WATSON AND LEGAL
One such recent transformation that has kept IBM’s legal
department busy involves cloud-based cognitive computing
system Watson, perhaps best known for defeating its human
competitors on “Jeopardy” in 2011. With what’s known as
Watson Health, IBM leveraged the technology to add value
to the health care space with the vision of enabling better care.
Not surprisingly, this meant some big changes in the legal
department, Browdy says. “Historically, IBM certainly hasn’t
been a health company. We’re information technology, hardware, software and services,” she says. “I have great patent
lawyers, I have great deal lawyers, I have great M&A folks, but
we really didn’t do much in health,” Browdy adds, so there was
a need to think about how to build up the internal expertise.
Enter Edward Sebold, vice president and assistant general
counsel at IBM, who has been leading the legal team for Watson Health for over a year.
“We’re running the full gamut of legal support for Watson
Health, whether it’s acquisitions, whether it’s facilitation of
transactions, whether it’s in the regula-
tory space,” Sebold says of the roughly
25 lawyers on his team. “It’s basically
a mini-legal department for Watson
Health with really everything we could
need and also the ability to tap into
IBM’s broader legal department.”
Watson is also being trained to create
efficiencies in legal departments. IBM’s
in-house lawyers have worked closely
with development and sales teams to
create a Watson service called “Outside
For now, this service is focused on the financial services
industry, according to Kuhn, so IBM’s legal team is not cur-
rently using Outside Counsel Insights. But it’s certainly not
off the table, he says.
Kuhn says that it’s foreseeable that Watson will one day
work side-by-side with IBM’s lawyers, though he adds that
it’ll always be the attorneys who make the final decisions.
The legal profession has been more than a little hesitant
to embrace the use of artificial intelligence in the practice of
law, at least in part because there are some who believe the
technology will replace attorneys. So the image of Watson
taking on a significant role in a legal department may not
be a welcome one. But this doesn’t seem to be a fear at IBM,
according to Sebold, even when considering the impressive
capabilities of Watson.
“There’s the potential for Watson and augmented intelligence [which is how IBM defines “AI”] to take a lot of the
drudgery out of the practice of law and to really get at some
of the big data tasks that are prevalent in law,” he explains.
“So I think it may replace, or certainly cut down on, some
of the more routine tasks like document review.” But there’s
no substitute for the judgment of an experienced attorney,
Sebold adds. Not even Watson.
“I NEED TO EXCITE AND
BEST LEGAL DEPARTMENTS 2017