I am attending the IBM World of Watson conference on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 5 and 6, in NYC. Many in the legal market have speculated about the role Watson can and will play. I hope to advance understanding what is possible in legal with Watson, what is likely, and the timeframe for action.

Toward that end, I have already, via Twitter and LinkedIn, started crowdsourcing questions for World of Watson from others in the Big Law and legal markets. Those questions appear below. If you have questions you would like to ask, please comment on this post or contact me.

I don’t know how many answers I will bring back, but I will try.

I plan to live blog and/or Tweet (follow me @ronfriedmann or via #WorldofWatson). For reference, my prior posts on IBM Watson appear below.

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  1. How will IBM or Watson partners access the necessary data to train Watson applications when that data is largely controlled by private publishers? Can the costs to access that data, train and develop Watson apps justify the investment for legal service providers and IBM? – Patrick Ellis, Legal Project Manager at Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn LLP.
  2. I would expand on Pat’s great question by asking about the world of information trapped in law firms and law departments – unstructured and not readily accessible. How is IBM going to get past the broad access to data problem that is a stumbling block for many wanting to use technology to improve legal efficiency? – Ken Grady, Lean Law Evangelist, Seyfarth Shaw LLP
  3. Two questions from Marc Lauritsen
    1. Are we past the pundit & tire kicker stage?
    2. How can we begin to manage the enormous delta between the reach and speed of ‘cognitive computing’ and our original human brains?  What tools will enable us to bridge the gap in both directions – e.g., (1) to notice possible gaps and errors in a Watson analysis and (2) to highlight the glitches in our own thinking?
  4. Here is a great multi-part question from Jim Shirk, Principal | Solutions with TruDiligence Consulting, www.TruDiligenceConsulting.com:
    1. Given the medical applications (ie:  providing a 2nd opinion for doctors),  what applications do the developers see in legal?
      1. Automating legal research would seem to be a given
      2. Automation to draft legal documents would seem feasible, perhaps including document creation based on decision trees
      3. Risk analysis to determine how best to handle lawsuits?  Litigate or settle based on past cases?   Seems possible given some results from medical field…
    2. Medical data seems to be structured, statistically based,  and documented… How does Watson deal with data that is more personalized and nuanced (ie, lawyers have to wordsmith docs their way)?
    3. What has been the response by thought leaders in other industries? How should this reflect our thinking around the fact that lawyers like to think their work product is unique, customized, and cannot be workflowed
    4. How would Watson change the economics of the legal industry?
  5. LaVern A. Pritchard of Pritchard Law Webs Publisher, LawMoose asks two provocative questions
    1. How many person-hours and what techniques did it actually take to make Watson clinic ready for oncology?
    2. Is there an IBM team in play “helping [legal] customers prepare data and use it to train Watson”? If so, what’s it accomplished so far?
  6. Jean O’Grady, well-known and forward-thinking law librarian, responded to this post with her own post, asking Dear Watson – I have a question for you! Watson & Legal Research: We know it can answer, but can Watson ASK questions?  She makes the valuable point that answering questions is not always enough. In legal research, being to ask narrowing questions is essential.
  7. How can court opinions be restructured to facilitate Watson’s legal research and writing? Dicta & IRAC out? How would it look? – Ryan Hall Gomez, MSU Law, 3L.


The Impact of IBM’s Watson on eDiscovery (Nov 2013)
Big Law Changing or Being Disrupted? (July 2014)
Meet Your New Lawyer, IBM Watson (Aug 2014)
Cognitve Computing and IBM Watson – Marc Teerlink of IBM Presents (Dec 2014)

And, with this post, I’ve created a blog category, IBM Watson.

[Update of 4 May 2015, 730pm EDT: Added questions 5 and 6 in list above]