ROSS and Watson Tackle the Law

When Jimoh Ovbiagele was 10 years old, his parents decided to separate. His mother started seeking out divorce lawyers, but was quickly halted by the astronomical hourly rates. “As a single mother with two very young kids, she couldn’t pay for even a couple hours of this this divorce lawyer’s time,” says Ovbiagele.

Years later, law seemed like a natural path for Ovbiagele—a way to help ensure others would not have to go through what his mother did—but while the University of Texas computer science major considered applying to law school in 2011, he was turned off by the amount of time he’d be expected to devote to research, rather than the practice, in the profession.

The seed, however, had been planted. When he got invited to work with IBM’s Watson he knew he had an opportunity to make right two of the things he saw as wrong with the legal field—price point and the time wasted slogging through data. “Legal research seemed like the greatest problem. We [knew we] could make a really big change by bringing in state-of-the-art technology, cognitive computing and natural language to the practice of the law.”

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