By Mona Kalantar and Dan Linna

On April 14, 2020 seven interdisciplinary teams of 36 Northwestern computer science and law students presented demos of the projects they completed in the 2020 CS+Law Innovation Lab. Each student team worked closely with an external project partner and Professors Kris Hammond and Dan Linna. Nearly 250 people attended the online event, not including the student teams. Video of the event is available on YouTube.

The Innovation Lab immerses students in the product development process while they work with a project partner on a real-world legal-services delivery problem. The student teams explore the problem, develop an understanding of stakeholders’ needs, brainstorm, prototype, test ideas, and iterate through the development of a technology-based solution.

The teams receive training in and use agile Scrum project management to self-organize, plan their work, and communicate within the team and with their project partners and instructors. The teams also learn scientific thinking and Toyota Kata as a framework for working together to improve, adapt, and innovate while tackling difficult challenges and uncertainty.

A panel of experts provided commentary and asked follow-up questions after each demo:

  • Khalid Al-Kofahi – Thomson Reuters, Vice President, Research and Development and Head, Center for AI and Cognitive Computing
  • Jason Barnwell – Microsoft, Assistant General Counsel-Modern Legal
  • Farrah Pepper – Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., Chief Legal Innovation Counsel
  • Luke Tanen – Chicago Innovation, Executive Director

“It is very exciting to see computer scientists, attorneys and creative designers put their heads together to solve these problems.” Dr. Al-Kofahi said. “The amount of work that was done in that class in a quarter, and what the teams were able to achieve significantly exceeded my expectations.”

“It was amazing to see how much progress the teams made in such a short amount of time,” Barnwell tweeted. “The skills these teams brought together highlights the 1+1=3 nature of interdisciplinary teams. Are we seeing the future of the practice being built in front of us?”

“I’m ready to pull a Rodney Dangerfield and go back to school and join [the] class,” Pepper said. “I hope each of you feel like it’s a privilege to be part of this journey that the whole profession is going on right now.”

“[E]veryone I saw did an excellent job, both in the ideas, but also in the presentations,” Tanen said. “The legal industry is ripe for innovation … . There’s so much opportunity right now in Chicago in the legal tech space and just seeing these presentations clearly indicates that there’s going to be a lot more to come.”

The students on the seven interdisciplinary teams came from the JD, LLM, and Master of Science in Law programs at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the Computer Science and Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence programs at Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering. The teams, with the guidance of Professors Hammond and Linna, worked closely with external partners to develop prototype technology solutions to legal-services delivery challenges.

Honigman LLP

Project: Health Law: Innovating Compliance with Stark Law
Project Partner Leads: Andrea N. Lee, Partner; Drew Sanders, Legal Project Management Specialist
Student Team: Alex Crowley, JD ‘21; Josh Devorkin, MSL ‘20; Natalie Ghidali, BSCS ‘21; Jingsi Peng, MSL ‘20; Jakub Wasylkowski, MSCS ‘21; Vaishnavi Yeruva, MSAI ‘20

Honigman challenged the student group to create a technology tool that helps physicians comply with the Stark Law. The Stark Law prohibits physicians from referring patients to a health service from which the physician will receive a direct or indirect financial benefit. Stark Law is complex, making it difficult for physicians to comply and avoid liability without the assistance of a lawyer. The Honigman student team developed a tool that it said helps “physicians gain insight into whether this law applies to them and streamlines the data intake process without first having to consult a lawyer.” The tool generates a report that helps facilitate better communication between the lawyer and physician.

Honigman - Health Law: Innovating Compliance with Stark Law

Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, Supreme Court and Appellate Group

Project: Case Information Extraction and Flashcard Generation
Project Partner Leads: Manyee Chow, Innovation Project Manager; Katie Kopp, Managing Associate; Melanie Hallums, Senior Career Associate
Student Team: Einass Abdelmoula, JD ‘20; Zane Denmon, MSAI ‘20; Brandon Furduck, MSCS ‘20; Taehun Kim, MSCS ‘20; Zhili Wang, MSAI ‘20

Lawyers in Orrick’s Supreme Court & Appellate Group must prepare for numerous oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts. Preparing for oral arguments often includes reviewing Q&A flashcards, which are created from the briefs filed with the court. This manual process of creating the flashcards is both time-consuming and tedious. The Orrick student team created a tool to extract Q&A pairs from the eight relevant sections of a brief and automate the creation of flashcards. On average, it takes 20 minutes for the tool to process a 60-page brief. The tool improves the efficiency of creating the flashcards and allows attorneys and other professionals to refocus their time on higher-value tasks ahead of oral arguments.

Orrick - Case Information Extraction and Flashcard Generation

Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

Project: Orders of Protection – Domestic Violence
Student Team: Sarah O’Brien, CS ‘20; Alai Jin, MSCS ‘20; Juan Pablo Ruiz L., LLM ‘20; Yirou Wu, LLM 20

On average, 24 people a minute are victims of domestic violence by an intimate partner in the United States. For victims of domestic violence who pursue an order of protection, the process can be extremely confusing and time-consuming. Victims filing for an order of protection usually (a) have no access to desktop computers to file online, (b) find the filing process cognitively draining and overwhelming, and (c) face abusers who monitor their use of technology. This student team, working with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, built a tool that will make the process more accessible for victims. The student group demoed a mobile tool that victims can use to advocate for themselves and file for orders of protection. Notably, the app is disguised and provides a “quick escape” out of the app to a safe screen.

Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office - Orders of Protection - Domestic Violence

The Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Title: Eviction Court Navigator
Project Partner Leads:  Sarah Song, Thomas F. Geraghty Fellow; Laurie Mikva, Civil Litigation Center Director
Student Team: Jonathan Deitch, JD ‘21; Allan Farkash, CS ‘20; Caroline Christiane Fort, LLM ‘20; Akbar Imamov, MSAI ‘20; Jiangpeng Pan, MSL ‘20; Sundar Thevar, MSAI ‘20

Students partnering with the Bluhm Legal Clinic addressed a lack of legal guidance for tenants facing eviction. The team reported that “90% of tenant defendants in Cook County eviction court are self-represented, while roughly 80% of landlord plaintiffs have adequate legal representation.” Their solution, EvictionGuides, is a web-based tool that helps tenants plan their defense and orient themselves to eviction court. The tool provides tenants with information they can incorporate into a script for tenants who must present their case to a court. EvictionGuides also provides information about resources available at the court, such as childcare and rooms for new mothers. The resource aims to facilitate more competent self-representation through organization and preparation.

Bluhm Legal Clinic - Eviction Court Navigator

Thomson Reuters Labs & Judge Wilfredo Martinez

Project: Human Trafficking Judicial Case Management
Project Partner Leads: Judge Wilfredo Martinez, Ninth Circuit Court of Florida (ret.); Brian Ulicny, VP, Thomson Reuters Labs
Student Team: Eric DeChant, MSL ‘20; Akash Bharadwaj Govindarajula Venkata Sai, MSAI ‘20; Bijal Mehta, CS ‘20; Shen Peng, MSL ‘20; Neelanshi Varia, MSAI ‘20

Thomson Reuters Labs and Judge Wilfredo Martinez presented the group with the challenge of building a tool to help judges identify victims of human trafficking, using subtle indicators in the court record. In Judge Martinez’s experience, courts have not yet become adept at identifying indicators of human trafficking and therefore miss opportunities to handle cases of human trafficking appropriately. The student team developed Project Traffic Light, a guided Q&A system for judges. Project Traffic Light uses indicators and patterns to build a risk metric to identify the likelihood of a case involving human trafficking.

Thomson Reuters Labs and Judge Wilfredo Martinez - Human Trafficking Judicial Case Management

Simplifire & International Association for Contract and Commercial Management

Project: Distance Measurement for Contract Revisions
Project Partner Lead: Rory Unsworth, Smart Contracts Counsel, Swiss Re
Student Team: Justin Chae, MSL ‘20; Rodrigo Felli Paesdo Barros, LLM ‘20; John Nguyen, CS ‘21; Abhishek Pingle, CS ‘20

This team worked with Simplifire and the IACCM to create a solution that helps parties evaluate changes to a contract made during the negotiation process. Contract drafts tend to start with templates and standard clauses that are rewritten through the negotiation process. Simplifire wanted a tool to measure the “distance” between the rewrite and the original clause to help the people reviewing changes. The team said that their solution enhances the Simplifire platform by “building a method to detect international standards, estimate the importance [of changes], and presents that [analysis] back to the user.” The team developed an interface to facilitate rapid cognitive understanding and the ability to act rapidly on analysis from the tool. The tool then captures information to improve the analysis for future similar cases.

Simplifire - International Association for Contract and Commercial Management - Distance Measurement for Contract Revisions

Actuate Law & Allstate

Project: Building Better Privacy Compliance: Data Subject Access Requests
Project Partner Leads: Megan Pavich, Senior Managing Counsel, Allstate; Jeff Sharer, Chief Innovation Counsel, Actuate Law; Martin Tully, Founding Partner Actuate Law
Student Team: Daniel Blake, JD ‘20; Will Dong, MSAI ‘20; Chun-Hsuan Chu, LLM ‘20; Amanda Laucher, MSL ‘20; Ilan Ponsky, MSAI ‘20; KJ Schmidt, MSAI ‘20

Actuate Law & Allstate challenged their student team to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of reviewing and responding to Data Subject Access Requests (“DSARs”). Privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA have rapidly changed the privacy landscape. Few companies are equipped to field individual requests for data subject information. The student’s solution, Access Buddy, is a platform that maintains requests for individual data and organizes the data-gathering process for companies. The platform maintains data for the different business units and requests information from them as needed. The tool compiles the data and facilitates sending it to the data subject.

Actuate Law and Allstate - Data Subject Access Requests

Closing Comments

Professors Hammond and Linna closed the program. Linna again thanked the students for their outstanding work, thanked the panel of experts, and thanked the project partners, who worked very closely with the student teams. Linna said that the students’ success would not have been possible without the efforts of the project partners. Linna also acknowledged the importance of the partnership between law and computer science and the support of many faculty and administrators, including McCormick Engineering Dean Julio M. Ottino and Pritzker Law Dean Kimberly Yuracko.

Professor Hammond echoed Linna’s comments. “[M]ost of all, I just want to say I’m incredibly proud of the students who did this work,” Hammond said.  “These are students who are coming at this from two incredibly different cultures. In the law the world is bespoke and in computer science bespoke is anathema. I mean, we all want to build things that are repeated 1,000, 10,000, a million times over. And getting those cultures together and getting people to understand what it means to take a piece of thinking and try to move it into scale is challenging.

“[T]his class is actually emblematic of what we want at Northwestern and what we want computer science to be. That is, outward facing, connected to the world, connected to the work, and part of the driver for change.”