I have to admit that this year it made me read the obituary. I wondered about the people whose lives had died. I wondered what their life was like. I wondered about the family, friends and colleagues who were left behind.
She wondered about the legacy of all those who had lost lives. Not a legacy financially, but the lives they touched and the ways in which they shaped their communities and their influences on the people around them.
Steve Jobs reportedly said, “We are here, to make an impact in the universe.” We all make an impact, each in our own way. This is our heritage.
Corporations, like people, leave legacies. This fact struck home this week when I was thinking of a death Intelligence of Ross, The company that helped pioneer the use of artificial intelligence in legal research, and decided to close it I informed it on Friday.
A premature death felt like a lot of deaths this year. Its direct impact was not only on the corporate entity or balance sheet, but on the very human people who were part of the company and who helped it grow over the years.
Innovation is not easy. Dealing with the status quo is not easy. Companies trying to shake things up risk failure. Many of them, in fact, fail. Some honestly fail because of a bad idea. Others fail due to poor implementation or management. Some fail just because they are at the forefront, because the market is not ready for them.
I have seen many companies or products fail over the years. Last year, for example, The death brought Tally, A product that allows users to track their time through voice commands using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Just one year ago, it won the $ 100,000 Innovation Prize in Clio’s inaugural Launch // Code Competition as Best New Integration with Clio’s Practice Management Platform. The product was really innovative. But it did not find enough market to sustain itself.
Even products from established companies sometimes fail. We saw this in 2017, when the LexisNexis has shut down its manager Practice management programs after six years of development. The company’s response has been to platforms like Clio, MyCase, Rocket Matter, and PracticePanther, but it hasn’t gained any traction.
Sometimes, corporate deaths are seldom noticed, except by employees and customers. But the death of ROSS seems to me more evident. I think that’s because its legacy stretches across the legal industry and is, in a sense, greater than its actual product.
In fact, for some time, its product was completely phantom. As narrated in Long post After visiting the company last year, ROSS for years kept a shroud of secrecy around its product.
I’ve been pushing CEO Andrew Arruda for years to let me review it, but to no avail. At a conference of legal librarians in 2017, Arruda was summoned during a committee due to his firm’s lack of transparency. I had a hard time finding anyone who would say they used the product.
But as I also told in the same post, the company last year transformed my face, tearing off any last strands from that shroud and instead opening the product up for a free trial by anyone, inviting me to Toronto for an unrestricted look behind the curtain.
Aroda told me at the time that the secrecy was to protect the company’s technology. As one of the first companies to focus on AI in legal research, they believed that they were building something unique, and were afraid that a competitor would steal it from underneath it. So keep the product close to the jacket until you are sure it is ready.
While ROSS feared its technology was stolen by a competitor, the ironic irony of fate is that one competitor now claims that ROSS is the thief, and that litigation resulting from that claim is what caused ROSS to end its operations.
Of course, not just any competitor making this claim – it’s Thomson Reuters, the owner of Westlaw, the 800-pound gorilla in the legal research world, a gorilla with all the bananas it needs to fund an extended court battle, if you need it.
This left ROSS unable to raise new financing and an unattractive acquisition prospect. With its operating capital dwindling, it had little choice but to close.
Litigation could be the straw that broke the camel’s back. ROSS was already looking for new investors or an acquisition before the lawsuit began. I tried different sales models and targeted different legal audiences.
Even six years after its founding, ROSS was trying to introduce a new product into a crowded field. The legal search market is still dominated by Westlaw and LexisNexis, but it is also home to increasingly established mid-market companies such as Fastcase, which claims to now have 900,000 subscribers, and Casemaker, as well as other innovative startups, most notably in recent years Casetext.
But ROSS leaves a greater legacy than just the product they developed and the talents they helped develop. In fact, it is a double legacy.
First, it opened our minds to the idea of artificial intelligence in legal research. In its early days, ROSS was fueled by media reports by clicking the bait that made her a robotic attorney – or worse yet, as a robot would replace the attorneys.
But this media attention gave ROSS a platform through which it could help drive the debate about AI into law, and thus, ultimately, to help allay concerns and drive acceptance.
ROSS was not the first company to use AI in legal research technology. In fact, that honor will likely go to Thomson Reuters, the very company that pushed ROSS out of business. But Ross – and, in particular, CEO Arruda – has made him a ubiquitous topic for quite some time, seemingly at every legal conference and every legal publication. Without ROSS, our acceptance of AI might not be so fast.
Its second legacy is that it helped open up the legal research market for innovation. For decades, the duopoly of Westlaw and LexisNexis dominated this market. Of course, others have come forward, most notably Fastcase and Casemaker, thanks in part to their unique convergence selling models, and there have always been other startups in the field, some of them surviving, others not.
But ROSS entered the market in an almost ostentatious manner. “We are not afraid to take over the status quo,” he said. Over a period of six years, they have proven that the feisty startup can really make an impact in the market.
Here again, ROSS wasn’t alone in this. Companies like Casetext and Judicata (which Fastcase was recently acquiredLikewise, young players can have big impacts. In fact, Westlaw and LexisNexis have adapted the ideas that these startups first put forward.
However, ROSS’s legacy is in part that the door is now open more widely for other bickering startups to come and make their own loopholes in the realm of legal research – or the broader realm of legal technology. If they do it with artificial intelligence, which is likely to happen, even better.
So, even as ROSS nears its end, its impact on the legal technology market – its impact – will still be felt. In this sense, it lives.
Robert Ambrogie he is Massachusetts attorney And a journalist who has covered legal technology and the web for more than 20 years, mainly through his blog LawSites.com. A former editor-in-chief of several legal newspapers, he is a fellow of School of Law Practice Management And my opening Fast Case 50 Honor. He can be reached via email at email@example.com, And you can follow it Twitter (BobAmbrogi).