States need to focus on the benefits of AI, not just the risks when making law and policy. That was my primary message when I gave testimony about AI in the corporate and legal space at a hearing on “Emerging Issues in AI” held by the Illinois House Judiciary – Civil Committee and House Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, and IT Committee on November 2, 2023. I was invited by to testify by Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz and Representative Edgar Gonzalez, Jr., committee chairs. I read the following testimony into the record as my opening statement.

Thank you to the Committee and Chair, Representative Gong-Gershowitz, for this opportunity.

I’m Dan Linna, a professor at Northwestern University with a joint appointment in Pritzker School of Law and McCormick School of Engineering as a Senior Lecturer and the Director of Law and Technology Initiatives. Previously, I was an equity partner at Honigman, where I was a litigator and practiced commercial law and privacy and security law. Before my legal career, I was a software developer, IT consultant, and IT Manager.

I would like to make four points:

First: AI policy needs to focus on the  potential benefits of AI, not only mitigating risks.

Second: AI can help us improve access to civil justice.

Third: AI can help us transform courts and government services.

Fourth: Organizations must be accountable for the AI that they design, develop, or deploy.

First: AI can produce tremendous benefits for individuals, organizations, governments, and society at large.

Building reliable, trustworthy AI systems that solve important challenges requires technological expertise AND deep expertise in the domain of application.

Illinois can stand out nationally by supporting and facilitating multidisciplinary research and development focused on the application of AI to specific industries, such as manufacturing, energy, transportation, agribusiness, life sciences and biotech, healthcare, and legal services.

Second: AI can help us transform access to legal services. LegalTech tools can help individuals understand their obligations and rights, and enforce their rights.

For example, Rentervention, a chatbot provided by Law Center for Better Housing, helps tenants in disputes with landlords. In our Northwestern Innovation Lab, interdisciplinary teams of computer science and law students have worked on improving Rentervention, including to capture the advances in Large Language Models and Generative AI. I’ve worked with other researchers to completed a Randomized Controlled Trial simulating use of Rentervention to evaluate its accuracy and ability to use empathetic language to improve understanding, trust, and the user experience.

AI is also transforming the work of law firms, big and small, and corporate legal departments. Technology allows legal departments to scale legal, compliance, and ethical frameworks across the business, empowering people to make better decisions.

The legal profession, however, has been slow to adopt innovation and technology. Barriers include prohibitions on sharing profits, which makes it difficult for lawyers to partner with technologists in startups or other ventures.

Likewise, vague, overbroad Unauthorized Practice of Law rules also need to be narrowed. Unauthorized Practice of Law rules obstruct innovation, and impede the deployment of LegalTech that can improve access to civil justice.

Likewise, vague, overbroad Unauthorized Practice of Law rules also need to be narrowed. Unauthorized Practice of Law rules obstruct innovation, and impede the deployment of LegalTech that can improve access to civil justice.

A policy that new legal services providers register and subject themselves to oversight would sufficiently protect the public, further develop the market for legal services, and improve access to legal services for everyone.

Third: AI can help us transform court services, administration, and adjudication.

In the media, we see lots of clickbait headlines about robot judges. But AI is most likely to have an impact through online dispute resolution. AI can help litigants understand their rights, obligations, and the likely outcome of a matter, facilitating an informed resolution.

A small number of judges nationwide have issued overbroad bans or certification requirements for “AI” or “Generative AI.” This is the wrong direction. Long before ChatGPT, lawyers made mistakes in briefs. The solution is for judges to use technology to analyze briefs and help draft opinions.

AI can likewise be used in administrative agencies and government services, including to more fairly and efficiently allocate benefits.

Illinois policy should bring courts, administrative agencies, and government services providers into the 21st Century. Many in these systems are ready to lead, but they lack resources.

Additionally, we need a mission based on a vision of what we want the Rule of Law to look like in a digital world in 20, 50, and 100 years. We have a lot of important work to do.

Fourth: For-profit, nonprofit, and governmental organizations must be accountable for the AI that they design, develop, or deploy. This includes testing AI systems for accuracy and bias, being transparent, and conducting impact assessments.

Perfection is not the goal—AI systems must be compared to existing systems, which have bias and other problems. Responsibly designed, developed, and deployed AI systems can help us reduce bias and address other problems in existing systems.

Finally, we need more education about AI.

An informed citizenry is crucial, including to combat the harms of deep fakes, misinformation, dark pattern AI, and manipulation.

And we need policy to improve AI and digital literacy education in K-12 schools, higher education, and professional schools.

We also need to upskill the workforce, educating people to train, oversee, refine, and work with AI systems.

If we prepare, there are abundant job opportunities.

AI technology is in the early stages, perhaps the first inning of nine. But from an AI policy perspective, we’re already in the seventh inning, with a lot to be done.

We desperately need policy focused on capturing the tremendous benefits of AI, and mitigating the risks. Now is the time to take bold action.

Thank you.

The image at the top of this post is a screenshot from the video accompanying an article about the hearing: Max Cotton, Illinois lawmakers take a stab at regulating AI, WGEM (Nov. 3, 2023)

Other coverage included:

The Daily Line quoted me: “AI policy needs to focus on the potential benefits [of] AI, not just [mitigating] risks.”