, visual recognition, and natural language processing.
EVA, Hamilton said, shows the full power of real natural language processing. As Hamilton demonstrated, its capabilities are not limited by a keyword search. Rather, it searches and analyzes cases based on legal ideas. It can even go so far as to generate a summary of a case based on a user’s substantive question of law, creating a targeted overview through “instantaneous information synthesis.”
“Legal research can be frustrating and take hours,” said Hamilton. “We wanted to create and release a system that is easy to use and also happens to be free to users.”
While Hamilton noted that the legal profession is a late adopter of AI, he argued that there has never been a better time than now. He cited the 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market, from the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law and Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, which predicts that firms responding to market changes proactively “have every prospect of doing well,” while those taking traditional routes are unlikely to flourish in the market.
“Doctors use AI to enhance their ability to do their jobs; lawyers can now do the same thing,” he said. “This will enable lawyers to do their jobs faster, which will allow them to help more people, giving a larger percentage of the population access to legal service. It makes legal work less robotic and enhances the abilities of lawyers.”
Training Penn State Law students on how to take advantage of emerging technologies in the legal field is at the heart of the new Legal-Tech Virtual Lab, which is a key strategic priority of Dean Hari M. Osofsky and a pillar of Penn State Law’s mission to provide legal education for a changing society.
“As artificial intelligence and machine learning, immersive technology, 3-D printing, blockchain, and technologies we are not yet thinking of transform legal practice and raise legal issues, we want to prepare our students to lead,” said Osofsky. “I’m thrilled that ROSS Intelligence is joining us as we kick off this important initiative to provide our students with the knowledge they will need to provide the kinds of legal services in demand in our rapidly changing society."
The Legal-Tech Virtual Lab reinvents the idea of a computer lab, piloting the lab of the future as a virtual space, built around a set of technologies and opportunities to learn about them rather than simply a physical room. Partnering with leading legal technology companies and interdisciplinary partners across Penn State, the lab will (1) train Penn State Law students in the ways these groundbreaking technologies are being implemented in today’s legal practice; (2) enable law and other Penn State students to explore the legal issues surrounding emerging technology; and (3) develop innovative educational content using those technologies.
In addition to working with ROSS Intelligence, Osofsky is exploring partnerships with other leading tech companies to bring their innovations to the Legal-Tech Virtual Lab and Penn State students.